Game info: 6 p.m. Thursday at Edmundson Pavilion
TV/Radio: ESPN2/KJR-950 AM
Record: 21-8, 12-4 Pac-10. RPI rank: 35.
Previous game: Beat Arizona 71-49.
Stats/schedule: Click here.
Prediction: Picked to finish third in the Pac-10 in a media poll.
Coach: Ben Howland is 185-80 in his eighth season with the Bruins. He is 355-179 overall in 17 years.
Series: UCLA leads 91-38 in a series that began in 1936. The Huskies have won two in a row, including last year’s 97-68 victory in the regular-season finale. UW has won six straight against UCLA at home and coach Lorenzo Romar, a former Bruins assistant, is 9-9 against UCLA.
Last meeting: Behind a game-high 21 points from Matthew Bryan-Amanng and a 17-point, nine-assists performance from Isaiah Thomas, the Huskies sprinted past UCLA in a 74-63 victory on New Year’s Eve day. The win gave UW its third sweep in Los Angeles and the first since 2006. The Huskies went up 52-35 with 14:09 left when the Bruins used a 24-11 run to cut UW’s lead to 63-59 with 4:35 left. Junior forward Darnell Gant sank a momentum-turning three-pointer with 3:21 left and the Huskies outscored them 11-4 the rest of the way.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson tallied a career-high 27 points to go with 16 rebounds in the win over Arizona. He has 12 double doubles this season. Nelson is a gifted and versatile player who does his best work when he’s facing the rim or driving to the basket. He also does the dirty work. Nelson leads the team in rebounds (9.0 average), points in the paint (276), points off of turnovers (71) and dives for loose balls (21). He’s been named the Pac-10 Player of the Week twice this season.
— Romar on freshman center Joshua Smith: “If he has any inch of an angle, you can’t stop him. He really seals well. He has great hands. Anything you throw to him, he’s going to catch it and finish it around the rim. And he’s far more nimble and athletic than people think.” The former Kentwood High star, who chose UCLA over Washington, will play his first game at home in front of friends and family as well as the UW fans he spurned. Smith expects it will be a rowdy homecoming. The Huskies got him into foul trouble in the first game, but Smith has improved immensely since then. He’s a smarter defender and he rarely ventures away from the basket anymore.
— Sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt (above, left) is something of an enigma. In many ways, he’s the most talented player on the team, but he disappears for long stretches of the game. Honeycutt is the kind of player who can score 33 points against No. 2 Kansas and tally 14 total points in road games at Oregon and Oregon State. He’s second on the team in rebounding and yet he didn’t have a single rebound in 43 minutes of an overtime loss at California. Since the start of the Pac-10 season, Honeycutt has shown glimpses of his potential and has never dominated a game. Still, many NBA draft gurus believe he’ll be a first-round pick this summer.
— Junior guard Malcolm Lee gets overlooked sometimes, but he’s thrived this season since moving from point guard to shooting guard. It was obvious he wasn’t comfortable running the team last season. Lee is an excellent defender who will likely be paired against Thomas. Lee helped to hold BYU’s Jimmer Fredette to 25 points in an 86-79 win over the Cougars.
— Junior college transfer Lazeric Jones beat out Jerime Anderson for the point guard duties this season. Jones was shaky at the start of the season, but he’s been solid as of late. He’s also the only UCLA player who has started every game.
— UCLA is one of the hottest teams in the Pac-10. The Bruins have won 12 of the past 14 games.
— Perhaps the biggest blight on UCLA’s schedule is a 66-57 loss at home to Montana. The Grizzlies packed the paint with defenders, which stymied the Bruins’ interior offense.
— UCLA has four McDonald’s All-Americans on its roster in Lee (2008), sophomore forwards Travis and David Wear (2009) and Smith (2010). The Wear twins transferred from North Carolina and are sitting out this season.
— At the start of the NBA season, there were 14 former Bruins on a roster. The list includes Arron Afflalo, Denver; Trevor Ariza, New Orleans; Matt Barnes, Los Angeles Lakers; Darren Collison, Indiana; Baron Davis, Los Angeles Clippers;
Jordan Farmar, New Jersey; Dan Gadzuric, Golden State; Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia; Ryan Hollins, Cleveland; Jason Kapono, Philadelphia; Kevin Love, Minnesota; Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Milwaukee; Earl Watson, Utah and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City.
F – Reeves Nelson, 6-8, 235, So., 14.0 ppg., 9.0 rpg.
F – Tyler Honeycutt, 6-8, 188, So., 12.8, 7.4
C – Anthony Stover, 6-10, 235, Fr., 0.6, 1.7
G – Malcolm Lee, 6-5, 200, Jr., 13.3, 2.9
G – Lazeric Jones, 6-0, 187, Jr., 9.9, 3.6 apg.
— In the first game the front lines of both teams neutralized each other. UCLA received 40 points and 19 rebounds from its starters while UW had 36 points and 24 rebounds. Lee (12 points) outperformed Abdul Gaddy (2 points), who played his final game before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The Huskies had a considerable advantage with its reserves who outscored UCLA’s bench 19-8. Still Washington won because Thomas dominated Jones and Anderson. The Bruins had no answer for UW’s high screen-and-roll between Thomas and Bryan-Amaning. The Huskies used that play on almost every possession in the final minutes. Washington did an outstanding job defensively on defending the three-point play. UCLA connected on 2 of 11 shots outside the arc. The Bruins also shot 35.3 percent (18 of 51) from the field while the Huskies made half of their attempts (29 of 58).
Photo credit: AP Photo – Christine Cotter