Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bruins Sluggish in Win Over Wagner

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

As the last 3-point shot of the game by Wagner's Mark Porter sailed well short of the rim - many Bruin players could be seen looking skyward with a sigh of relief as UCLA edged Wagner, 74-72.

On this night a number of things appeared to negatively converge for the Bruins and possibly lead to an upset loss to Wagner (6-2) - poor free throw shooting, even worse 3-point shooting, and an un-intimidated Wagner team shooting 53% from the field.

But an upset loss was not to be the case this night, with less than 15 seconds left in the game and the score tied at 72, guard Jordan Farmar drove the lane and found a wide open Luc Richard Mbah a Moute under the basket for a lay-up and the game winner.

Wagner had one last chance but Cedric Bozeman blanketed Porter and he could not get off a good shot as the Bruins (9-1) were able to pull out a close game in front of 7,738 anxious fans at Pauley Pavilion

All week long coach Ben Howland had been telling his Bruins they needed to start off the game strong against Wagner, a team which came into the game with a big win against Rhode Island last weekend.

Unfortunately, none of the Bruin starters heard Howland's warning.

The game began auspiciously for UCLA as the Bruins looked inside for scores early trying to exploit their size advantage over a much smaller Seahawk team.

Ryan Wright, who earned the start at center again, got the ball twice down deep and was fouled on each shot attempt, but then Wright proceeded to miss all four of his foul shots.

By the time the Bruins had a chance to look up at the scoreboard, they were already down 8-2 and Ryan Wright was sitting next to coach Ernie Zeigler on the bench

Wright only played 11 minutes scoring two points and had no rebounds. Moreover, Wright had problems guarding the smaller Seahawk post players in the paint, especially Wagner's Durell Vinson who scored all his points on inside post moves - although Vinson ended up giving all the Bruin big men problems down low.

Ryan Wright is still only a freshman and he will have games like this during the season but his missed early free throws to start the game ensured another slow start by the Bruin team and perhaps worse gave the Wagner players confidence that they had a chance in this game.

Lorenzo Mata, who was fighting the stomach flu a day earlier, had one of his best games as a Bruin. Mata scored 11 points, grabbed 5 rebounds (4 offensive), and had the highlight play of the game when he threw down a monstrous slam off a lob pass from Jordan Farmar. Mata also displayed a nice short hook shot on two scores.

"Lorenzo played a nice game today", Howland said afterwards, "we need Lorenzo in the game because he is by far the team's best rebounder".

Senior center Ryan Hollins played well offensively in the second half scoring 7 points during a late stretch in the second half to help keep the Bruins close. Senior Michael Fey did not play in the game.

After shooting 47% from the 3-point line against Michigan on Saturday, the Bruins shot only 1-13 from the arc (7.6%).

The Bruins did not hit their first 3-point shot until almost 12 minutes left in the second half when Arron Afflalo finally hit a 3-pointer from the wing. Afflalo finished the game with a relatively quiet 13 points.

Wagner had no such trouble hitting on their 3-point shots as they made 10-16 (62%) from the arc - most of the time with a Bruin defender's hand in their face.

Wagner's Matt Vitale and Joey Mundweiler came off the bench and hit 4-5 from the arc. For the game, Wagner shot almost 54% from the field.

Much credit should be given to the Wagner offense for making shots under tough circumstances, yet at times the Bruin defense appeared uninspired and slow in their rotations.

The Bruins did not display the same level of defense pressure against Wagner as it had against Michigan last weekend as evidenced by the fact they only had three steals in the entire game.

"We started the game a bit tired out there", Howland said, "after a long trip from Michigan I practiced them hard this week and I shouldn't have - as a coach I need to learn from this."

Freshman Darren Collison was once again a spark to the offense. Halfway through the second half with the Bruins down by seven points, Darren Collison decided to bring the Bruins back into the game himself.

Collison, who already is a key player in Howland's rotation, drove past a defender in his first possession and scored on a floater in the lane. He then found Arron Afflalo streaking down for a dunk on a fast break. On a play to help tie the game, he drove past a crowd of Seahawk defenders for an easy lay-up. Collison ended the game with 12 points and 5 assists.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who scored the winning basket, had 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Cedric Bozeman added 11 points.

Jordan Farmar had 12 points and 9 assists, although Farmar appeared a step slow in this game on both ends of the court in particular in the second half. Farmar played 32 minutes.

The Bruins don't have much time to rest up as they face the Sacramento St. Hornets on Friday, Dec. 23 at Pauley Pavilion. Howland will not have his team practice tomorrow in order to give them some rest.

"Instead of practice tomorrow, Howland said, "we'll watch every single defensive possession from this game".

54% FG% defense will never do for a Ben Howland coached team.


(photo credit:AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)


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