UCLA Wins Season Opener Against New Mexico St. in NIT
By Bruin Basketball Report
Arron Afflalo scored 23 points as the UCLA Bruins (1-0) opened the 2005-06 season with a victory over the New Mexico St. Aggies (0-1) 83-70 in the opening round of the NIT Season Tip-Off GTournament (previously known as the NIT Preseason Kick-Off) in front of 6,258 at Pauley Pavilion.
Although the Bruins led by as much as 17 in the second half they could never pull away for good from New Mexico St. as the Aggies closed the deficit to within single digits at different times during the second half.
The Aggies defense gave the Bruins problems throughout the game as New Mexico St's coach Reggie Theus confused the Bruin offense with a steady mix of zone and man defenses.
Jordan Farmar who had 18 points and 8 assists appeared frustrated at times with some of his teammates when they failed to recognize the different defensive sets the Aggies played and got lost on offense resulting in a turnover or tough shot.
As a result the Bruin offense looked ragged at times. Coach Ben Howland knows his team will learn to recognize defensive sets better and learn to play better together as the season progresses.
Coach John Chaney's Temple Owls, the Bruin's second round opponent plays "100% zone defense", Howland said and playing against the Aggies zone tonight was a "good experience" for the team.
Fifth year senior Cedric Bozeman played well in his first regular season game since 2004. Bozeman, playing forward on a talented backcourt laden team, defended and passed very effectively - playing almost like a "point forward" for the team.
Howland felt Bozeman's experience was the key to the Bruin's offense. "He's played a lot of games for us and he knows what to do", Howland said after the game.
The freshmen group which sparkled during the two exhibition games played a bit nervously in their first regular season game. Darren Collison played only 12 minutes and appeared tentative at times. Luc Richard Mbah A Boute appeared lost at times however his high energized style of play did help him grab a team high 8 rebounds.
Micahel Fey played 23 minutes despite only participting in two practices with contact. When Fey gets into better game shape, he will give the Bruins an better inside offensive presence - something the Bruins lacked for most of the game against the Aggies.
Post Game Notes: Earlier in the day Janou Rubin was granted a 6th year of eligibility by the NCAA. Rubin gives the Bruins even more depth on the wings. The Temple Owls earlier defeated Army in their first round game to earn the second round berth against UCLA. The second round game will be played on 11/17 at 8:00PM at Pauley. The winner advances to the semifinal round in New York on 11/23.