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Marquee Matchup of New Year's Eve (Weekend)

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Bruins and Huskies are squaring off in the last college basketball game of 2006, which according to Sportsline's Garry Parrish is the best match up of this weekend. Sportsline updated its notes on the Huskies following their loss against a lower tier Pac-10 team:

[U]W made just 29 of 66 shots for the game and had just two players in double figures -- Spencer Hawes with 24 and Ryan Appleby with 18, all on three-pointers.

UW is 10-2 overall and 0-1 in Pac-10 play. It's the first time since the 2003-04 season UW has lost its conference opener.

--Freshmen center Spencer Hawes scored a career-high 24 points, making 10 of 16 field goals. He has scored 20 or more points in six of UW's last seven games and has 23, 23 and 24 in his last three. He also played a career-high 47 minutes.

--Point guard Justin Dentmon was again a little shaky on the road, losing four turnovers and fouling out in 28 minutes. He scored just nine points before leaving.

--Forced to play a career-high 24 minutes because of foul trouble to other players, Hans Gasser responded with seven points, two on three-pointers late in regulation.
Besides Hawes Huskies, they have another great young forward in Jon Brockman (Soph, 6'7, 245). The spotlight matchups in this game: the Husky front court with Hawes and Brockman v. Ben Ball's Mata, Aboya, Luc and company. BBR has more on these matchups in its game preview:
Huskies' Head Coach Lorenzo Romar coaches his teams to run the court and score in transition whenever possible.  Washington is the top scoring team in the conference and 4th overall in the nation with a 88.9 point average.  Alternatively, they also give up a lot of points with opponents averaging 76.8 points a contest due to the uptempo pace of the game.

UCLA needs to play solid transition defense to slow down Washington's running game.  Although the Bruins like to run and will need some easy baskets in transition, they will not win the game if they get into a track meet with the Huskies.

While the Huskies enjoy playing transition basketball, this season they are also dangerous on the halfcourt in the low-post as they sport one of the nation's best frontcourt tandem in Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland will usually have his team double-down on quality low-post players, but Washington has two big men who can both score, in addition, Hawes has shown to be an adept passer.  Subsequently, the UCLA defense will need to be quick and very aggressive on their double teams and defensive rotations; otherwise, Hawes and Brockman will have a field day picking which shooters to pass out to.
BBR goes on to mention how tomorrow's game is going to be "toughest challenge" yet. Seems like every game for the Ben Ball warriors is shaping up to be a brutal battle. But they are battle tested and they have a coaching staff that is methodically working on ways to improve the team. Case in point is today's DN in which Painter reports on how the coaching staff canceled practice and made the team watch game films of the Wazzu game all day Friday to go over the fine points on what they need to improve on Saturday. Also, important news from DN report and somewhat of a concern: Shipp played with an injured ankle on Thursday night. Shipp didn't complain and just sucked it up. Just like a Ben Ball warrior.

Meanwhile, as we are getting ready for this marquee matchup what does an LA Times reporter write about the Bruins? Well, what a surprise. This time it's Helen Elliot who plays the role of resident whiner, complaining about "sleepwalking" against a team, which will probably turn out to be one of the best 4 or 5 teams in what is shaping up to be the toughest conference in America. You won't find a lot of articles in newspapers in the Mid Atlantic region when a team like UNC or Duke pulls out tough, gritty wins against ACC teams like Clemson or Georgia Tech at home. But then there is the clueless hacks in the LAT. These are the hacks who create the perception of UCLA fans being unreasonable and spoiled. If they had 1/4th of the sports IQ of an average member of this Bruins Nation, you wouldn't see this kind of nonsense coming out repeatedly out of this once respected sports page. Whatever.

We have a big game tomorrow night. Can't wait.