Thursday , Dec , 28 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Top-ranked Bruins open Pac-10 play against surprising Cougars

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – The top-ranked UCLA Bruins begin Pac-10
action this evening, as they play host to the Washington State Cougars
from Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins played for the national championship a year ago and look a lot
like a national title contender again this season, as they are boasting a
perfect 11-0 record at this time. Ben Howland’s squad has certainly posted
some big wins on the season, including decisions against Kentucky, Georgia
Tech and Texas A&M. The team enters this game following a 92-55
whipping of the Michigan Wolverines on December 23rd.

The Cougars have been one of the real surprises in 2006-07, as they come
into this game with a stellar 11-1 record. The lone loss came at Utah on
December 2nd, but since then the team has strung together four straight wins,
including a 64-54 victory over San Diego State on December 21st.

UCLA holds a commanding lead in the all-time series with Washington
State (89-13) and has won four straight matchups coming into this year.

Tony Bennett has taken over for his father in Pullman, but the philosophy and
gameplan remain the same. This is a Cougar squad that thrives on strong
defensive play. Opponents have managed to shoot just over 40 percent from the
floor against WSU this year (.409), resulting in just 57.7 ppg. Offensively,
Washington State is averaging just under 70 points per game (68.3), but it is
on a steady .471 shooting. Veteran guard Derrick Low is the team’s top scoring
threat, as he is shooting .507 from the floor and putting up 15.5 ppg. Fellow
guard Kyle Weaver is the only other double-digit performer at this time at
10.4 ppg. In the come-from-behind win over San Diego State, WSU shot a mere
.286 from the floor in the first half and trailed the Aztecs by 10 at the
break. The team bounced back by shooting .552 from the floor in the second
half to secure the victory. Robbie Cowgill led the way with 17 points. Weaver
notched a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Nikola Koprivica
tallied 11 points. Low was just 4-of-11 from the floor and finished the game
with nine points.

Washington State is a more one-dimensional program, while UCLA has produced at
both ends of the court thus far. The Bruins are shooting a gaudy .513 from the
field this season, while putting up almost 80 points per game (78.5).
Defensively, the team is shutting down foes to the tune of 59.5 ppg, while
forcing 19.2 turnovers per game. Four of the team’s five starters are
averaging double figures, led by All-American candidate Arron Afflalo’s 16.0
ppg. Forward Josh Shipp is next in line at 14.9 ppg, followed by guard Darren
Collison and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, at 13.0 and 10.5 ppg,
respectively. Mbah a Moute currently leads the team in rebounding at 7.4 rpg.
In the lop-sided win over Michigan, UCLA shot .589 from the floor, including a
scorching .667 in the second half. Shipp led four Bruins in double digits with
18 points. Afflalo poured in 17 points, followed by Collison, who netted 15,
while doling out eight assists. Mbah a Moute finished things off with 13
points and seven steals.