UCLA beat Washington State in Spokane in January, in what was an ugly, defensive game, 48-45.
The Bruins right now would gladly take an ugly, defensive game if it's a win.
The biggest news affecting the game is the loss of UCLA guard Brian Morrison. He's actually listed as doubtful, but we doubt he'll play tonight against the Cougars. After sitting out 5 weeks due to a hamstring strain, he returned for UCLA's two most recent games. Head Coach Ben Howland named him a starter for the game against WSU on Tuesday, until he rolled his ankle in practice Wednesday. He's expected to miss both the WSU and Washington game this weekend.
That puts Dijon Thompson back into the starting lineup, after being pulled from it just two days before.
Since UCLA beat Washington State, the Cougars have gone 2-4, with both of their wins coming at home. If fact, the Cougars have played very tough at home, giving Arizona a run on Saturday, ultimately losing 61-57.
But there is a stark contrast to how the Cougars perform at home and on the road. They are 3-6 overall on the road this season, and 1-3 in conference.
The focal point for Washington State is still 6-6 point guard Marcus Moore, who is averaging 13 points a game. He makes them go on offense, able to muscle smaller defenders and with an improved shooting stroke this season. His matchup against Cedric Bozeman is central to the outcome of the game.
6-5 wing Thomas Kelati will knock down the open outside jumper if left open. Jeff Varem, the 6-6, 235-pound junior forward from Nigeria, has made a big impression since arriving in January. 6-7 junior forward Shami Gill leads the Cougars in rebounding at just about six a game.
The Cougars, under new head coach Dick Bennett, play a slow-down tempo. They make you defend for the entire shot clock, waiting for a defensive breakdown. They play tough, physical defense without many lapses. They will undoubtedly throw a 1-3-1 zone at the Bruins, since UCLA has demonstrated it struggles considerable against the zone.
Without Morrison, it will be interesting to see if Howland gives back-up two-guard Janou Rubin more minutes instead of Thompson, in an effort to possibly get more hustle and defense on the floor.
While the Cougars, with their style of play, are dangerous, they're a fairly good matchup for a UCLA team which is trying to go back to the basics of early in the season – rebounding and defense. WSU is not a great offensive team. Nor are they a great rebounding team. But it will take a more concerted effort on the part of the Bruins – something that has been very spotty in the last five games – if they're going to beat the Cougars.
Washington State 52