Colorado (18-6, 7-4) at UCLA (18-5, 7-3)
When: Thursday, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)
No. 1: Norman Powell vs. Askia Booker. Last time these two met, UCLA’s junior guard had 19 points to his counterpart’s game-high 21. Powell is a strong man-to-man defender, so it’s Booker — two inches shorter, 45 pounds lighter — that will likely be at a disadvantage. The Colorado guard picked up four fouls when the Bruins visited Boulder, mostly due to Powell’s skill at driving down the lane.
The two have since blossomed into increasingly important roles for their respective teams. With star guard Spencer Dinwiddie sidelined, Booker is a main reason that the Buffs have won three straight. In his past six games, he is averaging 5.67 assists.
No. 2: The 3-point line. Colorado allows 37.1 percent of opposing shots to come from beyond the arc, which is the worst mark of anyone in the conference besides UCLA (42.2). Teams are punishing the Buffs accordingly, converting 37.4 percent of attempts from long range.
Only Washington State is having a tougher time defending 3-pointers among Pac-12 squads, and just a hair more at 37.6 percent.
UCLA is coming off a 10-of-20 performance against USC, and could very well duplicate that showing on Thursday night. This could be as good a chance as any for freshman Zach LaVine to get back on track after a recent slump. The guard went 2-of-4 from distance against the Trojans, breaking a 0-of-7 drought through his two prior games.
He is still just 21.7 percent from the field in his last four appearances, though that hasn’t dragged his number on the season (49.2) down too significantly.
No. 3: Containing Xavier Johnson. Colorado’s sophomore forward is averaging 18.2 points in his last five games, and doing a lot of that damage at the line. He has made 16 of 25 free throws through the Buffs’ winning streak — an unspectacular rate, but one that nonetheless puts a lot of pressure on opposing bigs.
UCLA remains thin up front, and early foul trouble could force the team to use a smaller lineup. Travis Wear and Tony Parker are the worst offenders on the roster, committing 5.83 and 6.30 fouls per 40 minutes, respectively.
Colorado starting lineup
F – Wesley Gordon, RS Fr., 6-9, 225: 6.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg
F – Xavier Johnson, So., 6-7, 220: 11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 36.8 3P%
F – Josh Scott, So., 6-10, 245: 14.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 54.4 FG%
G – Askia Booker, Jr., 6-2, 170: 14.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.0 apg
G – Xavier Talton, So., 6-2, 180: 4.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.6 apg