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Getting Ready for A "Root Canal"

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Bruins are preparing to take on a very well coached Washington State squad. Dohn reports on the difficult matchup the Bruins will face on Thursday night:

"They kind of play off on defense, not really aggressive & it's kind of weak, and they try to play the passing lanes," Shipp said. "Basically, we just have to knock down shots and force them to get out and run."

In that sense, it is a matchup of contrasting strengths.

UCLA is second in the Pac-10 in 3-point percentage (38.1), paced by point guard and conference leader Darren Collison's 49.4 percent.

Bruins guard Arron Afflalo is shooting 39.6 percent from beyond the arc.

The Cougars are allowing a league-low 57.8 points per game, are second in field-goal percentage defense (39.4) and fourth in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (32.5).

"They're really athletic," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "They're second in the league in blocked shots, so they do a lot of things very well and they're obviously very well coached."
Frankly, I think Josh’s comment re. the WSU defense is dumb. I am not sure "weak" would be the word I’d use to describe a Cougar defense which as Dohn notes may be the best in the Pac-10. From what I saw in our first game if anything Cougar defense appeared to be very smart, and it reminded me a lot of our defense from last season. Luckily for us it appears Coach Howland knows what his boys will be up against on Thursday. As he noted in the OC Register Bruins better be ready because in his words playing the Cougars is just like having a "root canal":
The Bruins have scored an average of 80.3 points over their past three games - victories against Arizona, Cal and Stanford. Shipp is shooting well again and center Lorenzo Mata is at times providing an inside scoring presence that has been missing much of the season.

But against the Cougars, UCLA has not had it that easy of late, even with Washington State finishing no better than seventh in the Pac-10 the past three years.

Five of the past seven games in the series have been decided by three points or less. In the first meeting this season, the Bruins won, 55-52. That point total is 19.1 fewer than UCLA has averaged this season and 16.6 fewer than it has averaged in Pac-10 games.

"Every time you play them it's like a root canal, that's what it is," Coach Ben Howland said.
Not just for the Bruins. It has felt like a root canal for Cougar’s other recent opponents, who as the OC Reg. report notes did not come within 10 points of their season scoring average when taking on WSU.

Thankfully Bruins are fairly healthy (knocking on wood profusely) heading into Thursday night. As BBR notes the Birthday Boy is feeling healthy:
Center Lorenzo Mata was poked in the right eye in the second half against Stanford forcing him to leave the game early due to blurred vision.

A CT scan done on the eye earlier on Monday was negative.

Mata scored 8 eights and grabbed 4 rebounds in a season-high 33 minutes of action on Saturday in Palo Alto.

Doctors suggested to Mata that he should wear goggles in upcoming games, but the junior center wasn't interested.

"I'm not wearing goggles," Mata said. "I don't think it's necessary. My eye is all right."
And per Howland Luc is feeling fine:
It has been suggested Mbah a Moute has been less explosive this season due to knee tendonitis, but Howland said he did not think that the tendonitis in Mbah a Moute's knees was a factor.

"His knees have never been a problem," Howland said. "I keep listening to that on replays. A lot of guys have tendonitis in their knees. Josh Shipp has tendonitis. Michael Roll's knee. It's from playing basketball every day."
Sounds good to us. Let’s hope Luc, Mata, and AA2 keep playing at the same level they have been playing at since the West Virginia game. Bruin front court is going to be key Thursday night, as their backcourt mates may find themselves in an even match-up against one of the best backcourt combination (Weaver and Low) in the country. Everyone is going to need to pitch in if the Bruins want avoid another root canal experience on Thursday night.

GO BRUINS.