WASHINGTON HUSKIES (9-19)
UCLA BRUINS (26-3)
Pauley Pavilion – Los Angeles, CA
Tip-off: Saturday, 11:00pm ET
#3 UCLA looks to keep pace atop the Pac-12 standings when they host floundering Washington on Wednesday night.
Winners of seven straight (3-4 ATS in that span), the streaking #3 Bruins face what seems to be an easy task of giving the 9-19 Huskies their 11th straight defeat on Wednesday night. Washington (2-9 ATS over those 11 losses) has only hit their offensive season average of 77.5 PPG (65th overall) once in the past eleven games, and will potentially be without star G Markelle Fultz (knee). Fultz, who averages a Pac-12 leading 23.2 points per game along with 5.9 assists per game, has only played in two of Washington’s last five games. The freshman has sat out the Huskies’ last three road contests with knee soreness, and it’s fair to wonder if – given what’s at stake for Fultz’s professional future – we’ll see the consensus future lottery pick again in a college uniform. The Huskies are 0-7 (2-5 ATS) on the road in Pac-12 play and are coming off a loss at cross-state rival Washington State 77-71 (UW +3.5) on Sunday. UCLA (15-14 ATS) meanwhile pulled of an impressive road sweep of Arizona State and Arizona this past week, getting revenge against the #4 Wildcats in the process (77-72, UCLA +2.5). Arizona had handed UCLA their only loss at Pauley Pavilion this season (Jan. 21). 7-8 ATS at home, the Bruins finish the season on Saturday hosting Washington State after Wednesday’s tilt against the Huskies as they look to go 15-3 overall in conference play. Unfortunately, with Oregon and Arizona also favored to win their games this week, UCLA may not be able to move higher than third place in the conference. Washington and UCLA have already met once this season, with the Bruins thrashing the Huskies, 107-66 (UCLA -10.5) in Seattle. The 41-point margin was both UCLA’s largest margin of victory and Washington’s worst defeat this season. UCLA has broken 100 points four times in Pac-12 play, but this was the first instance [of 100+ points for UCLA in conference play] where the total was still UNDER. Washington’s total has been UNDER in its last nine games while UCLA’s has been UNDER in four of its last five. The last time these two teams met at Pauley Pavilion, Washington escaped with an 86-84 win (Wash +5, Jan ’16). UCLA is 6-4 (7-3 ATS) in the past ten meetings between these two schools.
Only Oregon State’s 1-16 conference mark keeps Washington from the cellar of the Pac-12 standings. Even the individual attributes of Fultz hasn’t kept Coach Lorenzo Romar’s team from some awful basketball. Washington is getting beat by an average of 10.4 PPG in conference play; averaging just 70.9 PPG. If the Huskies can’t get 80+ points from their offense, which they were doing with regularity in non-conference play, their 329th overall defense (80.8 PPG) will not be able to keep them competitive. This especially comes into play against elite offensive teams like UCLA, as the Bruins shot 60.6% FG (45% 3PT) in their 41-point win over Washington earlier this season. The Huskies also shot themselves in the foot in that contest, making just 9-of-19 from the free throw line and committing 20 turnovers to just 10 assists. Fultz had 25 points in the loss, while his teammates combined to go 2-for-17 from three with five assists and 15 turnovers. On defense, Washington allowed four Bruins to score 20+ points. Whether Fultz plays or not, competing on Wednesday will be a very tall task, but coming into Pauley Pavilion without Fultz suited up could be a recipe for another embarrassment. G David Crisp (14.3 PPG) had his only single-digit output of conference play against UCLA. Crisp is the number one option without Fultz on the floor, and struggled as the main focus of Washington State’s defense on Sunday (5-for-18 FG, 2-for-10 3PT). Fellow sophomore Noah Dickerson (11.5 PPG, 8 RPG) is coming on lately for the Huskies with eight straight double-figure scoring efforts. Dickerson will have his hands full with UCLA’s deep and talented frontcourt, but did register his first double-double in conference play on Sunday (16 pts, 13 reb).
Like Washington, UCLA features their well-known freshman, G Lonzo Ball (14.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.9 SPG), also a consensus future lottery pick. Ball, who leads the nation in assists, also has a stellar supporting cast – unlike his counterpart, Fultz. Coach Steve Alford has been able to mesh his veterans with Ball and Pac-12 FG% leader F T.J. Leaf (16.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 63% FG) to ascend to a March contender. The number three team in the nation, UCLA has a legitimate shot at a number one seed in the NCAA tournament with a good showing next week in their conference tournament. UCLA’s detractors point out the Bruins defense (or lack of) at 75.6 PPG allowed (240th in NCAA). While UCLA has allowed 76.9 points per game in conference play, their fast pace of play on offense (76.2 possessions per game) hides the fact that they hold opponents to just 44.8% from inside the arc (28th in NCAA) and allow only 1.02 points per-possession (41st in NCAA). The Bruins are also improving in the points-allowed category as of late, as they’ve held five of their last seven opponents at 75 or less points, and only allowed one of their last six opponents to shoot better than 40% from three. On Sunday, UCLA outlasted #4 Arizona not on the speed of their offense but based on the work of their frontcourt on the offensive glass. UCLA had 19 second chance points (to Arizona’s four). The Bruins outrebounded Arizona 9-1 on the offensive glass in a second half that saw UCLA outscore Arizona 38-29. The Bruins put five players in double-figures, which is no surprise considering six Bruins average over 10.0 PPG on the season. UCLA’s offense, arguably the best in the country, ranks in the top five in overall points per game, FG%, 3PT%, assists per game, and assist-to-turnover ratio. G Bryce Alford (16.1 PPG, 47% FG, 46% 3PT) has seen his efficiency skyrocket in his senior season alongside Ball, while junior C Thomas Welsh (10.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG) is averaging 12.6 PPG and 11.7 RPG over his last three. Welsh scored 12 of his 14 points against Arizona in the second half.