Saturday, March 04, 2006

Collison Stars In Backup Role

Freshman backup point guard Darren Collison, a former star at Etiwanda High, was the difference for the nine-deep Bruins who, maybe more importantly, can go two-deep at point guard.

Collison was too quick, too fast, too determined against Cal. He was too much of a pest guarding the ball and slowing down Cal's offense while speeding up UCLA's in the Bruins' 47-27 come-from-behind rush after halftime.

"He does that to me all the time in practice," said starting UCLA point guard Jordan Farmar.

Farmar's early-game struggles got a big boost from Collison, who had 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting, with a rebound, a steal and a pair of assists.

Not bad for a skinny first-year kid who saw the floor for just 18 minutes but managed to join Afflalo as the only other UCLA player in double figures against Cal.

"He heated up (Richard) Midgley," UCLA coach Ben Howland said of Collison's on-ball pressure wearing down the Cal senior point guard.

Midgley eventually fouled out after scoring just six points in 36 minutes.

"That (pressure) puts all their offensive sets a split-second off," Farmar said of Cal's offense, which struggled as UCLA reeled off a final 12-0 run the last 4:36 of overtime.

When Collison wasn't taking the ball to the glass on the break, he was stretching the Bears defense enough to give Afflalo the openings he couldn't find in the first half.

"He's really maturing, playing to win and doing what he's asked," Farmar said. "He's a team player."

Collison is pleased people have noticed he's no longer the young guy a year just trying to blow by people.

"I'm being more patient," he said.

"We'd gotten away from the things we'd been doing well, so I help to get us started with defense. That's when we know we have things going -- when they start taking bad shots."

That's Collison's cue, he said. Force a bad shot, get the rebound and get the Bruins going.

"It's not the same as high school," Farmar said. "You have a lot more responsibility than you had at the previous level."

But after a bit of an off night, with six assists balancing out his 2-for-10 shooting and eight points, Farmar could shake his head in approval of what his backup had done.

"He's so quick and athletic, he can really create havoc out there," he said. Press-Enterprise/Dan Weber



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