Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bruins Remain Unbeaten, Edge Aggies

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

With the game on the line in a tough turf battle with Texas A&M,, the Bruins turned to what they do best to win games.  Play defense.

After the Aggies tied the game 54-54 with 6:29 remaining, the Bruin defense clamped down to key a 9-2 run as top-ranked UCLA beat Texas A&M, 65-62, in the 13th annual John R. Wooden Classic.

Josh Shipp scored a team-high 18 points and Darren Collison added 15 to pace the UCLA attack.  Arron Afflalo scored 13 points but was limited to just 28 minutes due to early foul trouble.  However, Afflalo gave his team a boost by scoring eight of his points over the final nine minutes of the contest.

In a battle between two physical and defensive-minded teams, although each managed to shoot over 49% from the field there were rarely any easy baskets or fast-breaks to be found with each team limiting the other to only 51 shots in the game.

"The intensity was going to remain high as long as the score was tight," Afflalo said. "Neither team got a chance to pull away."

The game was notched at 27-27 going into intermission before Darren Collison hit two consecutive three-pointers in the final 22 seconds to stake the Bruins to a 33-27 halftime lead.

"I did a poor job and didn't find my man," Aggies guard Acie Law said. "Those two three-pointers hurt us a lot with the game being so close at the end."

Acie Law scored 21 points to lead the Aggies while guarded most of the game by UCLA's Darren Collison. 

Arron Afflalo had started the game against Law and had forced him into two turnovers and a missed shot, but then Afflalo picked up two quick fouls and UCLA had to switch the smaller Collison onto Law.  However down the stretch, Afflalo was switched back onto Law and the UCLA junior responded by shutting him down during the Bruin's key late-game run.

Texas A&M came into the game as a mediocre rebounding squad with no player averaging more than 5.5 rebounds a game, but the Aggies managed to outrebound the Bruins 27-18 led by Joseph Jones who grabbed 13 rebounds.  After recording a career-high 16 rebounds in his last game, Lorenzo Mata only had 4 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.   

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute struggled throughout the contest recording just 4 points and 2 rebounds.  However during post-game comments, UCLA coach Ben Howland revealed Mbah a Moute was suffering from a pulled groin muscle which was still bothering him and had kept him out of practice all week. 

Nonetheless, the Aggies' strategy of playing Mbah a Moute's defender off him and forcing him to shoot from the outside was effective - its a defense Mbah a Moute will see more of until he shows that he can hit the mid-range jumper consistently.

Michael Roll gave the Bruins a boost off the bench in reserve by playing solid perimeter defense, scoring 5 points, and grabbing 3 rebounds in 15 minutes.  He also had a rare, for him, length of the court driving lay-up with three Aggie defenders hounding him.

The game may not have been as close at the end if the Bruins had hit their free throws.  UCLA continued their woes from the line hitting just 8 of 16 for 50%; however the culprit was not the usual suspect - Mata was 2 of 3 of the line.  Typically reliable free throw shooters Shipp, Afflalo, and Collison were a combined 6 of 12 from the stripe.  With Pac-10 play starting in a few weeks, free throw shooting needs to be a key area of improvement for the Bruins.

The Bruins forced the usually sure-handed Aggies' into 20 turnovers that led to 22 points.  UCLA recorded 10 steals with Josh Shipp getting four of them in perhaps his best all-around performance of the season.  Shipp also had two blocks.

"Our defense was really tough down the stretch," Howland said. "That's one of the most physical games I can remember."

With the victory UCLA remains undefeated at 8-0 while Texas A&M loses their second game in a row and now stand at 7-2.

UCLA is off until next Saturday when they face Oakland (MI) Golden Grizzlies at Pauley Pavilion.

(photo credit: AP)



At Dec 11, 2006, 7:30:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

Prediction: Bruins will go undefeated the rest of the year...(2006)

At Dec 11, 2006, 2:20:00 PM, Anonymous DavidW said...

Undefeated? I could only wish.
I think the Bruins will go undefeated in non-conference play this season, but the Pac-10 is tough...four Pac-10 top 25 teams -- the Bruins are bound to lose some of the away games at least. I'm guessing at least a four-loss season.


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