No. 4 Cougs go for road sweep at No. 5 UCLA

A LITTLE OVER 36 HOURS after beating the Trojans on the road, Washington State will take on UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. Tip-off is scheduled for 11:30 Saturday morning. Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low and Taylor Rochestie all played 37 minutes or more against USC so a questions begs: will fatigue be a factor? It's No. 4 WSU at No. 5 UCLA, and the eyes of all of college basketball will be watching.

Fatigue could be an issue Saturday depending on the style and pace of the game -- but it probably won't be.

UCLA also played around the same time on Thursday night although, granted, student-athletes do tend to tire less when at home rather than on the road. Additionally, UCLA's starting five played less minutes -- 125 combined compared WSU's 158 -- in their Thursday night win.

Still, UCLA could also be less than 100 percent, with guard Darren Collison (hip pointer) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (knee bruise) nursing aches and pains. Of the two, Collison's appeared the more serious, with Mbah a Moute playing nearly the entire game in the win over the UW on Thursday and the 6-11 forward appeared good to go on Friday.

Reading between the lines in Ben Howland's statements on Friday, expect Collison to play.

WASHINGTON STATE shot poorly in the first half against USC but is still coming off one of their better offensive performances of the season primarily because of the way they shot the three-ball. Washington State struck to the tune of 52.6 percent from behind the arc, shooting 47 percent overall. Daven Harmeling was 5-7 while Taylor Rochestie sank 2-of-2 from downtown.

If there was one quibble about beating a dangerous Pac-10 team on the road 74-58 -- and one thing the Cougs will need to tighten up to come of the three game road swing with a win -- it's that what was missing in the USC game was the Cougs' usual lockdown defense in the paint. USC scored 38 of their 58 points close to the rim and the main reason why was that Robbie Cowgill played only 14 minutes due to foul trouble, followed by Harmeling heating up on the offensive end.

Harmeling staying hot Saturday would certainly help the Cougs' cause at UCLA but just as critical will be the forward's screens to free up the Cougs' other scorers as well as his defense.

THE COUGS have lost some heartbreakers to UCLA since Dick and Tony Bennett came to the Palouse, dropping six of the last eight meetings to the Bruins by 2, 2, 3, 3, 3 and 8 points.

Washington State last beat UCLA in '04, knocking off the Bruins 55-48 at Pauley for the first time in school history -- the arena opened in the 60s. For a look back at that win, click here.

If No. 4 Washington State (14-0) is going to come out of California with a road sweep of the L.A. teams, they'll have to play solid transition defense throughout and they'll need to shoot the ball well both inside and out. The biggest change in this Cougar team from the one a year ago that went 26-8 has been the emergence of center Aron Baynes.

Baynes, now averaging 12.1 ppg and pulling down 6.6 rebounds this season, will also need to play solid defense against a Bruin frontline that features freshman center and media darling Kevin Love along with Mbah a Moute. Robbie Cowgill is expected to match up primarily on Mbah a Moute but don't be surprised to him play a critical role against Love as well.

Cowgill is one of those players who -- very quietly -- makes everyone else better around him. His stats don't always jump out from the box score but his contributions this year, particularly down the stretch, have been huge in the Cougs' 14-0 start and No. 4 national ranking.

LEADING THE COUGS in scoring is Derrick Low, at 12.7 ppg, while Kyle Weaver, who is as versatile, and defensive minded, as they come, is averaging 11.4. Both players obviously need to contribute their points but the game could ultimately turn on how well they, along with Rochestie, contain the Bruins backcourt on the defensive end. The Cougs rank No. 1 in the nation in points allowed per game (50.4) and No. 3 in turnovers per game at 10.4 -- WSU committed seven turnovers at USC while forcing 13, six of which were steals.

If Collison is limited, look for his minutes to go to Chace Stanback/Mustafa Abdul Hamid, or Josh Shipp could log more time along with a combination of PT from the pair.

The matchup that will probably get the most play in the morning papers, however, the one the majority of pundits are pointing to as most likely to determine the outcome, is when happens Baynes goes against Love.

(Just keep an eye out for Cowgill as well.)

  • Saturday will mark just the sixth time in Pac-10 history that a conference game will feature two top five teams.

  • Weaver has moved into fifth place in the WSU career record books for assists - he now has 373.

  • Low is 27 points shy of reaching 1,000 points for his career with 973, and would the 28th Cougar to score 1,000 points in his career, the most recent being Thomas Kelati who reached 1,081 points from 2002-05. Weaver has 895 career points, 105 shy of 1,000. The last time two teammates reached 1,000 career points in the same season was in 1980.

  • The Cougars have dominated in the second half, outscoring opponents 550-380. The Cougars have been outscored in the second only once this season, at Gonzaga.

  • UCLA was ranked No. 1 in the nation in Week 3 of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll before a two-point loss to Texas. Since then, the Bruins have rolled over the opposition, winning eight straight and all by double-digit spreads. The smallest winning margin was an 11-point victory against then No. 20 Stanford.

  • No. 4 Washington State and No. 5 UCLA will be televised live by FSN on Saturday. The tip is scheduled for 11:30 AM.

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