Preview Capsule: UCLA, Pac-10 play begins

Tyler Honeycutt will be back for the Bruins' battle with WSU in both teams' Pac-10 opener

Tipoff: 8 tonight, Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles 

TV: Fox Sports Northwest

Records: Washington State 10-2 overall, 0-0 Pac-10; UCLA 8-4, 0-0 Pac-10.

Players: Tyler Honeycutt returns from a shoulder injury to boost the Jekll and Hyde Bruins in their conference opener. Honeycutt, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, leads his club in scoring (14.8 ppg) and rebounding (8 rpg). Reeves Nelson, another 6-foot-8 sophomore, is putting up 14.2 ppg along with 7.2 rebounds. Touted 6-foot-10 freshman Josh Smith, a 305-pound center,  is also a force inside (1o.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg).

Klay Thompson, the one that got away (see link below) from UCLA coach Ben Howland on the recruiting trail, leads Washington State at 22.3 points and 4.4 assists an outing.

An inconsistent threat: After falling to OK-at-best Virginia Commonwealth at home, UCLA took No. 3 Kansas to  the brink (77-76)in a narrow road loss. It followed up with another home loss to Big Sky Conference Montana before taking out No. 18 BYU. The Bruins’ last nonconferene tilt was a 74-73 win over less-than-impressive UC-Irvine sans Honeycutt.

Game themes: A year ago, Washington State came into conference play at 10-2 before a disastrous slide saw the Cougars fall to the back of the Pac-10. So with the Cougars sporting the same 10-2 mark in the second go-round with the same personnel, experience could make this tour of the league more enjoyable. UCLA, picked to finish third in the preseason poll, is pushing the pace more than in recent years but also boasts nice length in Reeves, Smith and Honeycutt. Washington State, which has beaten UCLA just twice since 1994, has changed things up as well, going more with zone defense to match up with longer teams rather than man-to-man–and tonight will be a perfect example of why.   Washington State can exhibit its new-found maturity by learning from its recent loss to Butler from on this Southern California swing or pick up where it left off last winter against conference opposition. Either way, the first leg of this excursion will answer plenty of questions.

Bone on Pac-1o opener

“They all played last year and know what to expect.   They played through the rigors of the schedule.” – When asked how this 10-2 team differs from last year’s 10-2 team.

“I’m not sure what they’re saying. I think it’s a little better than last year and it’ll be a little better next year.” – On the state of the Pac-10 and what the pundits are saying about it.

“We showed we can play with some pretty good teams. We showed we can play inside, too.” – On what the Cougars showed in their 2-1 performance  at the Diamond Head Classic.

It looks pretty similar. They’ve pushed it a bit more in transition. If (coach) Ben Howland’s pushing it I am sure it’s going to help out his team. “  – On UCLA’s offense and unusual transition game.

Links

The L.A. Times advances tonight’s WSU-UCLA game here. ..ESPN.com LA has a tidbit on Thompson and how he got away from UCLA to end up at WSU….Bud Withers of the Seattle Times has a story on WSU’s defensive identity….the Eugene Register-Guard has capsules on each Pac-10 team…per usual, Vince Grippi has his advance here.

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