Veterans needed on road
SEATTLE -- UCLA has won all five of its Pacific 10 Conference road games this season, in varying manners from dominance (85-62 at Oregon State) to hanging on (80-75 at Oregon).
The fifth-ranked Bruins (21-2, 9-1) will try for six in a row Sunday against Washington (12-11, 3-7) at Bank of America Arena, and Coach Ben Howland says having a core of players who have been there and done that is the key.
“It helps when you have a Josh Shipp and Darren Collison,” Howland said of two juniors. "[Senior] Lorenzo Mata-Real, [junior] Alfred Aboya have been here year after year and had some success.
“And this being a good team, we have an us-against-the-world mentality where you think everybody in the world is out to get you. It seems we get everybody’s best effort. That’s more difficult and challenging and it makes you improve.”
While the official statistics sheet from Thursday’s 67-59 win over Washington State showed Shipp with only six points, Howland said after watching the film that Shipp had actually scored eight points, the extra basket coming on an offensive rebound tip in that was credited to Kevin Love.
But it wasn’t the six or eight points that caused Howland to be most impressed by Shipp’s play.
“Josh played really good defense on a great player, Kyle Weaver,” Howland said. “He had four assists, he created some really big baskets at key junctures, he doesn’t turn the ball over much. You can do so many things to help your team win and with Josh, the No. 1 thing, the only thing, is winning. He has really exemplified that with his play. He’s just a winner, everywhere he’s been, he’s a winner.”
During UCLA’s current five-game winning streak, Shipp is averaging 12 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, two steals and 1.2 turnovers.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who didn’t make this trip because of a sprained left ankle, may be out of his walking boot by today, but Howland wouldn’t predict yet whether Mbah a Moute would be available for next Sunday’s rematch with USC. While junior swingman Michael Roll, who is five weeks into a slow recovery from a foot injury, has traveled with the team even though he doesn’t dress for games, Howland said that air travel can exacerbate the swelling of an ankle sprain and it was decided Mbah a Moute would be better off at home.
Plus, Howland said, Mbah a Moute had a midterm exam to take.
While their first-ever non-NCAA tournament charter flight had some bumps on the way to Pullman, Howland said the Bruins were happy Thursday night when the plane left from the Pullman airport an hour after the game and the Bruins were in their Seattle-area hotel by 1 a.m. Friday. Two of the three major routes from Pullman to Spokane’s major airport were still closed Friday because of blowing snow.
Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar seemed at a loss Friday on how to stop his team’s three-game losing streak or to recover from a 3-7 Pac-10 record.
“We need to be doing better in some areas,” Romar said. “I wouldn’t put it on the players. I’d put it on me. I’ve always felt with our teams that by this time of year we’d be playing our best basketball. That’s not the case this year.”
Romar said he was so disturbed by Washington’s 73-59 loss Thursday to USC that he stayed up until 2 a.m. “brainstorming.”
“Our players are really good kids and they try to do what we ask,” Romar said. “If they were a rebellious group that didn’t want to try to do what we ask, I wouldn’t mind blaming them. But they try to do what we ask. I can’t put this on them.”