Sunday, December 03, 2006

UCLA Rolls Over UC Riverside in Sleeper

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Perhaps it was a celebratory hangover from the big football victory or that it was played on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon in Westwood, in a sluggish and non-descript game, UCLA easily defeated UC Riverside, 61-38, before a phantom crowd of 8,397.

It didn't help either that the over-matched Highlander's game plan was to take the air out of the ball and use the entire shot block on each possession and that the Bruins appeared content with allowing them to dictate the slow pace.

Arron Afflalo led all scorers with 13 points on 6 of 13 from the field while sophomore Luc Richard Mbah a Moute recorded his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds dominating the less physical Highlanders underneath.

UCLA improved their record to 6-0, the best start for a Bruin team since the 1995 championship season.

The Bruins shot 55.3% from the field and outrebounded the Highlanders by a whopping 37-18 on the boards.  Junior center Lorenzo Mata had a solid game controlling the interior recording 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, and also added 10 points.

The UCLA defense held UC Riverside to a paltry 30% field goal shooting for the game - although it was more likely a result of an over-matched UC Riverside team rather than stellar defense. No Highlander scored in double-digits, Henrik Thomsen was the team's leading scorer with eight points. 

One might wonder why UCLA would be playing such an over-matched team for their sixth game of the regular season?  To be fair, the match-up looked much tougher on paper when the game was scheduled before the summer.  Since then UC Riverside has suffered devastating losses and setbacks to the team. 

Forward Mark Hall was tragically killed in an automobile accident in September and two starting forwards have been lost to season-ending injuries.  On top of the player losses, Head Coach David Spencer went on an undetermined medical leave earlier this month.

Yet UC Riverside was able to stay close to UCLA for more than half the game on Sunday. 

Although UC Riverside's slowdown offense contributed to the low scoring, it was also due to UCLA's lack of intensity and lackluster play for most of the game.  While the Bruins held the Highlanders to a season-low 16 first-half points, UCLA only scored 26 points on a rather non-distinctive 44% shooting.

Coming out of halftime the crowd expected UCLA to go on one of its patented second-half blitzes but instead the team committed three consecutive turnovers allowing UC Riverside to cut the lead to 26-20.  However after a time-out "chat" with UCLA Coach Ben Howland, the Bruins went on a 12-2 run to put the game out of reach for good.

The highlight of the game occurred towards the end of regulation when freshman Russell Westbrook drove baseline and slammed home a rousing dunk sparking the most (only) emotion from the crowd all game.

There were two points of concern for the Bruins from the game - continued poor shooting from the line (50%) and luke-warm three-point shooting (16.7%).  UCLA's primary scorers from the wings, Afflalo and Josh Shipp, shot a combined 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.

UCLA faces its final Big West opponent, mercifully, on Tuesday when CS Fullerton visits Pauley.  The Titans, led by star guard Bobby Brown, are expected to provide the Bruins a much better challenge.

(photo credit: Jack Rosenfeld)



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