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February 7, 2013 at 2:41 PM

Guess the UW Score — UCLA

Figures that someone with the handle wayupwaydown would win the latest Guess the UW Score contest because that moniker aptly describes the Huskies these days.

How else to explain a 43-point swing for Washington in the past two games that included a low-scoring loss Thursday and Saturday’s 96-92 win over Arizona State.

No one in the GUWS contest came close to the score. But someone had to win so congrats to wayupwaydown and shohoballer. They predicted UW would prevail 75-71. Contact me privately via twitter or email (pallen@seattletimes.com) for your prizes.

Let’s see if we do a better job today guessing the score.

Alright, let’s move on.

PAC-12 SCHEDULE:

Washington (13-9, 5-4) at UCLA (16-6, 6-3), 6 p.m. …………………… ESPN

California (13-8, 5-4) at Arizona State (17-5, 6-3), 6:30 p.m. ……….. P12N

Colorado (14-7, 4-5) at No. 18 Oregon (18-4, 7-2), 7 p.m. …………….. ESPNU

Washington State (11-11, 2-7) at USC (9-13, 4-5), 8:30 p.m. …………. P12N

AND THE UW-UCLA WINNER IS ……….

The Bruins 76-69.

Washington, a 7.5-point underdog, begins the second half of the Pac-12 season on the road. The Huskies are hoping they can play the way they did when they began the first half of the season with three straight road wins.

However, the competition is a little stiffer this time. UCLA is a formidable foe. The Bruins lead the conference in scoring and their roster includes several potential NBA players.

Both teams enter tonight’s game somewhat unsure of themselves.

Despite last Saturday’s win, the Huskies are searching for an identity and consistency. They won four straight Pac-12 games with defense and rebounding. They also lost four straight against a pair of ranked teams and Pac-12 bottom-feeders Utah and Oregon State. And then Washington won a shoot-out against a good Arizona State squad. Go figure.

UCLA had a shaky 5-3 start that included an upset at home against Cal Poly. The Bruins then won 10 in a row and rose to No. 24 in the AP rankings. They captured their signature win and knocked off then-No.6 Arizona. UCLA has also lost three of the past four games.

UCLA coach Ben Howland said his team is learning how to deal with success. Perhaps the Baby Bruins, filled with four star recruits, are hitting the freshman wall.

The Bruins have had eight days to prepare for tonight’s game, which is their longest layoff this season. You never know how a team will respond with that much down time. Maybe they’ll be rested and re-energized. Maybe they’ll be rusty.

The other X-factor is the health of UCLA star freshman Shabazz Muahammad who has been battling the flu for over a week. Despite being ill, he scored 22 points Jan. 30 against USC. He almost missed Tuesday’s practice, but is expected to play tonight.

Muhammad is a difficult matchup because he has a NBA-ready game. He’s a lefty who can score inside, on the perimeter and he draws fouls.

Despite a 1-2 record in the past three games, Washington played at a high-level in each of those contests. Still, the Huskies haven’t been able to put together a game where the offense, defense, stars and role players are all in sync.

Washington’s best game is probably a 64-54 win over Colorado, but its most complete effort came in the Pac-12 opener. The Huskies beat Washington State 68-63 while shooting 54.2 percent from the field. They had three players score in double figures and held the Cougars to 36.8 percent shooting.

UCLA scores a lot of points, but the Bruins also rank 11th in the Pac-12 allowing an average of 69.2 points. They’ve given up at least 73 points in each of the past four games. Washington has scored at least 73 in two of the past 11 games.

Both teams like to run and depth could be a factor. Seven Huskies received the bulk of the minutes last Saturday while UCLA uses an eight-man rotation.

The pathway to a win tonight for Washington will likely travel through the middle of the UCLA defense. The Bruins are soft inside. On Jan. 26, Arizona State pummeled UCLA in the paint. The Sun Devils won the rebounding battle 49-29 thanks to 7-2 center Jordan Bachnyski who finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks. Two other ASU players had at least 11 rebounds.

If the Huskies can receive a similar effort from 7-foot center Aziz N’Diaye and 6-9 power forward Shawn Kemp Jr., then the Huskies will leave new Pauley Pavilion with a win. But don’t expect the big guys to get it done by themselves. It’s essential for the UW guards to put enough pressure on the UCLA defense to create scoring opportunities for front-court players. Looking at the ASU-UCLA game, Sun Devils guard Jahii Carson and small forward Jonathan Gilling each had eight assists of the team’s 19 assists.

C.J. Wilcox and Abdul Gaddy each had seven of Washington’s 16 assists in last Saturday’s win over ASU. If Washington’s playmakers can make the game easier for the bigs, then the Huskies should be begin the second half of the Pac-12 season just like it started the first half – with a complete effort that leads to a win.

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