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WEST | NO. 2 UCLA VS. NO. 15 WEBER STATE

First look

March 12, 2007|DIANE PUCIN

UCLA (26-5) vs.

WEBER STATE (20-11)

* They play: Thursday, at Sacramento, about 4:15 p.m.

* How they advanced: UCLA won the Pacific 10 Conference regular-season championship, but the Bruins lost their last two games, including their opening Pac-10 tournament game to eighth-seeded California on Thursday. Weber State has won eight of its last 10 games, including an 88-80 win over Northern Arizona to win the Big Sky Conference tournament.

* Hot or not: UCLA beat Cal at Pauley Pavilion, 85-75; beat Stanford at Pauley, 75-61; beat Washington State in Pullman, 53-45; lost to Washington in Seattle, 75-61; lost to Cal on Thursday. Weber State was down, 63-58, with 7:26 left against Portland State in the Big Sky tournament semifinals before winning, 77-74, and then lost all but four points of a 53-37 halftime lead over Northern Arizona in the finals before winning.

* Common opponents: UCLA beat Brigham Young, 82-69; Weber State lost, 73-69, in overtime; UCLA split with Washington, winning, 96-74, at Pauley Pavilion and losing, 61-51, in Seattle; Weber State lost to the Huskies, 80-51.

* Telltale sign: When the Bruins are at their best, they keep turnovers low, play solid man-to-man defense and get rhythm shots on the perimeter for Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp. When they face a zone or just lose their way, Bruins tend to toss up hurried jump shots. The Wildcats shot the fewest three-pointers in their conference and as a team make only 67% of their free throws.

* Style of play: UCLA likes to fastbreak when it can and make steals out of its man-to-man defense. Or else the Bruins run their motion offense and try to get Lorenzo Mata a chance to make his ever-more reliable hook shot or Afflalo slashing to the basket. The Bruins have struggled against zone defenses. The Wildcats run a structured half-court offense and play changing defenses. The offensive emphasis is running set plays.

* Watch these guys: UCLA junior Afflalo is the Pac-10 player of the year and the Bruins' leading scorer, but he is coming off the worst game of his career -- a three-point effort in the loss to Cal. Collison, the point guard, has missed 23 of 30 shots in his last two games. Weber State's leader in spirit and play is senior David Patten, a 6-foot-8 forward from Placentia who transferred from Pepperdine. He averages 14.4 points and 5.5 rebounds. Juan Pablo Silveira, a 6-3 sophomore guard from Uruguay, averages 11.2 points and makes 78% of his free throws.

* What to expect: A low-scoring game with serious defense and UCLA winning because of its superior athletic ability.

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