Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bruin Rally Falls Short, Lose To West Virginia

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

After falling behind 17 points by halftime, the Bruins rallied strong but fall shot as they bowed to the West Virginia Mountaineers, 60-56, before 12,035 at Pauley Pavilion.

In the first half, the Bruins had problems with the Mountaineer's 1-3-1 defensive zone especially when West Virginia began extending their zone out and began trapping the Bruins on the perimeter.

UCLA (15-4, 5-2) began settling for 3-point shots attempts instead of penetrating into the zone, and worst, the Bruins were not hitting their outside shots.

The Bruins shot a miserable 1-10 on 3-pointers in the first half. In addition, they shot only 28% as they fell behind 39-22 by the end of the half.

"I felt we were too passive against their zone" Howland said, "we didn't attack it".

Howland's plan was to attack the 1-3-1 zone pressure with Jordan Farmar playing the high post. The Bruins were to attack the zone and get the ball to Farmar in the middle who would then create scoring opportunities in the soft belly of the zone.

However the Bruin players, including Farmar, looked rather uncomfortable in the offensive set especially considering it was the first time the Bruins ever used the offense.

Subsequently, the Bruins played tentatively against the zone and were unable to get the ball to Farmar consistently, and when the ball was passed to Farmar he turned the ball over twice himself.

For West Virginia (14-3), their cutting and passing offense was on display at Pauley. Their first six points of the game were by lay-ups created by back door cuts and screens.

The Bruins held 6'11 Kevin Pittsnogle to only 4 points in the first half and eight for the game; however West Virginia's Mike Gansey stepped forward for his team on both ends of the court.

Gansey, a tough senior forward, shot 7-8 from the field and 3-3 from beyond the arc and finished with 24 points.

On the defensive end, Gansey had 4 steals, none more important than a steal he made on Jordan Farmar with 7 seconds left in the game and the Bruins down by only three. He was then fouled by Farmar; and Gansey made one of two free throws for the final margin.

Moreover, Gansey outplayed the Bruin's sophomore guard Arron Afflalo - holding Afflalo to only 1-9 shooting for only 4 points in the game. Afflalo also was only 0-6 on 3-pointers; he had entered the game shooting 51% from the field.

Michael Roll had a tough day as well. He was 0-7 from the field, even though he had numerous open looks from the perimeter, but the freshman just could not put one down as he also finished 0-6 from beyond the arc.

Leading the Bruins again in rebounding with 13 was Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The freshman from Cameroon also had 4 points but his effectiveness was somewhat limited by the 3 fouls he picked up in the first 8 minutes of the game.

Center Ryan Hollins came off the bench and played spectacularly. In 30 minutes of play he scored 11 points and had 8 rebounds. He also had two put back dunks on rebounds during the Bruin rally.

In the second half, the Bruins began attacking the West Virginia zone more aggressively and also stepped up their defense - preventing the Mountaineers from getting the easy back door lay-ups they were getting in the first half.

The Bruins held West Virginia without a field goal for nine minutes from the fourteen minute mark of the second half and cutting a 19 point deficit to only 7 with five minutes left in the game.

Farmar led the offensive charge scoring 14 in the second half. He finished with 22 points for the game but only had 3 assists and committed 5 turnovers.

The lead was sliced to just three points twice in the final minutes, but the Bruins missed two 3-point shots with a chance to tie the game. They would not get any closer.

For the game, the Bruins shot only 35% from the field, while West Virginia shot 45%.

The Bruins should be commended for their comeback effort. "This was a good learning experience for our young team", Howland said.

West Virginia is a solid veteran team which made the Elite Eight in last year's tournament. The young Bruins will certainly learn from the pressure and intensity they faced today against the Mountaineers.

UCLA will try to re-group over the weekend. "The pressure we faced today, Howland said, "will help us on our road games in the coming weeks".

The Bruins travel to the Oregon schools next week for always tough road games against the Ducks and Beavers.


(photo credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

Friday, January 20, 2006

UCLA vs. West Virginia - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.16 ranked UCLA Bruins play host to the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday, January 21. This is the first game between UCLA and West Virginia since Dec. 21, 1968.

The Mountaineers (13-3) are ranked No.12 in the AP and No.17 in ESPN/USA Today polls. After starting the season 2-3, they have won 11 straight games which included impressive wins over two top 10 ranked teams, Villanova and Oklahoma.

West Virginia head coach John Beilein’s team plays a much disciplined game on both ends of the court. They advanced to the Elite Eight in last year’s NCAA tournament, and return four seniors and one junior to the starting line-up.

The Mountaineers are led by two very talented seniors, Kevin Pittsnogle (Sr, 6’11, 255) and Mike Gansey (Sr, 6’4, 205).

Pittsnogle leads the team in scoring (20.6) and rebounding (6.2). He is a dual threat offensively - with a decent low post game and is an excellent jump shooter hitting 53% FG% and 47% from the 3-point line. He prefers the perimeter shot, of his field goal attempts, 40% of them are from beyond the 3-point line.

