University of Washington Huskies take on the UCLA Bruins PAC-12 contest, but the eyes of the nation will turn towards the face-off of top NBA Draft prospects Markelle Fultz against Lonzo Ball
Washington Husky point guard Markelle Fultz is rapidly becoming a household name. In the eyes of many, he is the top rated prospect projected in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft. But right now, the 2017 NBA Draft is the last thing on the young man’s mind.
As you see, the Washington Huskies are in a bit of a tail spin. In fact, they last won in an overtime contest against Colorado. Since that game, the Huskies have lost four consecutive games. Now the team faces a tremendous challenge in hosting the 20-3 UCLA Bruins at 7:30 PM (PT).
The Bruins bring a 7-3 PAC-12 record to face the 2-8 Huskies. The Bruins are in a bit of a downturn as well, currently 1-1 in the current road trip, and 1-2 in the past three games.
Ball Versus Fultz
UCLA is led by point guard Lonzo Ball, who averages 14.8 points, 8.0 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. The Huskies will counter with their own star, Markelle Fultz. Fultz averages 23. 1 points, 6.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game.
For now, the contest will showcase the dissimilar styles of each player. As Ben Folch of the Los Angeles Times cites in interviewing an anonymous NBA scout:
"“I think that whole question of who’s going to go one, who’s going to go two, a lot of that will be determined by who gets that pick and their roster composition,” an NBA scout who planned to attend the game between the Bruins and Huskies said. “If you already have someone at the point and can slide Markelle in next to them it might make some sense, whereas Lonzo’s skill set lends itself more to having the ball in his hands and being that traditional point guard.”"
And so, the game takes on a larger audience. This is not just a PAC-12 contest, but it’s a stage of NBA hopes and dreams. Which player will win the hearts of NBA fans, and why?
As a matter of fact, both players need big games. On one hand, Ball has struggled somewhat in his past two contests, averaging just 14.5 points, 5.5 assists, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals. On the other hand, Fultz counters with 18 points, 4.5 assists, 7.0 rebounds, and 0 steals.
And so, expect the game to be high scoring. So far, neither Washington nor UCLA runs a tight defense, although the Huskies did stiffen up in a road loss to seventh ranked Arizona. Also on a positive note, Washington boast a 7-6 record at home.
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Three Keys To Win
Despite the records, this is a game the Washington Huskies can win if they are able to focus on three keys to this game.
KEY I: PLAY A CLEAN GAME
The Washington Huskies play some games with loose handles and have key players get into foul trouble too early. Neither can happen if the Huskies to win this game. The team must limit turnovers in this game to five or less per half. On the foul side, the team must limit the personal fouls. The Bruins are shooting a team average of 73.2 percent from the free throw line.
The Huskies cannot try to keep pace if the Bruins are able to line up at the foul line
KEY II: David Crisp and Noah Dickerson Need To Score
The Huskies cannot hope to win by ensuring that Markelle Fultz gets the ball. As the Arizona game demonstrated, smart teams will triple team Fultz. Other players need to become active in the offense early and throughout the game. If David Crisp can find the range on his three-point shot, and Noah Dickerson can score in the paint, the pressure comes off Fultz.
As the pressure comes off Fultz, so will the defense. And that is very dangerous to UCLA
Key III: Markelle Fultz Must Shoot 75 percent or Better On Free Throws
And so, the book is out on Markelle Fultz. Foul him. At 144 attempts from the free throw line, he has scored on 94 shots. That’s only slightly better than Fultz’s three-point accuracy.
On one hand, as teams ramp up the fouls, Fultz must adapt, and learn to make them pay. On the other hand, if he can do that, he will have cleaner looks on his shots.
BONUS KEY: Washington’s Bench Must Step Up
The UCLA Bruins have a deep team. In fact, six UCLA players can score in double digits in any game. Conversely, the Huskies only boast three such players. Sam Timmins can off the bench to score 11 points against the Arizona Wildcats. Dominic Greene scored 11 points again Colorado. Carlos Johnson scored nine points in the recent contest against Arizona State. in conclusion, they need to repeat that performance in this contest.
The team will get a boost soon when power forward Malik Dime returns to the lineup. As a matter of fact, Dime broke his little finger on January 7th and is projected back to the team in mid-February.
And so, the eyes of the nation will focus on the play of Markelle Fultz versus Lonzon Ball. But the focus of Washington could spell an upset victory in this game.