Preview of the GW Game

The #1-ranked UCLA Bruins take on the George Washington Colonials tonight at Pauley Pavilion. The biggest question is whether UCLA will be looking past mediocre GW to the #8-ranked Texas Longhorns on Sunday...

The UCLA Bruins return to action on Wednesday night when they face George Washington University of the Atlantic 10 Conference. With the recent news that Alfred Aboya and Kevin Love are good to go against the Colonials, and that Darren Collison is still very questionable, the questions for the Bruins remain the same: Namely, can Russell Westbrook continue to handle the point guard duties with aplomb and can the Bruins continue to be successful with an eight-man rotation?

GW comes into Pauley Pavilion with a record of 2-1. None of those three games were against "heavyweights," and the loss to Maryland-Baltimore County is almost inexplicable.

The Colonials are coached by Karl Hobbs in his 7th year with GW. Hobbs was known as a successful recruiter during his tenure as an assistant at UConn and has continued that reputation by taking players who were under the proverbial radar and turning them into "name" players. Hobbs has instilled a fast-paced, helter-skelter style that has led his teams to some big wins (remember the GW team that was undefeated deep into the season several seasons ago?), but has also allowed them to lose to more disciplined teams that have taken advantage of GW's cold shooting nights , as was the case against UMBC.

In the frontcourt Hobbs starts junior Rob Diggs (6'8" 202 lbs.), sophomore Damian Hollis (6'8" 205 lbs.), and junior Wynton Witherspoon (6'7" 197 lbs.). Diggs is the leading scorer for GW at 20 PPG. He is strictly an inside player, having not attempted a three-pointer all season. He is shooting 61% from the floor and is averaging 8.3 RPG and an impressive four offensive RPG. He is an 80 % free throw shooter, proving that he can take advantage of getting fouled inside. He is an athletic player who uses his quickness rather than bulk to get to the basket and to rebound.

Hollis is more of an inside/out player who will shoot the ‘3'. He is averaging 9.3 PPG and 50% from the floor, but he is only 30% from behind the arc, where he has taken 10 of his 24 shots on the season. Hollis is the Colonials' leading rebounder at 8.7 RPG and is the beneficiary of GW's trapping defense as he gets many of his boards off the weak side. Interestingly, he's only been to the line twice in 3 games.

Witherspoon may be the most athletic of the frontcourt players, having both an inside and outside game and getting to the free throw line 20 times, where he's made 16 to lead the team in both categories. He is averaging 15 PPG and is shooting 52% from the floor. He is 3 for 9 on his three-point attempts this season. He also averages 5.3 RPG.

The Bruins will have a distinct advantage in the frontcourt as Love, Aboya and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute have the "smarts," size and the athleticism to handle GW's athletic forwards. Because GW's big men rely on quickness rather than bulk they can be negated by teams that show discipline when rebounding, as the Bruins do. Love, in particular, is going to be a match-up nightmare for the Colonials, as they have neither the bulk nor the height to deny him inside. Aboya and Luc should be able to negate Hollis and Witherspoon pulling them out to the perimeter because of their own length and athleticism as well as their strength. Diggs may give Love some trouble when Love has to guard him since Diggs is quicker than the Bruin freshman.

In the backcourt, the Colonials will go with senior point guard Maureece Rice (6'1" 224 lbs.) and junior Cheyenne Moore (6'5" 210 lbs.). Rice missed the Colonials' game against UMBC because of a one-game suspension, which might explain the lapse and the loss. He runs the offense, but. because of the speed in which GW likes to run its offense, Rice isn't a point guard in the truest sense of the word. He is the best ballhandler that the Colonials have, but that's not saying much. On a team whose scoring is predicated on running and gunning Rice and his teammates have a great deal of trouble against teams that are more precise, patient and disciplined. Rice will take about half of his shots from beyond the arc where he is hitting a solid 44%.

Moore is actually listed as a forward and is interchangeable with several of his teammates, but he will look to score from the perimeter. He isn't shooting well, hitting only 4 of 25 shots on the season, including 2 for 10 from the three-point line, but he has the potential to go off for 18-20 points in a game. The Bruins, however, present the toughest match-up that Moore will see and it seems unlikely that he'll come out of his slump against UCLA.

The bench doesn't appear ready to give the starting five a great deal of support. Junior Noel Wilmore (6'3" 190 lbs.) is strictly an outside shooter, having taken 12 of his 14 attempts from behind the arc. He is shooting 50% from ‘3', so he does have the potential to give the Colonials instant offense. It wouldn't be surprising to see Wilmore play more minutes than Moore, but he is much less athletic than is Moore.

The other two primary bench players are freshmen Xavier Alexander (6'6" 215 lbs.), who started in Reece's place against UMBC, and Miles Beatty (6'2" 210 lbs.). Alexander is the more dangerous of the two and is averaging 8.3 PPG. He shoots better than 46% from the floor and will remind Bruin fans of a poor man's Cedric Bozeman, only with a better shot and much less acumen. Beatty is strictly a role player who will be used to spot sub the backcourt starters.

GW is a pressing team that will certainly try to accentuate that after watching the Maryland press give the Bruins some problems. GW's only hope is that the Bruins get sloppy with the ball, but that seems unlikely to happen with Russell Westbrook getting demonstrably better with each game. The biggest obstacle to a Colonial victory, though, is their unstructured offense trying to beat one of the best, most disciplined defenses in the country. That seems unlikely. In wouldn't be surprising to see the Bruins force almost twice as many turnovers as they themselves have.

UCLA took a huge step in maturity when they blew Yale off the floor after a lethargic beginning. The prospect of UCLA being unfocused just isn't consistent with the way they've played, so you probably can't expect them to be looking past this game to the one with Texas Sunday. GW will show the Bruins a different style, one that should help them as they get deeper into the schedule, but in reality, the Colonials are an average team that would find it difficult to finish above anyone in the PAC-10 other than Oregon State. The Bruins should put the outcome of this one out of reach with enough time to give a rest to some of the starters. Hopefully we'll then see Darren Collison and even possibly Mike Roll get a few token minutes to prepare them for a much tougher match-up on Sunday against the Longhorns.

See, even we have a tendency to look past the Colonials.

UCLA 85
George Washington 61


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