There is a chance Pittnogle may miss the UCLA game. He and his wife are expecting their first child with a due date around Feb. 1; and the team has already made provisions to get him back for the birth of the couple’s first child should it happen.

The Bruins have three centers who match up well physically against Pittsnogle: Alfred Aboya, Ryan Wright, and Ryan Hollins.

Freshman Alfred Aboya started at center against USC on Wednesday and responded with energy on the defensive end. At 6’8 and 240, Aboya has the physical size to match up with Pittsnogle inside and the speed and length to check Pittsnogle on the perimeter.

Since Aboya has not played more than 18 minutes in a game this season, the Bruins will need both Ryan Hollins and Ryan Wright to step up defensively on Pittsnogle.

Senior Ryan Hollins has been especially impressive since his return from a groin injury; he has been very active on the defensive end. Against the Trojans, he had 9 points and 3 points.

Most of the attention on the West Virginia team has gone to Pittsnogle this year, however, forward Mike Gansey might very well be West Virginia’s most valuable player.

Gansey is averaging 19.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Although he tends to be a streaky shooter, he averages an astounding 62% FG% from the field and 50% from beyond the 3-point arc.

In addition to his offensive prowess, Gansey is tough as nails on defense and plays the point on top of the Mountaineer’s tough 1-3-1 defensive zone. At 6’4 Gansey is scrappy and uses his length to disrupt offenses. He leads the team with 2.3 steals per game.

The Bruins have a good defensive match-up for Gansey in Arron Afflalo. Afflalo has been given many accolades for his offense this year, but his defense deserves equal praise.

Against USC, Afflalo held all Pac-10 conference player Gabe Pruitt to just 1-9 shooting. Afflalo will need to bring an equal effort Gansey in this game.

Joining Pittsnogle and Gansey in West Virginia’s starting lineup are Frank Young, Joe Herber, and J.D. Collins.

Forward Frank Young (Jr, 6’5, 215) has reached double figures in five of his last seven games and is averaging 8.8 points per game and hits 34% on 3-pointers.

Guard Joe Herber (Sr, 6’5, 210) is averaging 9.3 points and leads the team in assists with 5.9 per game.

Collins (Sr, 5’11, 180) is scoring 4.6 points and 3.7 assists per game and shoots 36% from the beyond the 3-point line.

Patrick Beilein (Sr, 6’4 205), the coach’s son, is the first man off the bench averaging 8.7 points per game and shooting 32% on 3-pointers; guard Darris Nichols (So, 6’2, 190) is averaging 2.9 points; and Rob Summers (Jr, 7’0, 240) provides the Mountaineers some minutes.

From a player to player comparison, the Bruins appear to match-up very well against the Mountaineers. The Bruins have a size and quickness advantage over West Virginia.

In addition, even with their injuries, the Bruins have more depth than the Mountaineers who depend on 7 players in most game and lean heavily on their two stars for minutes, Pittsnogle and Gansey, who average 35 and 34 minutes per game respectively.

Most interesting factoid about West Virginia? During their current 11 game winning streak, they have been out-rebounded in 9 of the 11 games. Moreover for the season, the Mountaineers are being out-rebounded by -7 per game.

Yet, West Virginia is outscoring opponents by +13 points per game and has 70 more field goal attempts than opponents on the season.

So how does West Virginia win?

They do it with an efficient offense that shoots high percentage shots and does not turnover the ball; and a trapping defense that creates turnovers.

On offense the Mountaineers are constantly moving without the ball, and passers are always looking for cutters to the basket for easy lay-ups. West Virginia averages 7 assists more per game than opponents.

West Virginia does not turnover the ball either, they average only 8.8 turnovers per game. The team has an impressive 2.2 assists to turnover ratio.

They are also an excellent 3-point shooting team - led by Gansey and Pittsnogle. As a team they shoot over 37% from beyond the 3-point line.

Defensively, West Virginia plays primarily a trapping 1-3-1 zone with a very active Gansey on top of the zone; however the team will switch it up with a man-to-man at times to keep the opposition off balance.

The Mountaineers overplay the passing lanes and create a lot of steals and turnovers. They average almost 10 steals per game while forcing their opponent into over 18 turnovers per game.

For UCLA, Coach Ben Howland has instilled his own brand of tough and disciplined basketball.

Defensively against West Virginia, the Bruins must play like they did against USC, which Ben Howland said was the Bruins best defensive effort of the season.

The Bruins played solid man-man defense inside, contested every outside shot, and overplayed passing lanes. They come out with a lot of intensity defensively and effectively took the Trojans out of their game.

One concern with the Bruin defense is that they tend allow a lot of back door cuts for easy baskets. Against West Virginia, the Bruins will need to defend this better but at the same time they must be cognizant about closing out on the Mountaineers outside shooters.

