LOS ANGELES (AP)—No. 5 UCLA faces an early wakeup call against fourth-ranked Washington State on Saturday.
The game likely featuring the eventual Pac-10 regular-season champion tips off barely after breakfast at 11:30 a.m.
The Bruins (15-1) are tied for the conference lead at 3-0. The Cougars (14-0) are right behind at 2-0, off to their best start in 91 years.
“It could be very big for us,” UCLA freshman Kevin Love said. “It’s two really poised, really efficient teams. We’ve got to adjust to what they do.”
It’s the sixth time in Pac-10 history that two teams ranked in the top five will meet. The Cougars have won just once in 50 road games against the Bruins.
“They’re the measuring stick,” Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. “They’re a team that does not beat themselves.”
The Cougars tuned up by beating Southern California 73-58 Thursday night. Now, they want to finish the weekend off by staying perfect.
“We would view this trip as a failure if we lose to UCLA,” said forward Daven Harmeling, who scored 19 points against the Trojans. “If you want to win the conference, you can’t split on the road.”
UCLA coach Ben Howland called the Bruins’ earliest tip-off this season “a root canal without Novocaine.”
“We’ve got our hands full, there’s no question about it,” he said Friday. “The turnaround time, making it so short, makes it more difficult from the standpoint of preparation time, but we’re here for TV.”
The Bruins beat Washington 69-55 Thursday night, when preseason All-American guard Darren Collison missed most of the second half after bruising his left hip. But he was expected to play Saturday.
“If you just looked at it on film, it looked very benign,” Howland said. “You could look at it and think nothing happened. It must have hit him just in the right spot.”
The Bruins’ only loss came at home against Texas, a 63-61 defeat on Dec. 2. They’ve won eight in a row, including a sweep at Stanford and California on the opening weekend of Pac-10 play.
“It’s not like, `Whoosh, we’re at home so we can relax,”’ Howland said. “That can’t happen. It has got to be that same killer instinct.”
It will be Love’s first time playing Washington State, but he anticipates a slowdown game against the Cougars, who employ the same grinding style that was developed under Bennett’s father, Dick.
“They’re not going to take any bad shots,” Love said. “We have to wake up, have a good breakfast and be prepared.”
The Bruins have allowed just four opponents to score more than 60 points against them. The Cougars are much improved offensively from a year ago.
“They are very patient and they don’t care who scores,” Howland said. “They truly are a team and there is no one worried about themselves, which is really impressive. They really are great screeners, they set very good physical screens. They also do a great job of reading them (screens).”
Love had 11 points and seven rebounds against Washington and its big man Jon Brockman. He’ll take on Aron Baynes, who shoots 61 percent from the floor.
“We have a lot of respect for UCLA,” Harmeling said. “They’ve owned us since we’ve been here.”
UCLA has won six straight in the series, but four games have been decided by three points or less.