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February 7, 2008

UCLA travels to Pullman

The first game between No. 5 UCLA and No. 17 Washington State was a blowout, although you couldn't tell by the final score.

The Cougars hit seven 3-pointers in the final 90 seconds of the game in Los Angeles, and still managed to lose 81-74. It knocked the 14-0 Cougars from the unbeaten ranks and started a streak in which they lost four of seven games.

Thursday night, UCLA (20-2, 8-1) travels to Pullman for a rematch with Washington State (17-4, 5-4).

This time, the Bruins will be without forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, out with a sprained left ankle.

"He guards the best players in this league, night on and out," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "Losing him we lose a key guy at both ends of the floor."

That may help Washington State, which had trouble scoring in losing home games to California and Stanford last week. Coach Tony Bennett, suffering the first losing streak in his two seasons as a head coach, also has dangerous Southern Cal coming to town on Saturday.

"For teams like UCLA and USC, you've got to get right mentally and physically," Bennett said. "It hurts to drop a couple at home, but we've got to bounce back."

The game once appeared to be a showdown for first place in the league, until WSU stumbled with the two losses to fall into a tie for third.

In the first game, UCLA raced to a 26-8 lead before hanging on for victory. Howland doesn't figure that will happen on the Cougars' court.

"I would be shocked if that were replicated," Howland said. "It's a difficult place to play. There'll be a great crowd there."

A big problem for the Cougars will be containing UCLA freshman Kevin Love, who had 27 points and 14 rebounds in the first game. He'll be matched against WSU center Aron Baynes, who's been getting in early foul trouble lately.

The Cougars will be counting on guards Derrick Low, who scored all 24 of his points in the second half of the first game, and Kyle Weaver.

"They are two of the best guards in the country," Howland said.

Weaver, who scored a career-high 23 against Stanford last Saturday, is just 15 points shy of 1,000 in his career. Low became the 28th Cougar to reach that milestone earlier this season, and they would be the first teammates to reach that together since Terry Kelly and Don Collins in 1980.

The Stanford game was the first time in Weaver's career that he reached 20 points, and came in his 107th college game.



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