Shutting down the West Virginia offense has been a difficult task for any team facing them this year, but the Bruins have shown they have the athleticism and discipline on defense to shut down any team – but they need to come out with a high energy performance and sustain the effort for the entire 40 minutes against the Mountaineers.

Offensively, the Bruins must do a better job in taking care of the ball. The Bruins average 15 turnovers a game and have a below water assist-turnover ratio of 0.97. With West Virginia’s trapping zone, the Bruin's ball handlers will need a lot of help.

Having a healthy Jordan Farmar will be key for a Bruin win. Farmar played his best game against USC since he re-injured his ankle against Stanford, scoring 15 points and handing out 6 assists.

Against other trapping defenses earlier in the year, like Temple, the Bruins have shown they can be efficient in handling the pressure. Again, it will depend on the level of intensity this young Bruin team shows up with on Saturday.

After having problems earlier in the season with their half-court offense, the Bruins have begun executing well out of their half-court sets recently.

Against both Washington and Washington St, the Bruins executed their offense flawlessly in the first half of both games but were not able sustain it in the second half.

However against USC, the Bruins finally put together two impressive halves in which they never let the Trojans back in the game.

Although UCLA will still prefer to run against West Virginia when they have opportunities in transition, they now have an half-court offense from which they are more confident they can score from.

Should be one of the best games of the year!


1968 Flashback: West Virginia vs. UCLA

California Dreamin
By John Antonik for

Bucky Waters knew his West Virginia basketball team was going to be served up on a giant silver platter. The year was 1968 and his rebuilding Mountaineer squad was on their way to Los Angeles to play No. 1-ranked UCLA in Pauley Pavilion.

The idea was to stop over and face the Bruins before going on to Hawaii to play in the Rainbow Classic. In return, Waters says UCLA was supposed to come back to Morgantown the following year to help West Virginia open its brand new Coliseum which was scheduled to be finished in time for the 1969-70 season.

“I went out there to be a sacrificial lamb to (Lew) Alcindor and those guys with the idea that we’d showcase them back in our new Coliseum.”


“It’s 26-20 and we’re doing it perfectly,” Waters recalled. “Our kids are playing fearless, the crowd is kind of quiet and we’re doing well. Everyone is kind of looking around thinking, who the hell are these guys?

“Then (Alcindor) turns to try a little baby hook and Carey jumps up and blocks the shot,” said Waters. “One of our guys picks up the ball and we’ve got a 3 on 2. Our player sets up to take a shot on the wing and here is Alcindor, nostrils flaring and eyes bulging, racing down the floor after him. He’s trying to catch the ball out of the air – not block it.

“But he couldn’t quite catch the ball and he crashes into the backboard,” Waters continued. “You could have heard a pin drop in the place. Everyone had this expression of did I see what I thought I saw? My guys are looking around at each other and thinking, uh oh, so I called time out.”

As Waters began explaining to his team that it was just one play and there was still plenty of basketball left, Waters noticed the eyes of his players slowly rising up as he was talking. Their eyes continued looking up.

“That’s when I knew Alcindor was walking past our bench,” Waters laughed. “I turned to Carey and I said, ‘Thanks a lot. That block really didn’t help us out, pal. You just ticked off the big guy.”

For the full article go to:

(photo credit: Academy of Achievement)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bruin Defense Too Much For Trojans

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Jordan Farmar came out firing to start the game, scoring 9 of his 15 points to key an 18-2 run as the Bruins trounced the Trojans 66-45 before a raucous crowd of 13, 307 at Pauley Pavilion.

The No. 16 ranked Bruins (15-3, 5-2) dominated the Trojans (12-6, 3-4) from beginning to end.

After Farmar shot just 1-7 in a loss to Washington last week, coach Ben Howland lamented how the team needed him to score more; and Farmar responded with 15 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds. He made 3 of 7 three-pointers.

"Jordan is one of our top scorers. When he's in double digits, this team is going to be that much better," said backcourt mate Arron Afflalo.

After giving up huge leads in each of their last two games, UCLA coach Ben Howland wanted the Bruins to play with intensity on both ends of the court for an entire 40 minutes.

Although the Bruins played well offensively, they won this game on the defensive end. The Bruins maintained their defensive pressure throughout the game - never letting up. UCLA went into halftime with a 39-19 lead and never let the lead go below 20 points the rest of the game.

UCLA limited the Trojans to just 27% FG shooting in the first half and a season-low 29% for the game.

The Bruins pressured the Trojans perimeter players throughout the game and contested every outside shot. The Trojans shot only 1-9 from 3-point territory.

The Trojan’s “big three” of Gabriel Pruitt (16.7 ppg), Nick Young (17.3 ppg), and Lodrick Stewart (12.6 ppg) were held to a combined 16 points for the entire game.

Sophomore guard Arron Afflalo locked down Pruitt holding him to 1-9 shooting and only 4 points. Pruitt, an All Pac-10 player last year, never got untracked in the game due to Afflalo’s stifling defense.

