The Bruins will come home to a few familiar opponents.
UCLA men’s basketball (13-11, 6-5 Pac-12) will play Washington State (14-10, 5-6) on Thursday and Washington (12-12, 2-9) on Saturday in Pauley Pavilion.
The Bruins have faced both the Cougars and Huskies on the road this season. UCLA defeated Washington 66-64 on Jan. 2, but fell to Washington State 79-71 in overtime Jan. 4.
Coach Mick Cronin said playing the Cougars again should help the Bruins play harder than they did in Pullman, when the Bruins allowed an 11-point Cougar comeback to force overtime. In the extra period, Washington State went on a 14-6 run to beat UCLA, just two days after UCLA had downed Washington in Seattle.
“I think (playing a team again) definitely can help you,” Cronin said. “If you win, you think ‘Ah well, we beat them.’ Versus if you lost, we got to play better. At the end of the day, execution is all that matters. If you lost, you hope it plays to your advantage that your guys are more focused.”
The Bruins will be tasked with containing Cougar forward CJ Elleby. The sophomore ranks third in the conference with 19 points per game, but he scored 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting in his game against UCLA on Jan. 4.
Cronin said both teams will have to adjust their offensive attacks based on their last head-to-head matchup.
“They’re looking at some of the things we did well, trying to figure out who’s playing well for us,” Cronin said. “I don’t know if we have a guy as productive night in and night out as (Elleby).”
Redshirt sophomore forward/center Jalen Hill said the Bruins believed the win over the Cougars would come easy, but then relaxed too much going into the second half.
“We get complacent,” Hill said. “We were up and thinking we could easily go out there and leave with a win. No team is just going to lay down. We know that now.”
The Bruins and Huskies’ first meeting came when the two squads were experiencing differing levels of success. Washington was 10-3 and had won eight of its past 10 games. Meanwhile, UCLA had finished its nonconference at 7-6 and was coming off a three-game losing streak.
The teams’ forms have since flipped. The Bruins have won five of their past seven contests, while the Huskies have fallen in their last six matches.
UCLA comes into the home series off a win against then-No. 23 Arizona. Sophomore guard David Singleton said the victory should help the Bruins heading into the final seven conference games and beyond.
“It felt pretty good now that I look back on it and looked up the record of people winning and losing there,” Singleton said. “It felt really good and (is) really a confidence booster for us as the season goes on.”