Though it is National Letter of Intent Eve and all eyes are focused on the exciting day ahead, there is still a basketball season going on and as usual, UCLA head basketball coach Ben Howland held court for the UCLA beat writers. The first topic discussed was how tough it is play in Washington.
"Washington has a great home court," Howland said. "It's a hard place because it gets really loud in there and they have great fan support that really gets their players going. They did a good job when they remodeled it. It's a good home court."
Howland may pipe in noise much like the football team does when they go on the road to acclimate playing in a noisy environment.
When it is really loud, like it could get in Seattle the Bruins will have cards to communicate with the team.
Howland praised Washington coach, Lorenzo Romar for building an outstanding program for the Huskies.
"Washington wins year in and year out," Howland said. "He (Romar) has recruited really well and they play really hard.
"They do a great job defensively forcing turnovers," Howland said. "This team and last year's team, both are very good shooting teams."
Sophomore sharp shooter, C.J. Wilcox will be back on the floor after being out with a foot injury. Bruin fans remember how he lit UCLA up last season in Seattle. Add sophomore Terrence Ross and true freshman Tony Wroten then you have three players that can make things difficult for the Bruins. They can all shoot the rock.
Wilcox may be the best shooter in the conference.
In early January, Colorado the team that UCLA recently was able to beat handily beat Washington 87-69, but that was up in the altitude of Boulder and Wilcox did not play in that game and as Bruin fans know the Huskies play UCLA very well at home.
The last time UCLA beat Washington in Seattle was seven years. To put that in perspective, that was two football coaches ago.
Howland noted that the Cal win in Seattle was huge because of the way the Pac 12 is scheduled, the Bears won't be playing the Huskies anymore this season until the Conference tournament.
When you at how tough it is to win in Washington's Alaska Airline Arena, you understand the task at hand for the Bruins to win their first conference game outside of Southern California.
Howland mentioned that he is going to have to keep his team fresh and rotate them in and out of there, especially on the road.
If the Bruins are to win against the Huskies another stellar performance Joshua Smith, like the one he had last year in his home town. Howland remembered that Smith had 16 rebounds. That number is his single game best during his two year career.
Howland had a lot of praise for Tyler Lamb's performance against the Buffs.
"I think Lamb had his best game of the year for him individually on Saturday, all around," Howland said. "He had six assists, great defense, did a good job rebounding, had three steals, played within himself offensively and knocked down the open shot when it presented itself."
Howland is also very happy with the way Travis Wear is playing and the matchup problems that presents.
"Travis is a good scorer," Howland said. "He has a good touch and I think he's a hard matchup when he's playing the five.
"It is hard for five-men to guard him because he is really a four, being defended by a five," Howland said. "So, he can step out and shoot. He can face up and getting high percentage shots. His teammates are hitting him.
"The key to the three dunks on Saturday were, Jerime Anderson, I know hit him for two of them," Howland said. "They were really nice passes. Travis seems to be in the right place at the right time, quite a bit, and he has a nice touch. He's a good scorer, good shooter, we need to get him more shots. He is shooting at a very high percentage."
Howland is pleased how it is working with Anderson at the point guard and Lazeric Jones playing the two.
"It has obviously been a plus for us," Howland said about the switch. "I have been real pleased with their assist to turnover ratio and the amount both of those kids producing. They have done a nice job."
The keys for the game on Thursday, Howland said, "will be our transition defense. They're (Washington) very good in transition."
Another is not to allow the Huskies second shots. Washington is very good rebounding off the offensive glass. The Huskies pound the boards and get a lot of second chances.
UCLA's man defense has improved to the point they haven't been playing much zone.