Saturday, December 17, 2005

UCLA Backcourt Too Much for Michigan, Bruins Win

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Despite having to travel across country from sunny Westwood to frozen Ann Arbor - during finals week - the UCLA Bruins (8-1) beat the Michigan Wolverines 68-61.

The UCLA backcourt proved to be the difference maker. Again.

Sophomore guard Arron Afflalo scored the first 14 of the Bruins 16 points in the first half and single-handedly kept his team in the game.

The Wolverines (7-1) scored the first eight points of the game until Afflalo sparked a Bruin rally by hitting a 3 pointer six minutes into the game.

Afflalo finished the game with 20 points, 17 in the first half, and shot 6 of 8 from behind the arc.

Darren Collison, the freshman guard out of Etiwanda high school, came off the bench to ignite again the Bruin offense in both the first and second half.

Collison assisted on four quick baskets to lead the Bruins on a 11-2 run in the first half; and then Collison scored 7 points in the second half to help the Bruins to a 57-44 lead.

The Wolverines could not stay in front of the speedy guard as Collison beat them off dribble drives for easy floaters at the baskets.

Jordan Farmar had a very difficult first half scoring only 6 points and seemed to be bothered by the physical defensive play of Michigan's Daniel Horton - especially when he had two uncharacteristic turnovers at halfcourt under tough pressure by Horton.

The second half was a different story for Farmar - as the sophomore guard scored 15 of 21 points on 3 of 5 shooting from the arc.

Farmar's offense appeared to improve whenever Darren Collison entered the game which then allowed Farmar to move over to the shooting guard spot and he was able to wander around the court and get open either for open three point shots or drives into the paint.

At the end, the backcourt of Farmar, Afflalo, and Collison accounted for most of the offense - the three guards combined for 48 of the 68 Bruins total points in the game

The guards did the job on the offensive end, but UCLA won this game on the defensive end. While the Bruins struggled to score in the first until Afflalo's offensive outburst, it was the Bruins defense which kept them in the game.

The Michigan starting big men, Courtney Sims and Graham Brown, combined for an anemic 1 of 2 shooting from the field. Coach Ben Howland's strategy throughout the whole game was to double down whenever either Sims or Brown got the ball down low forcing them to either pass the ball out or commit turnovers.

Sophomore Lorenzo Mata started the game against Sims, although freshman Ryan Wright had earned the starting spot during practice - but Wright was three minutes late to the team bus in the morning and thus was disciplined in not staring by Howland.

Mata and Wright played effectively in the middle garnering 34 of the 40 minutes at the five spot and contributing a combined 14 rebounds, 8 points, and 1 blocked shot.

Wright especially was active on both ends causing problems defensively with his quickness by tipping balls and getting to rebounds - he also had four offensive rebounds.

The Bruins had 11 steals as they frustrated the Wolverines by getting their hands into the passing lanes for steals and transition baskets.

With just over seven minutes in the game the Bruins had pulled out to a 57-44 lead, but the Wolverines mounted a comeback as it appeared the Bruins tried to shorten the game by slowing the pace and using up the clock. As it happened during the Nevada game late, the Bruins ended up taking bad shots with the clock winding down, and Michigan was able to cut the lead to four with over two minutes left.

But the Bruin backcourt came through again, but this time on the defensive end.

With 1:30 left and the Bruins up by only four points, Arron Afflalo stole a Graham Brown outlet pass and then dished to a wide open Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for a lay-up.

Then on the next play Michigan's 6'6 Lester Abram had his pass deflected in the paint by a leaping 6'2 Darren Collison with the ball landing in the hands of Jordan Farmar putting an end to Michigan's chances.

The UCLA defense held Michigan to 41.7% FG shooting and to only 5-23 (21%) 3-point FG shooting.

Arron Afflalo held Michigan's best player guard Daniel Horton to 5-17 shooting and 0-7 from behind the arc.

The season is beginning to look promising for this young Bruin squad.

After a big win against a ranked opponent last week (Nevada) and then traveling to a tough Big 10 away game for a win - the Bruins have shown a toughness that has been missing in Westwood for a long time. Not only on defense, but also on offense where the Bruins have shown resiliency and maturity on offense and have found a way to win.

And it all begins with the fabulous backcourt.


(photo credit-AP Photo/Duane Burleson)


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