College Basketball: UCLA at West Virginia - UCLA Favored
The second-ranked Bruins take a short break from Pac-10 play when they visit Big East foe West Virginia on Saturday.
UCLA (21-2) is in first place in the Pac-10 and has won three straight games, including Wednesday's 70-65 win over No. 19 Southern Cal. Darren Collison matched his career high with 17 points for the Bruins, who had to overcome a 10-point first-half deficit.
"I was never worried because we're a group that's used to winning," said Aaron Afflalo, who averages a team-high 17.0 points per game and had 16 against the Trojans. "That's what we expect of ourselves. They kept making plays, so we have to credit ourselves for staying around. We did a good job of fighting and staying strong."
Though Saturday's game won't help UCLA in the Pac-10 race, it could have some bearing on whether or not the Bruins can earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
"Every game close to March is going to be a real important game," Collison said. "We're going to be in a hostile environment and we just got to be mentally prepared for that game."
The Bruins have won 18 straight at home dating to last season, but are just 3-2 on the road this season. Their defeats have come at then-No. 16 Oregon on Jan. 6 and at Stanford, currently ranked 25th, on Jan. 28.
UCLA faces a West Virginia team that is coming off its first home defeat of the season, a 60-47 loss on Wednesday to No. 7 Pittsburgh that snapped a four-game overall winning streak. The Mountaineers (18-5) shot just 32.7 percent from the field and recorded their lowest point total of the season in the opener of a tough three-game stretch that also includes a game at No. 22 Georgetown on Monday.
West Virginia, which is aiming for a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament, had outscored its opponents by an average 23.6-point margin to win its first 11 home games.
"We've got to rest a lot tomorrow, and we've got a 1 o'clock start on Saturday," coach John Beilein told the team's official Web site. "We have to look at the film, and we'll see some of the same tendencies of how UCLA plays."
UCLA and West Virginia both rank among the best defensive teams in the country. The Bruins are giving up just 59.3 points per game, while the Mountaineers are holding opponents to 58.3 per contest.
The Mountaineers beat UCLA 60-56 on Jan. 21 last season at Pauley Pavilion. However, Frank Young, who is averaging a team-high 14.3 points per game, is West Virginia's only returning starter from that game.
"Every team that beat us, every time you play them it's like a revenge for you," UCLA sophomore Alfred Aboya said. "You try to go there and avenge yourself for what happened last year. But obviously it's two different teams. You know, West Virginia from this year (is different from) West Virginia last year. So is UCLA. So you just have to go there and perform well and get the win."
by: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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