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March 23, 2006Who would have thought back in December and January when this Bruin team was hit by a ration of injuries that UCLA would be playing in their first sweet 16 in five years? The Bruins have fought and through perseverance have ended up with one of their best seasons in years.
The No. 2 UCLA (29-6) Bruins have another tough game tonight against No. 3 seed Gonzaga (29-3) tonight at 6:57 PST.
This is a game of contrasting styles. The Bruins play stifling defense while the Bulldogs can put up a lot of points led by one of the best players in college basketball, 6-foot-8 junior forward Adam Morrison.
Morrison is college hoops leading scorer averaging 28.2 points per game. "He can score from 3, he can score off the bounce, he can score in the post, he rebounds his own shot as well as anybody," Howland said. "He poses a lot of problems. There's only a handful of people that are playing the game in college that would ever be talked about in that same light."
Obviously a player with Morrison's skill set brings a lot of challenges to the table.
To make matters worse for the Bruins, Morrison's game reminds many of NBA Hall-of-Famer, Larry Bird. If this bears true then he doesn't have to have an A-game going to help his team.
Case in point was Gonzaga's last game against Indiana when the Hoosiers held Morrison to 14 points but Indiana still lost the game by ten.
Brazil native J.P. Batista is another player for the Bulldogs who could give the Bruins fits. He plays center for Gonzaga and stands 6-foot-9. He has an outstanding inside presence and was instrumental in Zags victory over IU scoring 20 points and bringing down nine rebounds, three of them off the offensive glass.
Batista is the kind of player who has given the Bruins fits this season. A strong inside game by UCLA's ever emerging senior center, Ryan Hollins could be a factor if the Bruins are to advance to their first elite eight appearance in nine years.
Another inside player for the Bulldogs is junior forward Sean Mallon. The 6-foot-9 Mallon is coming off a career game against IU. He ended up scoring 15 points and came down with 10 boards.
The Bruins certainly have their work cut out for them tonight and the continued fine play by their outstanding guard tandem of Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo will be one of keys to victory.
Freshman sensation Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will have his hands full inside fending off the very aggressive Bulldogs on the boards.
If Mbah a Moute can do usual job on the boards and the Bruins don't allow Gonzaga many second chances on offense this will also help UCLA's cause.
Both teams come into the game sporting impressive winning streaks. Gonzaga has the nation's longest winning streak. The Bulldogs have been victors in 22 straight games.
The Bruins on the other hand have won nine straight due to great defense and some clutch shooting.
The Zags can go eight to nine deep on their bench so that matches UCLA's depth.
It wouldn't be surprising if in the end the team with the most productive bench ends up with the win.
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