UCLA vs. WSU: What to Watch

Washington State (11-12, 2-8)
Tipoff:
7 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks, AM 570

At a glance: Can UCLA’s offense get rolling again?

Twice in the last three games, the Bruins’ field goal attempts have outnumbered their point totals. Still first in the Pac-12 in points per game on the season, UCLA drops to fifth once you cut out the nonconference schedule. Their 69.7 average against league opponents trails USC and Stanford, both of whom are just 5-5 in the Pac-12.

“We need to do a better job taking good shots and being more selective,” head coach Ben Howland said.

The Cougars, who haven’t had a winning conference record since 2008, offer the Bruins a chance to get back on track. Washington State is one of the slowest teams in the conference, and will need to dictate the pace at Pauley Pavilion if it wants its third win of the calendar year.

“It’s a game where they don’t have to push,” Howland said. “They’re going to be very patient. They’ve shown they can run three different sets in one possession on offense.”

However, WSU is dead last in both field goal percentage (39.4) and field goal percentage defense (46.3) through conference play. They have some size up front but are a middling rebounding team, grabbing 31.2 percent of available offensive boards on the season. UCLA is slightly behind at 31.0 percent, but may avoid being outrebounded for just the third time since Dec. 22.

Players to watch: In 2012, Jordan Adams made 35.8 percent of his 3-pointers — building a reputation as one of the country’s most surprising freshmen. But in 2013, the UCLA guard has hit exactly one-fifth of his attempts, making zero in seven of the last 10 games.

The problem can’t entirely be contributed to sample size: Adams took 67 3-pointers before the new year, and has launched 60 since. A difference in competition? Possibly, but the gap between the best 3-point defenses and the worst isn’t that wide. Among the nation’s 347 teams, the 75th percentile allows 31.8 percent while the 25th percentile allows 35.5.

Asked if he needed to change anything about his game, Adams said recently that he expects his shot to start falling eventually.

Washington State runs a sub-par perimeter defense, a byproduct of its frequent zone looks. The Cougars allow 37.2 percent of opposing field goal attempts to come from long range, the worst mark in the Pac-12 and fourth-worst among the six major conferences. In other words, Adams will get his chances to break the freshman wall.

WSU’s Brock Motum is a skilled big man, but he’s not the sort of interior bruiser that really gives UCLA trouble. The 6-foot-10 Aussie has 3-point range and distributes his shots evenly across the floor, with just over a third coming at the rim. Mike Ladd has scored double digits in 10 of his last 11 games, and his game resembles that of USC forward Eric Wise. Wise had 12 points, 11 rebounds and five assists against UCLA.

WSU STARTING LINEUP:
F — Brock Motum, 6-10, 245, Sr., 18.2 pts, 6.6 reb, 0.9 blk
F — D.J. Shelton, 6-10, 240, Jr., 5.3 pts, 6.1 reb, 1.3 ast
G — Mike Ladd, 6-5, 195, Sr., 11.7 pts, 5.8 reb, 2.2 ast
G — DaVonte Lacy, 6-3, 206, So., 9.7 pts, 2.6 reb, 1.7 ast
G — Royce Woolridge, 6-3, 175, So., 8.4 pts, 2.6 reb, 2.7 ast

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email