by Craig Yamada
Who: UW (9-3) vs. UCLA (9-4)
When: Friday, 1 PM
Radio: 950 KJR
The Huskies are looking to use their LA brooms for the first time since 2006. Coming off an emotional win at USC on Wednesday, the Dawgs will need to re-focus their attention on their next opponent. The Bruins will be no easy task. The ghost of UCLA past still haunts UW in the form of Mustafa Abdul-Hamid. The last time UW visited Pauley Pavilion, they were sent home at the hands of a buzzer beating 3 pointer from Abdul-Hamid. UW soon had their revenge when they returned home as they blew out the Bruins by 29 on national television. Better believe that each team will play with a chip on their shoulders left over from last year.
UCLA 101: UCLA is coming off a nice win against Klay Thompson and the WSU Cougars. They are winners of their last six games including an upset of #18 BYU. Needless to say, they are streaking. Similar to UW’s previous opponent, UCLA is playing excellent basketball at the current time. Much like USC, they were able to push #4 Kansas to the end of regulation, losing by just one point. They have had a couple of bad losses to the hands of VCU and Montana, but after watching them against WSU last night, they are gelling well as a team. UW’s defensive strategy may be similar to their treatment of USC. Big freshman center Josh Smith anchors the front line at center. Josh is slowly but surely garnering more minutes each game at close to 20 a game. He is averaging 10.1 ppg and looks much more agile than the last time I watched him play. UCLA’s biggest threat in the post comes in the form of Reeves Nelson aka “Baby Brockman”. Nelson is definitely playing out of Brockman’s shadow this year as he is having his way inside. He’s second on the team in scoring at 14.7 ppg and 8.0 rpg. At 6’8″ he will prove to be a handful tomorrow as his offensive game looks much more polished this year. Add in his tenacity for offensive rebounds and ability to run the floor, UW bigs will have their hands full. Their most heralded player is Tyler Honeycutt. Living in the mold of former Bruin, Matt Barnes, Honeycutt is off to a quick start this year averaging 14.8 ppg. He is coming off a shoulder injury but showed no ill effects against WSU last night. Honeycutt erupted in the second half, mostly with his outside shooting. UW will have to be in his hip pocket all game if it hopes to win tomorrow. Malcolm Lee looks much improved from last year. He is shooting the ball much better this year and is as quick as anyone in the Pac in getting up the floor. Look for VO to be on him most of the game.
F – Reeves Nelson, 6-8, 14.7 ppg
F – Tyler Honeycutt, 6-8, 14.8 ppg
C – Joshua Smith, 6-10, 10.1
G – Malcolm Lee, 6-5, 12.8 ppg
G – Lazeric Jones, 6-0, 11.3 ppg
Huskies win if:
- Aziz stays in the game: This is why we recruited him in the first place, for matchups like this. Aziz will need to avoid early foul trouble in effort to give Josh Smith fits in the post. Aziz has the strength to body up on Smith and will be a valuable asset in keeping him out of rhythm. Smith owns the paint and is a good rebounder. Aziz will need to come up big to win this game.
- Outrebound UCLA: This goes without saying, but after seeing their stellar rebounding performance against USC, we know UW will continue to emphasize this area. They will need to body up on Smith, Nelson and Honeycutt on the offensive glass.
- Holiday locks down Honeycutt: Justin will guard a similarly sized player in Honeycutt and will draw the toughest assignment for the night. It will be vital to keep a hand in his face at all times as he can kill from anywhere on the floor.
- Repeat performance from MBA: UW will need to establish an inside presence like they did against USC. Josh Smith will likely be the one guarding MBA all night. MBA will need to get it going and perhaps force some unwanted fouls on to Josh Smith.
- IT breaks out: Thomas had a slow game against USC, but I fully expect him to rebound quick against UCLA’s faster pace of game.
- Free Throws are made: UW won with their free throws against USC and will need to convert similarly tomorrow. When on the road, making free throws will be vital for them winning a game.
Game Prediction: UCLA will have a big run to open up the game, but UW will come back in fine fashion to close out the first half. UW wins in the final minutes 83-76.