Friday, January 06, 2006

UCLA Holds off Arizona, 85-79

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

The No.17 UCLA Bruins limped into McKale Center but marched out triumphantly with an 85-79 victory over the No.21/23 Arizona Wildcats.

With all four seniors on the roster either sick or injured, the Bruins suited up only nine scholarship underclassmen; four sophomores and five freshmen, to play against a veteran Arizona team in an arena which the Bruins had not won in since 1997.

Yet, it was the young Bruin squad which showed more intensity and poise throughout the game. The Bruins did not wilt under the pressure defense of the Wildcats, as evidenced by the fact that they were victorious despite committing 22 turnovers in the game.

UCLA (12-2, 2-1) shot a blazing 60.8% from the field and 6 of 14 from beyond the arc (43%). They shot 70% from the FT line but hit 8 of 8 of their free throws down the stretch.

Bruin head coach Ben Howland’s offensive strategy was clear from the start of the game – the Bruins were going to penetrate and attack the basket. On the first Bruin score, sophomore Josh Shipp dribble penetrated from the wing for a short jumper in the paint. The Bruins then scored five straight lay-ups all created by dribble penetration from the Bruin guards.

In addition, unlike the Memphis where the Bruins tried to slow the tempo – Howland decided to have his Bruins play a fast tempo transition game against the Wildcats. The result was a fast paced, high scoring game that sent the 14,696 crowd at McKale Center unhappily home.

Jordan Farmar, who was questionable for the game due to a sprained ankle, gutted out 11 points and four assists. He aggravated his injury in the first half but returned after having his ankle re-taped and finished the game to play 24 minutes.

Ben Howland shuffled Farmar on and off the court throughout the game knowing he needed to preserve his star point guard – especially for down the stretch.

With less than a minute in the game and the Wildcats down by only two, Howland reinserted Farmar into the line-up to take care of the ball and the sophomore guard responded. Farmar took the inbound pass and handled the Wildcat full-court pressure and was fouled with 33 seconds left in the game. Farmar sunk both free throws to push the lead to four.

After a score by Arizona’s Marcus Williams, Farmar brought the ball up again and barely squeezed between two Arizona defenders before he was fouled with 10 seconds. Farmar calmly sunk both free throws again for a four point lead. Then Josh Shipp stole the ball on the inbound pass to seal the win.

Sophomore guard Arron Afflalo led the team again with 20 points on 8 of 11 shooting and sparked the Bruin offense when it needed him. After the Bruins fell behind by five points midway through the first half, Afflalo sparked the Bruin offense with two 3-pointers as the Bruins went into halftime with a 39-35 advantage.

Josh Shipp finished the game with 14 points and 6 rebounds. Shipp looked more fluid in this game as compared to the California game. He also hit 2 of 3 from 3PT and played 31 minutes in only his third game back in the lineup.

The stat sheet will not tell the whole story of the importance of freshman Darren Collison in this game. Although Collison had a good game with 9 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals, it was the match-up problem he created with his speed which exposed a major Arizona weakness - it’s lack of quickness in the backcourt.

When Collison entered the game he was matched up with Mustafa Shakur, but he could not contain Collison who drove past him for two quick scores. Arizona coach then tried J.P Prince and Marcus Williams on Collison also without success. Finally, Olson put his best defender Chris Rodgers on Collison, but that took Rodgers off Afflalo who immediately countered with two scores while guarded by either Shakur or Williams.

Arizona was led by 21 points from Hassan Adams. Freshman Marcus Williams was very impressive scoring 19 with many of the baskets coming when the Bruins tried to pull away in the second half. Ivan Radenovic scored 17 points and was very effective in the first half when the Wildcats were looking inside for their scoring.

Wildcat point guard Mustafa Shakur perhaps had his worst game as a collegiate. Shakur was averaging 10 ppg entering the game but did not score in this contest missing all three of his shot attempts. Although Shakur did score two points for the Bruins when he errantly tipped a ball into their basket. Coach Lute Olson was visibly unhappy with Shakur’s defense and his inability to stay in front of the Bruin’s Collison.

Lorenzo Mata played a solid game. He showed poise and confidence on both ends of the court. Mata grabbed 7 rebounds and scored 9 points. He surprised everyone when he hit a 15-footer from the elbow in rhythm. Mata also showed a good stroke from the FT line hitting on 3 of 4.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute regained his aggressive edge on the boards with a team high 9 rebounds. He also added 8 points in 36 minutes of play.

Alfred Aboya played only 7 minutes but he showed his offensive potential when he took his defender off the dribble from the top of the key for a layup - he finished with 5 points.

UCLA outrebounded Arizona 28 to 24 and forced the Wildcats into 18 turnovers. Arizona shot 52% from the field but made only 2 of 9 from 3PT.

The Bruins now look for a sweep on this trip as they travel to Tempe for a Saturday game against the Sun Devils. The Sun Devils lost to USC 66-65 on Thursday.


(photo credit: AP)


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