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January 10, 2008

Washington at UCLA Preview

After winning twice on the road to open Pac-10 play, UCLA looks for similar success when it returns home.

The fifth-ranked Bruins look for a season high eighth consecutive victory when they face Washington on Thursday night in their conference home opener.

UCLA (14-1, 2-0) finished a successful trip to the Bay Area with a 70-58 win at California on Saturday. It came two days after beating then-No. 24 Stanford 76-67 to open its Pac-10 schedule.

"We got two wins on the road against two very good teams, and for most teams it will be hard to sweep," said Bruins freshman Kevin Love, who had 19 points and 14 rebounds against California for his seventh double-double of the season.

Now the two-time defending conference champion Bruins return home looking to win their 15th straight Pac-10 game when they meet Washington (9-5, 1-0), which has lost 19 of its last 20 visits to Westwood.

UCLA also will try not to look ahead to a highly anticipated home date with No. 4 Washington State on Saturday

The 6-foot-10 Love, who averages team highs with 16.5 points and 10.2 rebounds, continued his strong play from the non-conference portion of the schedule. He had 15 points against Stanford and has become such a media magnet that coach Ben Howland has limited his access to one day per week and after games.

"It's unbelievable the amount of attention that this young man has received," Howland said, "and it really took away from his focus of what he's here to do, which is to go to school and number two, work hard to improve and get better as a player."

Love had plenty of support Saturday, including 14 points from Darren Collison and 13 from Josh Shipp, as the Bruins shot 45.0 percent and outrebounded the Bears 43-30.

Collison, a preseason All-American who is averaging 12.4 points since missing the first six games with a sprained left knee, should play Thursday despite having been briefly hospitalized because of food poisoning earlier in the week.

He's only averaging 7.5 points in four career games versus Washington, but had 15 and 12 assists in the Bruins' 96-74 home win over the Huskies on Dec. 31, 2006.

One of UCLA's three conference losses last season came at Washington, 61-51 on March 3. The Bruins have lost three of the last four games against Washington, including one at home in January 2006.

Washington (9-5, 0-1) had its five-game winning streak snapped with a 56-52 home loss to rival Washington State on Saturday in its Pac-10 opener.

The Huskies were held to a season low for points against one the nation's top defensive teams, but led by three at halftime and well into the second half before the Cougars scored 11 of the game's final 15 points.

"We knew it was going to be a game like that - grind-out game," said forward Jon Brockman, who had 14 points and 17 rebounds.

Brockman, the team leader at 18.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, averaged 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds versus UCLA last season.

Washington, which is 0-4 versus ranked teams this season, will try to avoid losing a fourth straight Pac-10 game on the road.



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