The Trojan’s Nick Young had improved his shot selection in previous games under new USC coach Tim Floyd, but in this game, Young appeared to play out of control and took many poor shots. The Bruin’s Alfred Aboya and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute took turns limiting Young to 3-12 shooting for just 8 points.

Freshman Michael Roll played excellent defense on the Trojan’s Lodrick Stewart. Stewart finished with only 5 points on 1-4 shooting. Roll played 30 minutes and scored 6 points on two 3-pointers.

On the offensive end, the Bruins executed to perfection. The Bruins assisted on 16 of their 21 field goals. UCLA shot 46% from the field.

The Bruins out-rebounded the Trojans 33-27. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had a team-high 7 rebounds in the game.

Freshman Alfred Aboya was given the start at center because Howland wanted more rebounding and toughness in the defensive post. Aboya scored 3 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.

Ryan Wright scored 4 points but more importantly grabbed 4 rebounds in only 12 minutes of play – his highest total so far in Pac-10 play.

Senior center Ryan Hollins played his best game of the year scoring 9 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Howland praised Hollins, "He came in the game and gave us a big lift."

The Bruin centers combined for 11 rebounds in the game – a rebounding total at the five spot coach Ben Howland will gladly take every game.

Since the Bruins were able to control the boards, it allowed them to often get out in transition.

Interestingly for the first time this season, while on the fast-break, if the initial scoring opportunity was not available then the players were looking for the trailer, or a secondary break - a few times the Bruins even pulled up for a 3-point shot in transition.

Despite suffering a multitude of injuries on the team this season, coach Ben Howland has been able to put together a winning combination of players in games throughout the season.

UCLA will be severely tested this weekend when they play host to the No.12 West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday, January 21st.


(photo credit: LAT)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

UCLA vs. USC - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.16 ranked UCLA Bruins (14-3, 4-2) clash with cross-town rivals the USC Trojans (12-5, 3-3) at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday, January 18th.

The Bruins finally received some encouraging news on the injury front yesterday. A MRI test on the knee of freshman forward Alfred Aboya revealed no new injury and he will be available for the game. In addition, senior Cedric Bozeman was cleared to dribble and shoot the basketball this week in the next step of his rehabilitation process.

UCLA split their games at home last week defeating the Washington St. Cougars 63-61 and losing 69-65 to the Washington Huskies.

The Bruins swept the Trojans last year beating them 72-69 at the Sports Arena and smashing them 90-69 at Pauley Pavilion.

The Trojans come into Westwood having won 12 of their last 15 games and have matched their win total from a year ago.

USC split their games with the Washington schools last week, losing 86-77 to Washington and defeating Washington State 71-66.

USC is having their own injury problems. At the end of December, the Trojans lost 6’10 forward RouSean Cromwell who suffered a fractured right foot.

And yesterday, freshman point guard Ryan Francis bruised his right knee during a collision with a teammate at practice. Francis is listed as day to day.

This is the first season of the Tim Floyd coaching era. Floyd began coaching duties on April 1st this year and has not slowed down since recruiting a nationally-ranked incoming class and installing a new offensive and defensive system.

During non-conference play, the Trojans were shooting an efficient FG% due to better shot selection, and the players appeared to had bought into Floyd’s defensive system. USC was holding opponents to ten points less per game than last year.

However after holding non-conference opponents to 38% FG shooting, Pac-10 conference play has been a different story for the Trojans. USC’s offense and defense has regressed and is giving up almost 47% FG shooting, in addition, it is not defending the three well, allowing 40% from behind the 3-point arc.

In addition, USC is a poor rebounding team. The Trojans are being out rebounded by almost 5 rebounds per game. They really miss an injured RouSean Cromwell underneath the boards.

On the offensive end, most of their scoring is done on the perimeter. The Trojans take a lot of outside jumpers and lead the league in 3-point field goal attempts.

Without any consistent interior scoring threat, the Trojan offense is vulnerable if an opponent can shut down its perimeter scoring. However, the Trojans have some impressive perimeter players for defenses to deal with.

USC is led by a dynamic sophomore duo; guard Gabe Pruitt and forward Nick Young.

Gabe Pruitt (So, 6'4, 170) from Westchester HS is averaging 16.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He is shooting 39% from the 3-point arc and has made five or more 3-pointers in four consecutive games.

Pruitt has NBA offensive skills and made the All Pac-10 conference team. Pruitt scored 19 points against the Bruins at home last year but then was held to 10 points at Pauley.

As usual, Bruin sophomore guard, Arron Afflalo will take on Pruitt - the biggest scoring threat on the Trojan team.

Nick Young (So, 6'6, 195) is the other high scoring Trojan bookend. Young is averaging 17.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, and is shooting 50% from the field and 42% from 3-point land.

Young was an honorable-mention to the All Pac-10 conference team last year. He has improved his FG% shooting under coach Floyd. Last year he shot only 42% but he has improved his shot selection dramatically this year.

