BEACH: UW-UCLA matchups

The young Washington basketball team are growing up the hard way - on the road. After a double-overtime loss at USC Thursday, their job doesn't get any easier as they travel to UCLA Sunday to face the No. 1 team in the country. How do the two teams match up?

Justin Dentmon (11.7 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.9 rpg) vs Darren Collison (13 ppg, 6.0 apg)
Edge: UCLA

Collison is having a breakout season with the Bruins after spending his freshman year residing in the shadows of Jordan Farmar, who defected to the NBA after his sophomore season. Regarded as one of the conference's finest defenders (2.6 spg) and a solid overall playmaker and scorer, Collison has the ability to attack the basket with his blinding speed or spread defenses with his solid (.469 3-pt. %) three point shot. Collison is a steady scorer, rarely wasting shots (.565 fg %) but occasionally gets rattled (3.2 topg), forcing the action before his teammates are ready to receive the ball. Meanwhile, Dentmon is coming off a frustrating night against USC that saw his action limited due to foul trouble, and while the heady guard is still adapting to the Dawgs' new emphasis on post play and has yet to settle in comfortably shooting the ball, his shot selection is improving game by game. Much like last season, Dentmon's turnover efficiency has improved tremendously as the season has progressed (averaging a solid 1.7 topg over the last seven games) and his field goal percentage should improve accordingly. Dentmon also holds a dramatic strength advantage over the quicker, but slightly built Collison and will try to outmuscle the UCLA guard to create turnover opportunities. On the flip side, Collison, with his overwhelming speed advantage, will try to encourage Dentmon to foul him as he attempts to keep Collison in front of him on defense. With Dentmon's tendency of late to foul, his ability to stay out of foul trouble will be a major factor in the outcome of the game.

Adrian Oliver (6.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg) vs. Arron Afflalo (15.8 ppg, 1.8rpg)
Edge: UCLA

UCLA holds a distinct advantage at shooting guard, featuring Pac 10 Player of the Year contender, Aaron Afflalo. Though somewhat over-rated in the national media, Afflalo has been a rock-steady performer night-in and night-out for the Bruins, scoring at a near identical clip from last season, despite his rebounding contributions declining considerably. Afflalo earns his advantage due to his intelligence and constant movement without the ball. Though an average athlete, Afflalo is a stellar defender, constantly working, creating turnovers with his quick hands while using his solid build to outmuscle smaller guards. Adrian Oliver got a crash course in guarding elite D1 guards, drawing duty guarding against all three of USC's explosive wings in Thursday night's loss at times throughout the night. He will be able to draw on that experience against Afflalo, who plays a similar game to that of the Trojans wings, and will have to rely on his post help to stop Afflalo's lethal dribble penetration. Oliver has become one of the Dawgs' top defenders playing taller than he is, but Afflalo will test him constantly, seeking open opportunities. The Bruins will do their best to exploit their matchup advantage at the two, and are looking for a big night out of Afflalo to thwart the Huskies' upset bid.

Quincy Pondexter (14.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg) vs. Josh Shipp (14.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Edge: UCLA

Josh Shipp has been a major reason why the Bruins have surged atop the national rankings. Before the season, questions abounded as to whether Shipp would be able to return effectively after suffering a hip injury that saw him sit out all but four games last season. 12 games into the 2006-2007 campaign, Shipp has left no doubt that he is healthy and ready to play a major role for the Bruins. Though not blessed with great athleticism, Shipp is a multi-dimensional scoring threat capable of bombing threes or scoring in traffic, and displays great versatility. An opportunist rebounder, Shipp is known to occasionally take plays off on defense (1.3 spg) affording opponents open looks at the basket. A non-factor after being saddled with early foul trouble Thursday night against USC, Quincy Pondexter is looking to rebound against the Bruins. Pondexter has struggled recently, and the larger, more athletic competition he has faced of late has negated some of the advantages he enjoyed during the early non-conference schedule. Pondexter is a unique talent and the better ball player hands down, but until he becomes comfortable with his role, the Dawgs can't fully utilize his unique abilities. He still has the potential to be a game-changer for the Huskies, who will desperately need him to be at the top of his game.

Jon Brockman (12.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg) vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (10.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
Edge: Washington

If the Bruins hold a decisive advantage in the back court, the Dawgs gain the same nod up front. Mbah a Moute's sophomore campaign has been a disappointment to many fans in Southern California, as well as across the country. They expected the Pac 10 Freshman of the Year to break out this season. It hasn't happened, but that isn't to say he isn't making a solid impact on the court for UCLA. The Cameroon native, aside from being a stellar rebounder, has been solid defensively, averaging 2.4 spg, and while he hasn't been as assertive offensively as UCLA fans might wish, he has added an effective three-point shot to his repertoire. He is hitting at a nearly 45% clip from outside, forcing teams to guard him outside as well as down low. Jon Brockman, for all of the hype surrounding him after the LSU game, was flat outplayed by USC forward Taj Gibson Thursday night, and the Wooden Award candidate isn't the kind of guy to let that kind of performance slide. After being held to just four points against the Trojans, Brockman will be hungrier than ever, and the Bruins lack a defender like Gibson to lock him down, though Mbah a Moute will certainly try. Mbah a Moute is strong and quick, but Brockman is stronger and though not as fleet of foot as 'the Prince', he's certainly got the foot speed to defend him. The Bruins will likely go at Brockman early and often to try and sucker 'the Beast' into early foul trouble; an effective strategy that has worked on Brockman before. Ultimately, against an undersized Bruin post focused on stopping Spencer Hawes, Brockman could quietly be in for a monster night.

Spencer Hawes (16.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg) vs. Lorenzo Mata. (6.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
Edge: Washington

This match up should be one of the most entertaining parings to watch on New Year's Eve. Mata is the working class hero for the Bruins, doing nothing that stands out other than working his butt off during every second of every play, and he will be eager to prove himself against one of the premier post players in all of college basketball. Mata does the dirty work for the Bruins, scratching and clawing for rebounds and put backs on the offensive glass, and were it not for his absolutely abysmal shooting from the free throw line (28%!), could be considered one of the more unsung posts in the Pac 10. Mata is strong, but not freakishly (Brockman-esque) strong and is at a three-inch-plus height disadvantage against a player who feasts on undersized post defenders. Hawes, on the other hand, is simply taking his game to another level, averaging 22 points a game and seven boards over the last six games while shooting nearly 65% from the field. The Bruins will constantly double and triple-team Hawes in an attempt to slow his assault since they lack a player with the size to keep him out of the post. If Hawes decides to add a three-pointer to his already bursting bag of tricks - as he displayed in the closing seconds of the first overtime against Southern Cal - woe to UCLA and the Pac 10.

Edge: Washington

Neither team has received a ton of production from their bench, though the Bruins will often go 10-deep and have a seemingly endless supply of inexperienced posts to throw at opposing teams, but Ryan Appleby tips the scale firmly to the Dawgs, depending on which Appleby decides to show up. Appleby's point totals over the last 6 games reads like this; 24, 3, 15, 3, 4, 18. In other words, he's either tearing down the roof, or letting it fall on top of him. Brandon Burmeister and his 30-foot treys, Hans Gasser, and Phil Nelson all play valuable minutes for the Huskies, but they all have gaps in their games that leave the Dawgs vulnerable to good opposing teams who can capitalize on them. With the Huskies' penchant for fouling, quality bench play is an absolute necessity. If the Dawgs get solid play from the bench, they win the game. If not? A team of five Hawes' might not be enough to dig themselves out of the hole they could find themselves in before it's too late. Top Stories