Bruins Face Improved UW

UCLA beat Washington a month ago in Seattle, but the two teams are clearly different clubs today than they were back in January...

UCLA (9-9, 5-6) looks to halt a six-game losing skid tonight when they take on Washington (10-8, 5-5) at Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins won the first game between the two teams when they met in Seattle four weeks ago, but that game feels like it was from a different season. The Bruins are not the same team that defeated Washington 86-84. Unfortunately for UCLA, the Huskies aren't the same team they were a month ago either. UW is playing much better ball – they've won five straight – and UCLA must improve dramatically or risk getting blown out at home.

After the slowdown, grind-it-out game of Washington State, the Bruins now face a much different style. Washington likes to get up and down; and they have the athletes to be successful with that style of play. The Huskies also won't be running twenty five seconds off the shot clock on every possession – they've scored 90 or more points in four of their last five games.

Washington was 0-5 in Pac-10 play when the turning point for their season came on the road at Corvallis. The Huskies were down 70-54 with six minutes remaining at Oregon State when they mounted a furious comeback. Sophomore guard Nate Robinson hit a three-pointer to send the game into overtime. The Huskies went on to win and they haven't lost since.

Robinson is one of several Huskies who are capable of giving UCLA problems. At 5-9, he is very quick and explosive. Last week he was named the Pac-10 player of the week, based largely on an amazing performance against Arizona when he went for a career-high 31 points on 11-15 shooting from the field.

Robinson is only one of the potential problems facing the Bruins though, as the Huskies feature a balanced attack. Four players average in double figures and seven different players have led UW in scoring this year. Guard Will Conroy is the leading scorer for UW, at 13 points a game. Forwards Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones are averaging 12.8 and 10.7 points per game respectively.

There's no question the Huskies can score. They're second in the Pac-10 in scoring, third in field goal percentage and second in three-point percentage. So why aren't they challenging Stanford for the conference title? It could be because they're 9th in the league in field goal percentage defense. Washington's opponents have shot 47.4% from the field this year.

UCLA barely held on to win in overtime at Seattle back in January. The Bruins built a big lead, and were seemingly in control of the game, until the Huskies made a dramatic comeback in the last two minutes and forced overtime. UCLA committed 24 turnovers in that game and it seemed like 20 of them came in the last couple minutes.

The Bruins shot 51% in that game and the frontline did much of the damage. Trevor Ariza had 21 points, T.J. Cummings scored 22 and Mike Fey had 12 points. Given Washington's relative lack of size, and UCLA's poor outside shooting, one would assume that the Bruins will again need to do damage inside if they're to have any chance of ending their losing streak.

Even at full strength, this would be a tough game for UCLA. Without Brian Morrison – who is listed as doubtful – we don't see the Bruins having enough firepower to keep up with the Huskies.

Washington 79

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