UCLA at WSU: What to Watch

UCLA (22-7, 12-4) at Washington State (11-18, 2-14)
Tipoff:
6:30 p.m., Beasley Coliseum
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/AM 570

At a glance: A loss in Pullman would be inexcusable for a conference contender. Washington State hasn’t beaten UCLA in Pullman since February 1993, seven months before any of the Bruins’ four freshmen were born.

WSU has lost nine straight games, and 11 of its past 12. No other team in the conference has lost more than five in a row all season. The Cougars aren’t trending up either. Since one-point losses at home to both Oregon and Oregon State, they’ve lost their last three by an average of 11 points — allowing opponents to shoot 52.9 percent from the field over that stretch. Most comically, they’ve had 14.3 percent of their shots blocked, the worst mark in the country.

Meanwhile, the Bruins have regained their offensive efficiency since getting blown out by Cal on Valentine’s Day, averaging 79 points in the past four games. The long travel and short week don’t offer ideal conditions for UCLA, but it should be able to handle the Cougars regardless. The team is still in control of its Pac-12 destiny, and a letdown in Seattle this weekend — where it hasn’t won since 2004 — seems more likely than stumble in the Palouse.

“No other coach has ever lost to Washington State in Pauley except me,” coach Ben Howland said this week. “I’m wary of this game.”

Players to watch: UCLA forward Travis Wear may still be limited with his sprained ankle. He didn’t practice on Monday, and Howland is in no rush to hurry him back. In any case, the Bruins have done fine recently as Kyle Anderson takes on an increased role in the offense. If the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week can continue being a consistent shooting threat, his team could make noise in the NCAA tournament.

Brock Motum, mired on an awful team, is probably the conference’s most underrated player. He had an off-game in Pauley Pavilion last month, but is a constant threat to drop 20 and 10 — especially against a poor rebounding team like UCLA. Mike Ladd, who averages 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds, has missed five straight games with a thumb knee injury and is doubtful for Wednesday night.

WSU STARTING LINEUP:
F – Brock Motum, 6-10, 245, Sr., 17.9 pts, 6.2 reb, 0.8 blk
F – D.J. Shelton, 6-10, 250, Jr., 5.7 pts, 6.1 reb, 1.6 ast
G – Dexter Kernich-Drew, 6-6, 182, So., 6.3 pts, 2.0 reb, 1.1 ast
G – DaVonte Lacy, 6-3, 206, So., 10.5 pts, 2.9 reb, 2.0 ast
G – Royce Woolridge, 6-3, 175, So., 10.2 pts, 2.7 ast, 1.0 stl

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