Young can work from both the inside and outside offensively, and he is the Trojans leading rebounder this season.

Freshman forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will draw the assignment against the versatile Young. Mbah a Moute’s defense has been inconsistent this year. His length and athleticism allows him to be an effective defender but he sometimes has lapses on the defensive end.

The Trojans only other starter averaging over 10 points a game is junior guard Lodrick Stewart (Jr, 6'4, 210). Stewart is averaging 12.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. He shoots well from behind the arc at a 38% clip.

UCLA freshman guard/forward Michael Roll will likely start on Stewart. Coach Ben Howland has credited Roll for his much improved defense, and he will be challenged by Stewart in this game.

Roll is coming off a season high 17 points against Washington. The Bruins will need consistent production from Roll for the rest of the year, both offensively and defensively.

With USC guard Ryan Francis (Fr, 5’11, 170) day-to-day, senior guard Dwayne Shackleford (5’10, 185) may need to provide extra minutes. So far, Shackleford is averaging only 1.7 points in only 10 minutes per contest.

The Trojans truly need a healthy Francis for this game. He is averaging 7.0 points and a team-high 3.9 assists per game. Francis plays tough defense and would have been a good match-up for UCLA guard Jordan Farmar.

Farmar is still nursing a sore ankle. He played 30 minutes against Washington and dished out a season high 12 assists; however, Farmar only scored 3 points on 1-7 shooting. “We need Jordan to shoot more”, Howland said, especially considering the injuries the team has sustained this season.

The Trojans start a juco transfer, Abdoulaye Ndiaye (Jr, 6'11, 230) from Senegal, at center. Ndiaye is very physical underneath averaging 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. He does not possess any sort of offensive game but leads the Trojans in offensive rebounds.

It’s unclear who the Bruins will start at center against USC. Freshman Ryan Wright started the last game in place of the injured Lorenzo Mata; however, Wright has struggled with his rebounding in Pac-10 play, averaging 1.0 rebound per game.

Coach Howland values rebounding and defense above all from his centers, and unless Wright can regain his rebounding edge, we may see senior center Ryan Hollins start the game against USC.

Hollins, who was limited to 15 minutes of play against Washington after returning from a groin injury, will be expected to play more against USC. He grabbed 4 rebounds against Washington.

Senior center Michael Fey played only 1 minute against Washington and may still see his minutes limited due to an ankle sprain and lack of conditioning.

The key to the game, and this will repeated for every UCLA preview write-up while Ben Howland is coach, is defense and rebounding.

The Bruins need to shut down the perimeter game of the Trojans by controlling Pruitt, Young, and Stewart. No easy task but the Bruins have the athleticism, length, and coaching to get it done.

Second, the Bruins must take advantage of the Trojan’s weak rebounding and not allow second chance shots. In addition, controlling the boards will help the Bruins ignite their transition game.

Although, it would appear based upon match-ups the Bruins should be able to score efficiently through their half-court sets against the Trojans. In the first half of both games against the Washington schools, the Bruins executed their half-court offensive sets flawlessly.

However, this young Bruin team needs to demonstrate it can execute their offense effectively for an entire 40 minutes.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

UCLA Men's Basketball Injury Update (1/17)

By Bruin Basketball Report

An MRI performed Saturday on Alfred Aboya's knee did not reveal any new injury and he is expected to play against USC tomorrow.

He practiced yesterday and today without any pain or problems with the knee.

Aboya left the game against Washington on Saturday after feeling a twinge in his knee during a play. Aboya missed the first six games of the season after having surgery on both knees during the offseason.

Coach Ben Howland had considered re-inserting Aboya back into the game during the second half against Washington because Aboya felt better but chose not to due his knee injury history, and Howland wanted to have an MRI completed first.

The Bruins received more positive news on the injury front.

Red-shirt senior forward Cedric Bozeman, who missed the Bruin's first six Pac-10 games with a shoulder injury, was cleared by team physicians to resume shooting and dribbling this week. He did not experience any pain after a shooting session this week.

It has not been determined whether Bozeman will be able to return this season. He will continue his rehabiliation, and a final determination on his playing status will be made in a few weeks.

Bozeman, who hurt his left shoulder in a collision with Josh Shipp during a practice, was averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game before his injury. He was shooting 53% from the field and 45% from beyond the 3-point line.


King of the Gym Rats

By Mark Patton
Senior Writer, Santa Barbara News-Press
Originally published 12/10/05 in SB News-Press
(Reprinted with permission)

It didn't take Mary Howland long to realize that she had to get her bouncing little boy out of the house and bouncing a basketball.

"I was a wild and out-of-control little kid, and she needed a break," Ben Howland conceded. "She took me to the Goleta Boys Club for the first time when I was about 8 or 9.

"That turned out to be a pretty great thing for me."

Four decades later, during his third year as UCLA's basketball coach, he has the Bruins bouncing back into national prominence. They were ranked 16th nationally entering this weekend's John Wooden Classic at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.

