UCLA will need a sharp defense to match up in the Pac-10. Wyoming can give the Bruins a good idea of where they stand.
The 13th-ranked Bruins, boasting one of the nation’s top defenses, look to slow down the high-scoring Cowboys as the teams meet Tuesday night.
UCLA (8-2) has held its opponents to 57.8 points per game and 42.2 percent shooting. With two games remaining before Pac-10 play, the Bruins need to sustain that success.
Nine teams in the Pac-10 are allowing less than 67 points per contest, and three of them are holding opponents under 40 percent shooting. The conference has the nation’s top defensive team in Washington State, which is limiting opponents to 48.0 points per game.
UCLA never trailed in beating Mercer 76-59 Saturday night for its fourth straight victory. The Bruins forced 20 turnovers en route to their 34th straight non-conference win against unranked opponents at Pauley Pavilion since a 75-60 loss to Notre Dame on Feb. 28, 2004.
Wyoming (9-1), which has matched its best start since 1990-91, has a chance to end that streak if it can crack UCLA’s defense. The Cowboys have scored over 90 points four times this season, and are averaging 84.2 overall.
Wyoming has been particularly accurate from 3-point range in its last two contests, shooting 44.9 percent (22-for-49) while scoring a combined 193 points.
But UCLA is holding opponents to 31.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc. The Bruins have also ramped up their scoring since a 68-64 loss to then-No. 8 Texas on Dec. 4, averaging 77.0 points and shooting 50.2 percent from the field in their last four games.
Darren Collison scored 20 points versus Mercer, and Michael Roll added a season-high 16 in his first start in almost two years.
Roll took the place of senior forward Josh Shipp—sidelined with an injured left thumb—and shot 6-of-7, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. Shipp is doubtful for Tuesday’s contest, so Roll will likely get another start.
“Michael Roll has been shooting it consistently in practice,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “He’s also improved his defense from his first two years and is playing the best ball of his career.”
Roll, making his seventh start in 90 career games, entered with a 5.7-point average. He fell one point shy of the career-high 17 he scored against Washington on Jan. 14, 2006.
Wyoming, meanwhile, had three players score at least 20 in a 93-70 win over Sacramento State on Saturday.
Sean Ogirri scored 25 points for the Cowboys while Brandon Ewing and Afam Muojeke had 20 each. Ogirri, who went 7-for-13 from 3-point range for his second straight strong game from the outside, was named the Mountain West Conference’s player of the week Monday.
Last Tuesday against Western State, the freshman swingman scored 26 points with seven 3-pointers.
“I just calmed myself down and shot the ball with confidence,” Ogirri said.
Ogirri helped the Cowboys score 57 points after trailing 37-36 at halftime. Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer said the second half was the best 20 minutes of basketball that his team has played this season.
“We chart a lot of things on the bench and one thing that we chart is deflections,” Schroyer said. “We had 15 deflections in the second half, which is a high for us. I thought we really shared the ball. … Anytime we can have five guys score in double figures, that means we are sharing the ball.”
UCLA has won five of the six all-time meetings, with Wyoming’s victory a second-round upset in the 1987 NCAA tournament.