The UCLA Bruins, hyped over their Pac-10 opening win against Washington, will take that energy into Pullman today and face another mediocre team in Washington State...
It looks like the three worst teams in the Pac-10 are Washington, Washington State and Oregon State. So, UCLA, a team needing a couple of wins and some ego-boosting after a torturous non-conference run, got what the doctor order by starting the Pac-10 season on the road at the Washington schools.
In talking to many fans in the last couple of days, all of them said it would be typical of this UCLA team to, after a good, sustained effort against Washington, come out flat against Washington State Saturday.
I don't see it happening. For one, even if UCLA doesn't come out with the intensity on defense they played with on Thursday against Washington, Washington State is still just not very good. Even a lethargic UCLA team could beat Washington State. But I think you'll see a renewed UCLA team against Washington State. The win against Washington has this team hyped up and I believe it will carry over to Saturday.
UCLA matches up well against Washington State, even though the Cougars have one of the best players in the conference, who is actually leading the league in scoring at 21 points a clip, senior point guard Marcus Moore. Moore is a long-armed, slinky athlete that does quite a bit – he handles the ball well, can penetrate and finish, or dish. He's also now shooting the ball pretty well, which is an added dimension since shooting wasn't always his forte. Stopping Moore is the challenge for UCLA, but they have the types of players to do it. Cedric Bozeman matches Moore in size and lankiness. Physically, they're actually very similar. While many discount Bozeman's defensive abilities, when he plays hard he's a good defender, especially against someone his size. UCLA might throw a steady wave of defenders at Moore, from Bozeman to Ray Young, Ryan Walcott and Dijon Thompson. It's a pretty smart thing to do when, really, he's the one true threat on the Washington State team that can really beat you.
WSU surrounds Moore with more 6-6ish, long, lanky guys. Joining Moore on the perimeter is 6-5 sophomore guard Thomas Kelati. Kelati, physically, looks, well, like Moore and Bozeman. He likes to stay outside and spot up and shoot, but also has a little bit of an ability to put the ball on the floor. He's the Cougars' second leading scorer, averaging about 11 points a game, but about three threes a game, shooting 50% from the three-point line. These two guys, Moore and Kelati, practically never come out of the game for Washington State. If they happen to get into foul trouble, then WSU gets into trouble.
6-6 senior guard Josh Lyman is another in the long, lanky mode, as is 6-6 junior forward Chris Schlatter (I wasn't fooling when I said they played a lot of 6-6ish guys, was I?). Both are not more than just long, fairly athletic bodies that have only decent skills.
The paint is occupied mostly by two guys who really aren't much bigger. 6-8 senior center Milton Riley doesn't weigh more than 210 pounds, if he's lucky. He's a pretty decent shot blocker, but a fairly poor rebounder. 6-7 sophomore Shami Gill is really the only Cougar who gets signifcant minutes with any weight on his bones. He doesn't do much more than be the guy designated to push around the opposing team's big men. Between Riley and Gill, they're averaging only about 10 rebounds a game. They also get a little physical play from Ezenwa Ukeagu, a burly 6-7 forward, off the bench.
Another 6-6 player, senior Cedric Hugley,, also gets some time off the bench, mostly subbing for all the other 6-6 guard/wings. After a while, they all start looking – and playing – the same.
But make no mistake – this is the Marcus Moore show. The Cougars' game flows through him, for both scoring and setting up players to score.
As a team, Washington State is pretty well coached by Paul Graham. But their style of play is really the kind that helps UCLA – getting up and down, playing quite a bit in transition, which sometimes doesn't give you time to play much defense. UCLA has an array of shooters that Washington State could struggle to stay up with defensively. On Thursday night, the Cougars were leading USC, until the Trojans' Desmond Farmer went off in the second half, connecting on 7 three-pointers. WSU also doesn't rebound the ball well, which plays very much into UCLA's hands.
UCLA just has too much talent, and now they're pumped up a bit after a Pac-10 opening win.
Washington State 84