No. 11 UCLA looking to regain footing vs. Wash. St.

UCLA and Washington State have two different mindsets entering Wednesday night’s Pac-12 game at Pullman, Wash.

Ironically, the Cougars (11-10, 4-5) are a more confident bunch than the 11th-ranked Bruins (19-3, 6-3).

UCLA has lost two consecutive games and the Bruins had time to stew over that without a contest since last Wednesday’s loss at cross-town rival USC.

“We needed mentally more than anything to get away from basketball a little bit and kind of reboot everything that we want to do,” said UCLA coach Steve Alford, whose team also lost at home to Arizona on Jan. 21.

The week-long break for UCLA ends Wednesday with its game against the Cougars, who have won two of their last three contests.

Ernie Kent’s team also kept the game close at Arizona last Thursday before the fifth-ranked Wildcats rallied in the last seven minutes to pull away for a 79-62 win. The Cougars followed that with a 91-83 victory at ASU last Sunday.

“Controlling the game and controlling the environment (at ASU), I think is a sign of the character of our basketball team,” said Kent, in his second season at Washington State. “These young men want to perform well, they want to win. They want to buy in that losing is not acceptable here anymore.”

Washington State’s recent success against UCLA in Pullman also has the Cougars confident.

They won their only Pac-12 game of last season by upsetting the then No. 25-ranked Bruins 85-78. It was their third consecutive victory over UCLA in Pullman. That ties for their longest home winning streak in the series, with the previous being from 1935 to 1937.

“They are so different than what they were last year,” Kent said of UCLA, referring to the addition of high-caliber freshmen Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf. “They score like an NBA team scores. There’s gotta be some things you try to take away and limit their scoring as best as you can.”

UCLA has averaged 92.2 points per game, the fourth-highest average in school history. The Bruins’ 22.1 assists per game is the second-highest mark in school history behind the 1973-74 team (22.4).

Ball triggers the offensive flow. He is currently averaging 8.0 assists per game, the highest single-season average in UCLA history. His 176 assists are the most in one season since Kyle Anderson had 233 in 2013-14 as a sophomore.

Ball reportedly said after the loss to USC that players “split ways” during the game, a contention that Alford denies. A players-only meeting was held following that defeat.

Alford’s son Bryce Alford, a senior guard who leads the Bruins with 16.9 points a game, said the meeting was more like an “informal conversation.”

“(The meeting let) everybody know they could bring whatever they need to bring to the table; if we’ve got issues, we’ve got issues and there weren’t any,” Bryce Alford said.

Washington State is led by senior forward Josh Hawkinson, who is only 81 rebounds shy from the school career record of 992, set by Steve Puidokas from 1974-77. He is 89 away from becoming the 13th Pac-12 player to reach 1,000 rebounds in his career.

Hawkinson also has 1,271 career points, ranking 18th on the school-record list.

Forward Ike Iroegbu, who also has more than 1,000 career points, is coming off a 22-point, 10-rebound game at ASU.