Northwestern-UCLA Preview

The Associated Press

UCLA is off to its best start in six years, and doing it in dominant fashion.

That doesn't seem likely to change against Northwestern.

After reaching the century mark in back-to-back games, the No. 19 Bruins look to continue their dazzling scoring display Friday night when they meet the Wildcats for the first time in almost 45 years.

UCLA (6-0) is on the brink of a season-opening seven-game winning streak for the first time since 2007-08, and the team hasn't been challenged often. The Bruins are outscoring opponents by an average of 24.2 points while sinking 54.4 percent from the floor, a marked increase from their 45.1 from last season.

Their early season dominance also includes beating Tennessee-Chattanooga 106-65 on Sunday, and they followed it up with a 105-84 romp past Nevada in the opening round of the Las Vegas Invitational on Thursday.

"Any time you play well, you appreciate the effort," said first-year coach Steve Alford. "That's a maturity level, that when you've got somebody down 25 to 30 points, you take it to another level."

UCLA has certainly displayed that over the last two games, shooting 61.9 percent. However, Alford is concerned about keeping his team confident.

"I hope that all of our guys are confident, not because of whether they score or make shots, but just by the way we play," Alford said. "When it's all relied on making shots, confidence can be a fragile deal.

"I've always believed that you got confidence because you know you can play, period."

Jordan Adams doesn't seem to have an issue with confidence, leading the Bruins with 22.0 points and 3.8 steals per game. The sophomore guard was 5 for 10 from the floor, while hitting all 10 of his free throws on his way to 21 points with six steals against the Wolf Pack.

Zach LaVine, meanwhile, seems to be growing in confidence. The freshman guard is averaging 13.7 points, but he's totaled 40 while sinking 14 of 18 shots - 6 of 9 3-pointers - over the past two games.

"I take a lot of shots before games," LaVine said. "I feel confident with my shot right out of the gate."

In an effort to stop the Bruins, Northwestern (4-3) will need to bounce back from their worst defensive performance of the season after Thursday's 78-67 loss to Missouri.

The Wildcats allowed the Tigers to shoot 54.3 percent from the field while giving up a season high in points.

JerShon Cobb is looking to build on his season high of 22 points from Thursday, matching his total from the previous two games. The junior guard is averaging 14.1 points after missing all of last season for violating team rules.

Drew Crawford leads the Wildcats with 14.3 points per game, but he had a season-low two while going 1 for 6 against Missouri.

UCLA has won three of four meetings with Northwestern, winning the most recent contest in Chicago on Jan. 24, 1969.

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