Thursday, March 02, 2006

UCLA Winning Without Pac-10 Individual Honors

With 13 weeks down and one to go, the 15th-ranked Bruins haven't had a Player of the Week. According to the conference, a Pac-10 champion has never been shut out in that voting since it began in the 1983-84 season.

By contrast, the four teams chasing UCLA for first place -- Cal, Washington, Stanford and Arizona -- have combined for 11 Player of the Week selections this season, with weekend opponents Cal and Stanford totaling five between them.

Does it matter?

"It doesn't," said UCLA point guard Jordan Farmar, who leads the Pac-10 in assists. Except ...

"It shows that we do things as a team," he added. "We do things together, as a family. That's what we say in the huddle every time."

"We've got leaders but we don't have to have stars," senior center Ryan Hollins said. "We need Jordan and Arron (Afflalo) to score, but if Jordan can have 10 assists and another guy steps up to lead us in scoring, he's just as happy."

Afflalo, whose 16.8-point average is seventh in the conference, said he'd rather the Bruins win games than individual honors.

"The best thing for us in all of this is that we have three or four players capable of doing that kind of scoring," Afflalo said of a young Bruins team, which has seven underclassmen among its top nine scorers and five players who have led the team in scoring.

The Bruins are winning more with defense -- UCLA's second in the Pac-10, allowing 60 points per game -- than scoring. Their 67.9-point average is the second lowest for a UCLA team in 46 years.

And that style of play doesn't produce the kind of numbers that make a Player of the Week.

UCLA's Marc Dellins, who along with the conference's other sports information directors nominates a Player of the Week candidate after each weekend, felt the Bruins had their best chance after two strong performances by freshman forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in the last weekend of January.

Mbah a Moute led UCLA with 15 points and 10 rebounds in a road win at Oregon, then had 14 points and eight rebounds in a win at Oregon State. But Stanford center Matt Haryasz averaged 23 points and 9.5 rebounds in home wins over Washington and Washington State for his second straight Player of the Week honor.

The selection is made at the Pac-10's Walnut Creek offices after circulating ballots among the staff. The Press-Enterprise/Dan Weber



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