UCLA heads to friendly confines of Pullman

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
7:51
PM PT
After losing a heartbreaker in a place that is no stranger to UCLA losses, the Bruins head to a venue that has been much more friendly over the years for an afternoon game at Washington State.

The Bruins have won 18 consecutive games in Pullman with Washington State's last victory coming Feb. 6 1993 -- three months before UCLA freshman Norman Powell was born.

UCLA (12-10, 5-5) will be looking to keep that streak alive and get its first victory over a Division I team away from Southern California. The Bruins appeared to have that elusive road victory Thursday night at Washington but blew a 10-point lead in the final six minutes and lost, 71-69, for their ninth consecutive loss at Washington.

"Basketball is a game of runs," coach Ben Howland said. "There’s always going to be runs by the other team and we, I thought, did a pretty good job for the most part and really stubbed our foot at the end of the game. I don’t think it’s any one specific thing. We lost a little bit of poise at the end of that game."

Particularly disturbing was UCLA's inability to execute on offense against Washington's zone. The Bruins had done a good job against the zone when Washington went to it earlier in the game but seemed to get frazzled in the waning moments as the Huskies made a comeback.

"We just did a poor job," Howland said. "I should have stayed more simplistic. We actually had a couple of opportunities where we set high screens. Each time the guy inside was open and we just didn’t see it and that’s the first guy you look for. And one shot was rushed against the zone. We did attack it well until the last four or five minutes."

The Bruins will see a lot more zone Saturday against the Cougars (12-10, 4-6), who play a 3-2 zone and a 2-3 zone along with some switching man-to-man defense. They are also playing very well at Beasley Coliseum, where they are 8-0 this season and two weeks ago swept Stanford and California. Washington State's lone home loss came against Oregon in Spokane in the conference opener.

The Bruins won't see Faisal Aden, however. Aden, a senior guard who is the second leading scorer on the team with 14.5 points per game, tore his ACL last week and is out for the remainder of the season. Still, Washington State defeated USC, 60-53, Thursday without Aden.

"He’s obviously a really good player and put up great numbers, but they played well last night without him," Howland said.

Leading scorer Brock Motum, a 6-10 forward, will be the big weapon UCLA must contain. Motum averages 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds and does most of his damage inside, but is shooting 40 percent on three-pointers.

Freshman guard DaVonte Lacy, averaging 9.8 points with 39 made three-pointers, and point guard Reggie Moore, averaging 5.6 assists, are Washington State's other major weapons.

The Bruins will probably be without starting center Travis Wear, who suffered a high ankle sprain Thursday against Washington. Joshua Smith, coming off a career-high 24 points, will get the start.

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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