Despite losing several players to injury, the Bruins are a formidable group. Guards Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar form one of the best backcourt combinations in the country. Afflalo (So., 6-5, 210 lbs.) averages 18.3 point per game, and shoots an outstanding 51.9% from the field. A physical player who can get to the hoop or shoot form the perimeter, he will be a big challenge for the Mountaineer defense. Teammate Farmar (So., 6-1, 280 lbs.) directs the offense well, as his 6.1 assists per game attests, but can also score, as he backs up Afflalo with a 12.8 points per game average.
Darren Collison (Fr., 6-0, 155 lbs.) is the primary sub in the backcourt, averaging 0 minutes per game while chipping in 5.8 points per contest. His 42 turnovers are, however, a cause for concern for the UCLA coaching staff.
Up front, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a rebounding force, averaging 8.7 boards per game. He has 54 boards on the offensive end, many of which he has converted into scores, which accounts for a good chunk of his 8.2 points per game. Mbah a Moute (Fr., 6-7, 215 lbs.) is also an athletic defender who is tied for first on the team in steals with 20 and has blocked 16 shots.
Michael Roll (Fr., 6-5, 205 lbs.) has recently joined the starting lineup in place of injured Josh Shipp, so his numbers don't tell his complete story. He shoots better from three-point range than from the field, but has improved dramatically in both phases during his recent starting stint. Alfred Aboya, who is likewise new to the starting lineup, is averaging just 3.1 points on the year, but is shooting 66.7% from the field for the year. It's likely his numbers, like Roll's will increase dramatically in the coming weeks.
Center Ryan Hollins (Sr., 7-0, 255 lbs.) is averaging 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, and has played well since returning from one of the many injuries that have plagued the Bruins. Along with Ryan Wright (Fr., 6-8, 230 lbs.) he gives UCLA something they haven't enjoyed much of – depth – up front this year.
West Virginia must keep in mind that it is playing the 2005-06 Bruins, not the 1969 or 1972 squads. Although John Wooden's massive legacy certainly dominated Pauley Pavilion, the Mountaineers won't be facing the Wizard of Westwood, or Bill Walton, or Lew Alcindor. They must make sure they don't get caught up in all the history and atmosphere of the place, because they will They will be squaring off against a talented group of Bruins that could be the class of the Pac-10 by the end of the year.
|Sat Jan 21|
WVU 13-3, 5-0
UCLA 15-3, 5-2
WVU - 49
UCLA - 9
Although the Bruins are certainly a wounded team, they still have enough talent and firepower to hang a loss on the visiting Mountaineers. They showed, in their good effort against Washington and their home demolition of USC, that they aren't going to roll over just because their injury list is filled. Sometimes, personnel losses can spark greater effort and better play from those that remain on the active roster, and that certainly appears to be the case for UCLA at the moment. With a boisterous home crowd behind them, not to mention all those championship banners wafting high overhead, this could end up being WVU's toughest road game of the season.
WVU: Frank Young (Ankle) Will play
UCLA coach Ben Howland has a bit of experience to draw from as he helps his team prepare for WVU. The slick coach was the head man at Pitt during Beilein's first season at West Virginia.
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Joe Herber is sixth on WVU's all-time assist leaderboard with 416. Given a couple of games in the Big East and NCAA tournaments, Herber could rise to as high as second on the chart, a spot currently held by Marsalis Basey with 514. Steve Berger's school record of 574 is out of reach.
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Two of the biggest names in basketball played key roles in the teams' two previous meetings. Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), scored 19 points and pulled down 10 boards in UCLA's win, while Jerry West racked up 30 points and 16 rebounds in West Virginia's victory.
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Despite a lineup that has been shuffled more times than a Vegas blackjack deck, UCLA has managed to continue to win, and one of the big reasons for that has been its shooting. As a team, the Bruins are hitting 49% of their shots.
Somewhat surprisingly, however, UCLA has actually committed ten more turnovers than it has assists this year.