Saturday, February 4, 2017

Freshmen sensations Bruins' Ball, Huskies' Fultz in spotlight


feb 04, 2017 | stats | POST LINK

No. 11 UCLA's trip to Washington is far from the best game of the college basketball weekend. But it easily has the most intriguing individual matchup.
UCLA's Lonzo Ball and Washington's Markelle Fultz -- freshman point guards who very well could be the first two picks in the 2017 NBA Draft -- will meet for the first time in college Saturday night in Seattle.
The Bruins (20-3, 7-3 Pac-12) stopped a two-game skid with a 95-79 victory at Washington State on Wednesday. The Huskies (9-13, 2-8) have lost four in a row.
Ball is second nationally at 8.0 assists, to go with 14.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. With outstanding court vision, he has been described as "Jason Kidd with a jump shot" as he is making 42.2 percent of his 3-pointers (54 of 128) despite an awkward-looking release.
Fultz is averaging a Pac-12-best 23.1 points, 6.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game. He is the only player in the country to average 20-6-6 in points, assists and rebounds.
Ball has outstanding size at 6-foot-6. Fultz also has plus-height for a point guard at 6-4, with a reported wingspan of nearly 6-feet-10. Ball has a superior supporting cast; Fultz has a better knack for scoring from all over the court, including 41.3 percent from 3-point range.
Should be fun.
"I don't think it will be a distraction," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said of Fultz going head-to-head with Ball.
"I think he'll handle it the same way he's handled everything else. From Day 1 of Markelle Fultz coming to Washington, there's been a lot of talk about the NBA, a lot of talk about him as an individual, and he just has not approached it that way.
"He never came in with a sense of entitlement. He never came in with this, 'I'm the man, you guys act like it, and worship me' attitude. He's just never done that. So I don't see why it's going to be any different."
There is a third freshman of note in what should be a fast-paced game between teams that love to get in transition. UCLA power forward T.J. Leaf scored a career-high 32 points against Washington State, also pulling down 14 rebounds.
"He's a guy that can do that on a nightly basis," said UCLA center Thomas Welsh. "He's extremely skilled and when he's aggressive he's really tough to stop. I'm glad he went out there and did his thing."
Leaf is averaging 17.0 points per game to lead the Bruins, who average a Pac-12-best 92.3 points per game, about 11 points better than the second-highest scoring team.

Against Washington, UCLA should also have freshman reserve forward Ike Anigbogu available. He missed Wednesday's game because of a knee injury.

Washington is still without shot-blocking big man Malik Dime because of a broken finger. Guard David Crisp averages 13.9 points and shoots 40 percent from beyond the arc, but the Huskies don't compare to UCLA in terms of having the depth of scorers and shooters.
Romar said the addition of Ball to the Bruins roster reminds him of another L.A. team.
"The last time I saw something like this was Magic Johnson with the Lakers," he said.
"They had players. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on the team. They get Magic Johnson and within a year, it's Showtime. Guys are passing the ball and chest-bumping, and that's what Lonzo Ball has brought to that team.
"In one year, it's just changed."
The teams will meet again March 1 at UCLA.

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