The third season has always been the charm for Howland. It was his breakthrough year as a head coach at Northern Arizona University, where a 21-7 season marked the 10th best single-season turnaround in NCAA history.

He led the University of Pittsburgh -- once described as "the graveyard of basketball coaches" by Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News -- to a 28-5 record and No. 4 ranking by the end of his third season there in 2002-03.

And Howland's third year in resurrecting UCLA's once proud program comes during a milestone season: His 25th in college coaching.

But those who know him best say he set his course much earlier than that -- way back when he became king of the gym rats at the Goleta Boys Club.

"I remember him telling me back in eighth grade how he was going to become the best Division 1 basketball coach that anyone has ever seen," said Tom DeMarcus, a fellow Boys Clubber. "He was saying this all the time.

"We'd tell him, 'You've got to be kidding . . . C'mon, Ben -- just shut up, will you?' "

But Howland would stop at nothing short of breaking-and-entering to prepare himself for his big break in basketball.

"The great challenge for us was to sneak into the club," he recalled fondly. "I mean, we couldn't get enough.

"I remember how upset Sal (Rodriguez, the club director) would get. He would drop by on a Sunday, when the gym was supposed to be closed, and find the place full of kids playing basketball."

It soon became a game of "cat and mouse," especially after Rodriguez started putting chains on the gym door on weekends.

"We would have to climb up onto the roof and through a window, and then climb back down to open the front door," Howland pointed out. "That's how much we loved to play -- it meant everything to us to get in there and play basketball."

He earned a reputation as a determined coach with a brusque approach, a persona that was formed at the club.

"There was a guy there back then by the name of Pablo Lino who would just hammer you in dodge ball," Howland said. "So you learn about toughness -- the toughness of being able to take a Pablo Lino ball off the head and keep playing, and not go home crying."

He said the Boys Club was also where he developed the "thick skin" to deal with the criticism that comes with coaching a high-profile program.

"If you lose at the club, you're going to hear about it," he pointed out. "Your friends at the club are very clear about that."

Chris Carlson -- a former UCSB assistant who has accompanied him during his tours of Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and now UCLA --said it's helped Howland in his approach with a sometimes combative media.

"I think he's learned over time that it doesn't serve a purpose to avoid everything or give cliches to everything," said Carlson, who is now the director of basketball operations at UCLA. "In that respect, I think he's formed a pretty good relationship with the media.

"When they speak to him, they know they're getting the truth."

Howland also learned some practical lessons at the Boys Club, such as the simple value of a game of 3-on-3.

"Kids today, they can't stand to do that -- for everyone, it's 5-on-5 or nothing," he observed. "I make our players play 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 halfcourt because that's where you learn how to cut, and screen, and move without the ball.

"These are things I learned right there at the Goleta Boys Club as a child. It made a big impact on my career and how I coach the game."

He figures he still holds one Goleta Boys Club Tomahawk League record: Most shots in a game.

"In 32 minutes of running time, with one minute of stopped time at the end of each half, I once attempted 48 shots," Howland declared proudly. "I think I made 15 of them."

Rodriguez verified Howland's record, although with one correction: "It was 49 shots, actually."

Howland's mother still lives in Santa Barbara, although his dad, the Rev. Bob Howland, passed away just a few months after his son took the Bruin job in the spring of 2003.

"That UCLA press conference was a special moment for me because both my mom and dad were there," he said. "And I was coming back home."

Ben Howland's own children are both back in Pennsylvania. Daughter Meredith, a former Pitt cheerleader, is in her last year of nursing school there. Son Adam is a freshman playing Division 3 basketball at Haverford College in Philadelphia.

"I've had great experiences everywhere I've been, but Santa Barbara is home," Howland affirmed. "I'm a part of this community. I think that Santa Barbara is the greatest community in the United States."

He attended Fairview Elementary School, Goleta Valley Junior High and Dos Pueblos High School for a year until his father changed churches and moved the family to Cerritos. But Howland was soon back in town, rejoining such fellow Goleta gym rats as DeMarcus, Danny Pagliotti, Arnie Beck, Greg Henderson and Mark Mattos on the basketball team at SBCC.

He also played with Mattos at Weber State. And after spending a year as a graduate assistant at Gonzaga, Howland was back in Santa Barbara, beginning a 12-year career as a UCSB assistant coach.

"I went through every level of education in this community," Howland pointed out. "It means so much to me, and I'm so proud, to represent Santa Barbara in a small way everywhere that I go. And I tell you, it all started for me at that club."

He helped Jerry Pimm take UCSB to two NCAA Tournament berths and three NIT appearances during a six-year span from 1987-93.

"Jerry was a great mentor," said Howland. "I'll always be thankful to him for teaching me as much as he did."

