Washington State Preview

In a much-awaited match-up, the Bruins take on the Cougars for the second time in two weeks. UCLA, hopefully, should have a pretty easy victory...

UCLA takes on Washington State today in the big rematch that we've all been waiting for…

Well, not really. But they are going to play anyway.

The 14th ranked Bruins (10-2, 3-0) are trying for their 9th straight victory Sunday at 1 PM against the Washington State Cougars (4-7, 0-3). The Cougars are already staring at the conference cellar…

Let's review: Washington State has one really terrific, exciting player in Marcus Moore, 6-6 SO PG (14.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 2.7 spg, 33.3% from 3). Marcus might be the best, and most entertaining, PG in the entire Pac-10, though Brandon Granville of USC might disagree. Mike Bush, 6-6 SR SG (10.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.7 spg) is a great athlete and open-court player, J Locklier (12.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is a solid big man, and Jerry McNair, 6-2 JR SG (13.2 ppg, 36.6% from 3) is a good shooter with a quick release. After that, things get iffy for the Cougs. They can't rebound or shoot very well. They do play tough in your face man d, but will zone when necessary. Unfortunately, Locklier is foul averse, and Milton Riley, 6-7 JR PF (6.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) has been inconsistent, so WSU's interior d can turn pretty rancid if you are patient and precise and get the ball inside against them consistently. They rely heavily on their pressure d and long-armed perimeter guys to cause numerous turnovers to keep them competitive.

In short, if you take care of the ball, pound it inside and zone Wazzu, they will lose.

The Bruins have the tools to get the job done. After that, I'm in no position to make grand pronouncements. The Bruins don't have the pressure d or fastbreak capability to go on the kind of big scoring runs in short bursts that are the key to one team blowing out another, so the Bruins aren't going to blow out anyone, even a mediocre team like Washington State. That's the bad news. The good news is, the Bruins have demonstrated that when they're patient on offense and control the paint on defense, they can play with anyone. At least, anyone they've played so far, which does include Alabama and Georgetown.

So, the coaches will ask their Bruins to try and get 4-5 touches before they launch any shots. The Bruins were really heaving it up there in the first half against Washington on Friday night, just like they did in the second halves of the Georgetown and Columbia games and the first halves of the Washington and Washington State games up north. When the Bruins work the ball around and work their bodies around, they can really light people up. Billy and Jason and Matt get wide open shots from 3, Dan gets dunks, TJ gets 17-footers and everyone gets backdoor opportunities (usually, off the dribble rather than off the pass). It really doesn't seem to matter what the other team does on defense: If the Bruins show patience and don't turn it over, they hit 55% or better and pretty much steamroller everyone en route to a 50-point half. When they hurry their shots and force passes, they are lucky to hit 40% and score 30 points in a half. It's that simple.

Defensively, I would expect UCLA to mainly use their matchup zone, even if WSU inexplicably gets hot from the outside. The key to the game, defensively, will be UCLA's success or failure in limiting Marcus Moore's ability to penetrate and dish (or score). They need to take the ball out of Marcus's hands and force someone else on the Cougars' squad to make decisions. So, I would not be surprised to see UCLA press and even use some zone traps or double-teaming in the halfcourt to force Marcus to give up the ball as much as possible. When Marcus does have the ball, Rico Hines will be glued to his jersey. I also expect Ced Bozeman and Matt Barnes to get a crack at him. If Marcus winds up jacking up a lot of shots over the top of the zone, that is a good sign for the Bruins, even if a decent amount of those shots go in.

For WSU, they will try to use their depth, quickness and athleticism to force the Bruins into making mistakes and taking hurried shots. Coach Paul Graham continues to experiment with lineups. Against USC on Sunday, 6-5 FR SG Tom Kelati (3.1 ppg) and 6-7 FR PF Shaminder Gill (2.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg) started alongside Moore, Bush and Locklier. Kelati is quick and has a nice skills set. I think he'll be a future double-figure scorer for this team. Gill is raw, but willing to bang. Cedric Hughey, 6-6 SO SF/PF (3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg), is a slender inside player who's quick off his feet. Justin Lyman, 6-6 JR SG (7.7 ppg, 33.3%) might join McNair as a 3-point specialist off the bench, but again he isn't exactly torching it from behind the arc. Pawel Stasiak, 6-11JR C (1.2 ppg, 1.0 rpg), is available for spot duty if Gads is Gadzilla and sends Locklier to the pine, and I noticed that former Crenshaw star EJ Harris, 6-2 SO PG (1.3 ppg, 0.3 apg), is finally recovered from his foot injury and saw 11 minutes against USC. His dad works at UCLA, so maybe we can all give EJ a big raspberry as a homecoming present for not walking on at UCLA instead of wandering all over the map to Manhattan, Kansas and Pullman, Washington just because they gave him a scholarship. Some people, you just don't know what goes through their heads…

Ced Bozeman didn't experience any swelling in his knee on Friday night or Saturday morning, so he is good to go for about another 7-10 minutes tonight. The truth is, Ced could probably play about 20 mpg already, but Lavin is appropriately taking the cautious approach. Ced has his whole life and career ahead of him. It's better that the team suffer if it means ensuring Ced's health and future. But he will get a chance to match up with Marcus Moore, and that arrangement could be worth the price of admission all by itself. These guys know each other from high school and by rep, and someone might try and put on a little show, especially with Marcus coming back to his hometown.

Dan's hand is fine. The status of the rest of his body is, as usual, uncertain…

Prediction: UCLA 78, Washington State 66.


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