Saturday, March 11, 2006

Collison Sparks Bruins To Victory Over Arizona

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

With Jordan Farmar struggling and tagged with two early fouls, Coach Ben Howland needed Darren Collison to step-up for the team, and the freshman point guard answered the call.

Collison scored a career-high 15 points on 6-10 shooting, including 2-3 from three-point distance, to lift UCLA to a 71-59 over the Arizona Wildcats in a semifinal game of the Pac-10 tournament.

"Yeah, I'm a little surprised," Collison said of scoring a career-high as a Bruin "Coach told me to be aggressive and take it to the basket tonight."

UCLA (26-6, 14-4) began the game sluggishly primarily due to the pressure defense of Arizona. The Bruins struggled to match the Wildcat's energy at the start.

Chris Rodgers, Arizona’s defensive specialist, hounded Farmar full-court and caused him to commit two (questionable) offensive fouls in the first five minutes of play.

Farmar left the game with the Bruins down 11-10, and Collison entered the game in his place.

Collison immediately began pushing the ball up the court - energizing his team from the point as UCLA went on a 15-4 run.

During the span, Collison hit a five-foot floater in the lane and sunk a three-pointer, and more importantly, created scoring opportunities for his teammates in transition.

Arizona’s Mustafa Shakur will be glad he won’t be facing Collison again until next year.

For the third straight game, Shakur was overmatched by the speedy freshman. Shakur finished the game with 5 points on 2-7 shooting. In the three games against Collison and UCLA, he has averaged a miserable 4.3 points per game on 4-21 shooting.

UCLA went into halftime protecting a 33-26 lead despite being out-shot by the Wildcats 47% to 39% from the floor. UCLA had six offensive rebounds and six steals by halftime which resulted in the team taking ten more shots than the Wildcats by halftime.

The Bruins came out for the second half with a lot more defensive intensity which appeared to demoralize the Wildcats. UCLA started it with a 19-6 run to put the game away.

Arizona was playing without their leading scorer Hassan Adams, and without him, the Wildcats did not have nearly enough firepower to answer the Bruin's offensive bombardment in the second half.

With UCLA making some halftime adjustments on offense, the Bruins came out and shot a sizzling 65% from the floor in the second half.

UCLA had struggled scoring against Arizona when the Wildcats ended the half playing a 1-3-1 zone. In the second half, the Bruins attacked the zone defense more with dribble penetration and crisp passing with most of their scores coming in the paint.

After taking 13 three-point field goal attempts in the first half, UCLA took only five the rest of the game. The Bruins scored 36 of their total points in the paint.

In addition, Coach Howland neutralized Chris Rodgers' defensive pressure on the ball by having the guard who was not being guarded by Rodgers bring the ball up the court to set up the offense.

Senior Cedric Bozeman shook off the effects of a left sprained ankle to start and play 27 minutes in the game. He scored 9 points on 4-10 shooting and also grabbed 4 rebounds of which 3 were offensive rebounds that resulted in put-backs.

Guard Arron Afflalo played a solid game hitting 5-9 from the floor for 12 points in 32 minutes of play.

Tying for team-high rebounds with seven were Luc Richard Mbah and Ryan Hollins.

Mbah a Moute also scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting. Interestingly, many of his scores were on dribble drives to his left

In previous games, Mbah a Moute had a common habit of going to his right whenever he put the ball on the floor which allowed defenders to anticipate his move and steal the ball. However, coaches obviously pointed this out to him, and in the always-improving world of Luc Richard, this is no longer the case.

Ryan Hollins had another solid game on both ends of the court. In addition to his rebounding, he scored 7 points, blocked 2 shots, and controlled the defensive paint in his 24 minutes of play.

Aflred Aboya came off the bench to score 7 points on 3-4 shooting. He also had the play of the game when he was on the receiving end of a lob pass from fellow Cameroonian Mbah a Moute which he converted into a rousing slam dunk. UCLA’s bench outscored Arizona’s 26-4.

With the Bruins raising the intensity bar on defense in the second half, the Wildcats appeared to wear down.

That's what coach really emphasizes - defense," Collison said. "On the defensive end, we did what we had to do."

“They really play well together,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said, “they play very physical and they have a lot of weapons." "There's no question the better team won."

UCLA now possess a six-game winning streak and are clearly playing their best basketball of the season.

For most of the year, it was Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo carrying the team offensively.

In this game, the backcourt duo accounted for only 24% of the team’s points, in comparison, when the two teams last met in February, Farmar and Afflalo accounted for over 48% of the team’s total points. The Bruins are improving and evolving as a unit.

"You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season.” Howland said, “But not only are we playing good, we're getting better. This is truly a team."

"Although we won by 12, the score was not indicative that we were pretty much in control the last 16, 17 minutes," said Howland. "It was fun."

UCLA faces the California Bears in the championship game of the Pac-10 tournament tomorrow. The Bears edged the Oregon Ducks 91-87 in 2 overtime periods in the second semifinal game.


(photo credit: AP)


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