Pimm also helped settle down Mary Howland's bouncing baby boy. The retired coach laughs when recalling the early days at UCSB, when he had to keep Howland from confronting referees:

"I used to tell him, 'Ben, let me handle the officials -- one of us is enough, and I've done it for enough years. If you want to yell at our team, but not the other team, that's fine. You've got carte blanche to get after our team.'

"But the thing is, Ben became a very good teacher. Players respect him because he puts his heart and soul into it."

Howland left UCSB to take the head job at Northern Arizona in 1994. Those close to him say he was bitterly disappointed when the Gauchos bypassed him to hire Bob Williams as Pimm's successor in 1998, but that was before Pitt and UCLA.

"I'm at UCLA now, which is a dream job," he said. "To me, UCLA is something I dreamed about back in my parents' home in Goleta, watching those games on TV, night in and night out, when John Wooden was the coach.

"This is the dream. I'm living the dream, and I couldn't be more blessed or more happy."

He lost a home game to UCSB in his first season at UCLA -- a game set up by his predecessor -- but he won't schedule the Gauchos or most other Southern California schools.

"I still pull for the Gauchos," Howland said. "Bob's a real good coach and I wish him the very best. I appreciate all the people up there."

He has remained close to many of the old Goleta gym rats, even the ones who used to fire dodge balls at his head. He spoke at a local Boys Club benefit in September and was in town for a Halloween party just before this season started.

"The big thing about Ben is what a great friend he is," said DeMarcus. "He's been known by some for his gruffness, but one of his great qualities is that he doesn't forget the people he grew up with. That's a pretty neat quality."

Carlson said that while Howland may seem doggedly stubborn, his success has come from an acquired trait of adaptability.

"Each place where he's been has been very distinct and different from the one he'd just left," he explained. "At the same time, his experiences at NAU and Pitt and UCSB have all served him well here at UCLA."

Howland said his plan at Northern Arizona was to "recruit to shoot."

At Pitt, he targeted "tough, inner-city prospects who wanted to bang."

"Here at UCLA, I want to get the upper-echelon kid who wants to get up and down the floor," he said. "That's our anticipation, to get an up-tempo game as much as possible.

"It just hasn't materialized yet, because we've been so banged up this year. We've only been able to play eight or nine guys. I've been doing this for 25 straight years as an assistant and head coach, and I've never even had close to this many injuries."

That has made this one of his most frustrating seasons so far, he admits. But it has also had its moments of satisfaction, particularly when UCLA advanced to the semifinals of the Preseason NIT in New York.

"It allowed me to spend Thanksgiving with my kids back there, with my entire family," said Howland.

Carlson said it was the perfect holiday for a man with few hobbies.

"He's all about just basketball, his program and his family," he said. "There really is not much else in between."


Monday, January 16, 2006

UCLA Drop In Rankings After Split At Home

By Bruin Basketball Report

In college basketball rankings released earlier today, the UCLA Bruins are ranked No.16 in the ESPN/USA Today and No.18 in the AP polls.

UCLA (14-3, 4-2) dropped four spots in the ESPN/USA Today and a huge seven spots in the AP. It would appear AP voters took into account the multitude of injuries on the team in the present ranking.

The Bruins split a pair of home games last week with a victory over Washington St. on Thursday 63-61 and a defeat to Washington on Saturday 69-65.

The Washington Huskies (14-2, 3-2) were rewarded with a return to the top 10 ranking in both polls after a sweep over the southern California schools last week. The Huskies were ranked No.13 last week.

The Bruins and Huskies are the only two Pac-10 teams ranked this week.

For the first time since 2000, the Arizona Wildcats (10-6, 3-3) were swept in Oregon, as a result the Wildcats were dropped from both polls.

The Bruin's non-conference opponent on Saturday, West Virginia, jumped in the polls after victories over Providence and Georgetown last week. The Mountaineers are No.12 in the AP and No.17 the ESPN/USA Today polls setting up a big top 25 clash against UCLA this coming weekend.

The Bruins dropped in RPI ranking to No.12 (from No.10) but remain the top ranked Pac-10 team in terms of RPI.

UCLA's strength of schedule (SOS) jumped significantly to No.8 (from No.22) after playing two Top 50 RPI ranked team last week in Washington and Washington St.


Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (1/16)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup published every Monday during the season.


