Zoned out: Stone-cold Cougs Bruinized

LOS ANGELES -- The uniforms still read "UCLA" across the front. The team still plays at storied Pauley Pavilion. The 11 NCAA championship banners still hang from the rafters. All that, and the Washington State Cougars left the UCLA campus Saturday afternoon knowing they blew a tremendous opportunity to pull off just the second Los Angeles sweep in school history.

A UCLA team widely regarded as one of the least talented Bruin squads in decades dispatched WSU rather easily in a 74-62 Pac-10 decision. Incredibly, WSU is 2-51 all-time at UCLA.

Don't make the latest defeat more complicated than necessary. The Bruins shot 59 percent from the field -- including a sizzling 74 percent (14 for 19) in the second half -- and held the Cougars to 36 percent courtesy of a nifty zone defense.

UCLA dominated inside at both ends of the floor. Pac-10 scoring leader Klay Thompson went 5 for 17 from the field and scored 13 points.

"It's not all on Klay," Cougar coach Ken Bone said.

Of course not. However, when the nation's sixth-leading scorer finishes 10 points below his season average, clanks 7 of 9 from 3-point range and makes five turnovers, WSU has little chance of winning.

"I give them (the Bruins) a lot of credit, but Klay had a lot of looks he usually makes," WSU point guard Reggie Moore said. "It wasn't their zone that was messing him up; he was (often) wide open.

"He'll make those shots. I'm not worried."

Thompson was serenaded with "Air ball!" chants the remainder of the game after he missed everything on his first shot of the second half. The UCLA student section actually cheered when Thompson re-entered the game with 4:48 to go.

MOORE POURED IN 24 points to lead the Cougars in scoring for the fifth time in seven games. The energetic freshman went 9 for 17 from the field and doubled his previous high for 3-pointers made by going 6 for 10 from beyond the arc.

"He did a nice job," Bone said. "His scoring helped us stay in the game."

The 6-foot-1 Moore said he's following years of advice from his grandfather and trying to keep an unusually high arc on his long-range jump shots.

Moore's last 3 narrowed UCLA's lead to 67-60 with 1:55 left. The Bruins wrapped things up by scoring the next seven points before an approving crowd of 8,349.

Freshman Reeves Nelson led UCLA with 19 points, one more than fellow forward Nikola Dragovic. The latter is an old rival of WSU forward Nikola Koprivica. Both grew up in Belgrade, Serbia.

THE BRUINS ARE just 9-10 overall and 4-3 in the Pac-10, but that didn't stop Moore from labeling UCLA "a great team."

Not to be outdone for overstatement during a season in which seemingly every Pac-10 team is .500 in conference play and no teams are nationally ranked, UCLA coach Ben Howland purred, "I want to compliment our team for beating a great Washington State team."

Good, maybe, but certainly not great. The young Cougars, 14-6 overall, are 4-4 in conference play.

All records get thrown out the window when the Cougars return to action next Saturday at Washington. Game time is 12:30 p.m. on FSN. The inconsistent Huskies are 12-1 at home, 0-6 on the road and 3-5 in the Pac-10.

UCLA LACKS THE athleticism and top NBA prospects of years past, but the Cougars praised the Bruins for their sharp execution on offense and defense. If not for nine misses on 24 free throws in the second half, the Bruins would have won by a much greater margin.

"I thought the performance for UCLA was impressive," Bone said. "They did a good job with their zone defense. Inside, they were very effective."

As for the Cougars, Bone said his team was impatient on offense and just plain lousy on defense. "We made it difficult for ourselves, but also, UCLA made it difficult for us," Bone said.


Thompson, a sophomore, has repeatedly said he is undecided on whether to turn pro next season. At least one NBA scout says Thompson needs to stay in school. "He's got a good shot and is great off screens, but I don't know if he's got enough versatility. He‘s getting killed on defense," an unidentified NBA scout told the Los Angeles Times while watching Thompson in Thursday's win over USC.

Thompson scored 20 points at USC. The 6-foot-6 guard did have some trouble guarding muscular forward Marcus Johnson, who led USC with 15 points. However, Thompson shut down Trojan season scoring leader Dwight Lewis (who was defended by Marcus Capers most of the night) when he was assigned to Lewis for part of the second half.

Chad Ford of ranks Thompson 49th among 2010 NBA draft prospects. Ford predicts Thompson would go late in the first round or in the second round if he declares himself eligible for the draft.

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