MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — The UCLA Bruins have come 3,000 miles for this -- temperatures in the single digits, an occasional Confederate flag hanging on a front door and a Mountaineers mascot wearing a coonskin cap who will fire a musket indoors during today's game between the second-ranked Bruins and West Virginia.
"It's fun to watch opponents who aren't expecting the musket," Mountaineers senior Frank Young said. "Lots of them jump pretty high."
And UCLA point guard Darren Collison hasn't practiced for two days after hurting his left shoulder in the USC game Wednesday. His participation against the Mountaineers (18-5) will be a game-time decision.
Still, Bruins Coach Ben Howland says, "I'm excited for this game."
With Collison's injury, one Howland doesn't think is serious but which prevented Collison from raising his left arm above his shoulder, it seems things are conspiring against UCLA (21-2).
This is the back half of a CBS-negotiated home-and-home series. West Virginia upset UCLA at Pauley Pavilion last season, holding on for a 60-56 victory after UCLA had fought back from a 20-point deficit. Only one Mountaineers starter, Young, returns from that team and there are eight freshmen on the roster.
West Virginia played the East Coast version of UCLA Wednesday night, losing to Howland's former team, Pittsburgh, 60-47.
"No question, that will help us," said Young, who leads West Virginia in scoring (14.3 points a game) and the Big East Conference in three-point field goals. "It's a big plus. I think UCLA extends the defense a little more, but otherwise we got the up-close look at what UCLA will do."
The Mountaineers, who went to the Elite Eight two years ago and the Sweet 16 last year, haven't missed the stars of those teams -- center Kevin Pittsnogle and guard Mike Gansey -- as much as expected.
"They're a very sound fundamental team," said Howland, who mentioned in particular sophomore forward Joe Alexander and 7-foot senior center Rob Summers, plus Young, as looking impressive on film.
"The interesting thing about their team is that over half their shot attempts are three-pointers."
In fact, the Mountaineers have taken 1,267 shots and 637 of those have been threes, of which they've made 37.7%.
Coach John Beilein's team also uses as its main defense a 1-3-1 zone. USC had UCLA off-kilter in the first half of Wednesday's game when the Trojans played zone.
"We were tentative," Howland said. "Some of it's just coming out and it was only the second time USC played zone in the Pac-10. Still it was a little bit surprising, some of the stuff we did. A lot of times against zones we have problems with being too perimeter-oriented instead of getting the ball inside to the low post or to the high post to get the defense to collapse. Darren, for example, was tentative early against USC and Darren should be one of the best guys in the country dribble-penetrating to the gaps."
If Collison doesn't play, Howland said, freshman Russell Westbrook would start and shooting guard Arron Afflalo would spend some time at the point. Wherever he plays, Afflalo will have on his mind last season's game, when he scored only four points on one-for-nine shooting. "That won't happen again," Young said.
at West Virginia 10 a.m., Channel 2
Site -- WVU Coliseum.
Radio -- 570.
Records -- UCLA 21-2, 10-2 Pacific 10; West Virginia 18-5, 7-4 Big East.
Update -- Before today, the Mountaineers had never played host to two top-10 teams in the same week. But West Virginia lost at home to sixth-ranked Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Freshman Da'Sean Butler, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound forward, comes off the bench to average 10.2 points and 3.6 rebounds, is shooting 51.7% from the field and is considered one of the best young prospects in the Big East.\o7 \f7