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PAC-10 ROUNDUP: UCLA picks up huge early win

Posted by Jeff Nusser on January 4, 2008

Welcome to our newest feature at WSU HOOPS: The Pac-10 Roundup, a twice-a-week feature, on Friday and Sunday. Given that the Cougs have their eyes rightfully set on a Pac-10 title, we’ll keep an eye on what’s going on around the league and give you a little perspective on each outcome.

So, with the first night of Pac-10 play in the books, here goes:

No. 5 UCLA 76, No. 20 Stanford 67 — I was one of the people before this year who thought UCLA was a lock for the Final Four and certainly head and shoulders above the rest of the Pac-10. But then Darren Collison got hurt, and the Bruins missed Arron Afflalo’s outside shooting a lot more than most of us thought they would, and UCLA suddenly looked vulnerable.

Well, last night is the kind of game that ought to scare the crap out of any team that had designs on winning the conference. UCLA’s one discernible weakness this year has been its 3-point shooting. No so last night, after a 9-for-16 performance from beyond the arc was more than enough to handle the Cardinal. The Bruins have been surprisingly average on defense against quality opponents — Michigan State, Texas and Stanford all posted offensive efficiency ratings of over 100 — but last night was the first time they were able to easily overcome that with long-range shooting. If the Bruins can keep that up, they might yet run away with the conference, as I thought they might.

As for the Cardinal? They shouldn’t feel too bad about this loss. They put up an offensive efficiency rating of 107.4 and posted their lowest turnover percentage in a month. This loss does nothing in my mind to change my perception of the Cardinal as a Top 25 team. Sure, it’s a little questionable that they lost at home, but UCLA is darn good. Now they’ve got to stave off a USC team tomorrow that might be a little desperate.

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