Huskies Look To Win Pac-12 Title Outright Against Bruins

No sharing allowed. The Huskies go after an outright regular season conference championship Saturday morning against a UCLA team surrounded by turmoil. Washington has won ten of eleven and will face Ben Howland’s Bruins, who are coming off an emotional 32-point slaughter at Washington State’s expense. Howland and the entire UCLA basketball program were completely exposed by Sports Illustrated special feature this week that uncovered the dirt on how Howland handles his players, especially troublesome forward Reeves Nelson. Washington is looking to complete its first 15-3 conference record since 1984. Did I mention this game was on national television? We can guarantee there will be no shortages in talking points for the announcers.

The Basics

11 A.M. PST. CBS. Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

Washington Huskies (21-8; 14-3) UCLA Bruins (17-13; 10-7)

G

Abdul Gaddy

6’3

G

Lazeric Jones

6’0

G

Tony Wroten

6’5

G

Jermaine Anderson

6’2

G/F

Terrence Ross

6’6

G/F

Tyler Lamb

6’5

F

Darnell Gant

6’8

F

David Wear

6’10

C

Aziz N’Diaye

7’0

F

Travis Wear

6’10

Breaking Down The Bruins

If you have been living under a rock and have not been able to read Sports Illustrated’s report on UCLA, here is what you missed: UCLA basketball players broke curfew for partying (*collective gasp for all people who haven’t experienced college*), Reeves Nelson is a complete prick and Ben Howland has very skeptical coaching tactics. The only shocking news is that Howland seems to have minimal control of his players. I do not know the culture of collegiate basketball coaching, but Howland is facing many claims of “favoring” star players while cracking the whip on benchwarmers. The entire article put UCLA into the national spotlight in nightmarish ways.

The Bruins responded to the controversy by seemingly using their entire emotional reaction to the article en route annihilating Washington State 78-46. UCLA assisted on an incredible 26 of their 32 baskets while committing just nine turnovers. Lazeric Jones, Tyler Lamb and David Wear led the balanced charge with 18, 16 and 13 points. Jermaine Anderson had 9 assists, one more than the entire Cougar team.

Josh Smith was the main reason for UCLA fighting the Dawgs to the finish in UW’s 71-69 victory in Seattle last month. Smith absolutely manhandled Aziz N’Diaye in the paint, leading the Bruins with 24 points and 9 rebounds. The UCLA offense ran through Smith when he was on the floor and that is when they found all of their success. The 300 pounder’s fitness held him back, as he was only on the floor for 26 minutes despite only picking up 1 foul. The Bruins were also one of the few teams who have outrebounded the Dawgs at home this season, ending the game with 34-29 edge.

The Starting Five: Keys to the Game

UCLA’s Emotion: The Bruins entered the season with extremely high expectations and the article by SI extensively detailing their fall. UCLA responded to this by playing their best game of the season on Thursday. Husky fans can have two views on this: 1) UCLA got their emotion out on Thursday and UW is lucky that it didn’t happen to them 2) The Bruins are still riding their high and could potentially make a run on Saturday and in the tournament next week.

Josh Smith: How will Romar adjust on defense following Smith’s domination the last time these two teams played? It is no secret Smith plays his best basketball against Washington.

The Three Headed Monster: As always, Ross, Wilcox and Wroten are the key to Washington’s success offensively. Terrence Ross stepped up last game and scored 10 of the Husky’s last 12 points to close out the game. Wroten and Wilcox were held in check, combing for just 19 points on 5-15 shooting and six turnovers (five of which were from Wroten).

Ball Control: The Huskies turned the ball over 16 times against UCLA in February and only had 10 assists. UCLA had 26 assists to just 9 turnovers on Thursday, potentially the best A:T game of any Pac-12 team all season. The Huskies cannot afford to turn the ball over 16 times on the road. Period.

Rebounding: The Bruins held the rebounding edge 34-29 in the last meeting between these two teams and it led to them finishing with eleven more shot attempts despite the Huskies only shooting five more free throws. This is how the Huskies only won by two while shooting 52% from the field.

Prediction

UCLA’s emotions are still running high, but Washington’s are as well with an outright title hanging in the balance. The Bruins will come out hot but expect the Huskies to hang in before making a second half run to close out their best conference regular season in 28 years. This will be a good, quality basketball game on national television for UW to pass the “eye test” for the last time before the Pac-12 tournament. UW pulls away in the second half, finishing with a 75-67 win.

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