Santa Margarita forward James Keefe might not play Wednesday when the Eagles, ranked No. 7 in the Southland by The Times, play host to No. 3 Santa Ana Mater Dei in a Serra League boys' basketball opener for both teams, Coach Jerry DeBusk said.Keefe, a 6-foot-8 senior who signed with UCLA, injured his back in the opening-round game of the Orange tournament on Dec. 26, when his legs were cut out from under him as he grabbed a rebound, causing him to land on the outstretched legs of another player, DeBusk said. L.A. Times (1/11)

Santa Margarita All-County forward James Keefe might not play because of a bruised and sore back. "We're preparing as if he's going to play," Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. Keefe is a gamer, so that back hurts a lot if he does not play tonight. O.C. Register (1/11)

Anyway, the importance of the game returned Santa Margarita senior forward James Keefe to the court. He had played only briefly in one game since injuring his back Dec.26. Wearing protective padding under his jersey, Keefe was magnificent, scoring 26 points and making six shots in a row in the second half. Like the best ones, Keefe plays his best in the biggest games. Same with Mater Dei junior Taylor King. King scored 26, too, with one of the county's top defensive players, long-armed Jonathan Gunderson, all over him. O.C. Register (1/13)


Russell Westbrook said he's learning to expect teams building defensive game plans to stop him and wants to learn how to use it to improve. Daily Breeze (1/11)

Russell Westbrook, a 6-2 senior guard from Lawndale, Calif., chose not to sign in the fall and that's looking like a good decision. Westbrook scored 51 points in a game recently and he is having a great senior year. UCLA and Washington State are evaluating Westbrook and we think he'll likely end up at a high major program after having mostly mid major offers in the fall. FoxSports (1/12)

Russell Westbrook had 26 points, 10 rebounds and six steals and visiting Leuzinger (16-2, 2-0) rallied from a six-point halftime deficit. Daily Breeze (1/14)

Kevin Love, the top junior big man in the nation, has three favorites, and two of them are in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Although he has not officially narrowed his list, Love has said Duke, North Carolina and UCLA are at the top of it. Kansas and Ohio State are not far behind. Love is a 6-9, 265-pound power forward/center from Lake Oswego (Ore.) High School. He is ranked No. 3 in the junior class. Fayetteville Online (1/10)

Junior Kevin Love had 24 points and 15 rebounds and senior Mike McLaughlin added 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 2 Lake Oswego to a 69-42 home win over No. 8 Clackamas in a Three Rivers League boys basketball game Tuesday. Love also had six blocks and five assists for the Lakers, who led 60-20 early in the fourth quarter. The Oregonian (1/11)

Lake Oswego (9-3, 3-0) emerged with a win, thanks to their 6-foot-10 powerhouse, Kevin Love. The junior restored order by making two free throws with four seconds left and finished with 44 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in a 70-67 victory The Oregonian (1/14)

"They might be. I don't think anyone would argue with you if you said this was the best group of players ever." The centerpieces are Kevin Love and Kyle Singler, both ranked among the top six nationally in the Class of 2007 by recruiting Web sites and Love, a 6-foot-10 junior forward, last season became the first sophomore to win state player of the year and routinely draws comparisons to Sitton and Washington, arguably the most dominant prep players in state history. The Oregonian (1/10)

“I thought Seth did a good job on Kyle Singler,” Crawford said. “We played man-to-man the whole game, and Seth played well.” Singler finished with 17 South Medford points, while Harthun had 18. Herald and News (1/11)

The Blue Devils doubled up with a second top-25-caliber player Thursday, when junior forward Taylor King of California also made a verbal commitment. Taylor, who originally committed to UCLA, picked the Blue Devils over Villanova and Gonzaga. Herald-Sun (1/13)

The South Lakes boys basketball team (8-4,5-0) won its sixth consecutive game, and remained undefeated in the Liberty District with a 60-47 win over W.T. Woodson Monday at Woodson.Curtis Keys led the charge with 16 points while Julian Vaughn chipped in 15 points and 13 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. The Connection Newspapers (1/11)

Junior Kamyron Brown of Santa Ana Mater Dei has taken over full-time point guard duties this season, replacing Mike Gerrity, who is currently leading Pepperdine in scoring, assists and steals. L.A. Times (1/14)

Larry Drew scored 21 points and added nine rebounds and four assists. Teammate Garrett Green had seven points and 12 rebounds. L.A. Daily News (1/14)

Senior guard Patrick Christopher and junior guard Quinton Watkins each scored 25 points and senior guard Dezon Otis added 15 as the Dons began SGVL play by beating the Gladiators 93-75 at Dominguez. Press Telegram (1/12)

Dominguez is led by 6-foot-5 senior guard Patrick Christopher, who's signed with Cal, 6-4 junior guard Quinton Watkins and 6-1 sophomore point guard Brandon Jennings.
All three are athletic and all three can score. Press-Telegram (1/11)

Senior guard Patrick Christopher scored 17 points and sophomore guard Brandon Jennings had 15 as Dominguez avenged an earlier loss to Westchester by beating the Comets 69-52 at the Dream Classic Invitational at Hope International University. Press Telegram (1/15)

Jrue Holiday, the top shooting guard in West Coast class of 2008, is drawing early interest from UCLA, Washington, Stanford, Florida State and Arizona. Coaches from those programs have already visited Holiday at Campbell Hall High in North Hollywood, Calif., this season. Holiday, a terrific scorer, is quick enough to guard point guards and strong enough to play the two. With continued development, he has a chance to be among the elite guards in the country for 2008. FoxSports (1/12)

Gordon out: Mitty's Drew Gordon, one of the country's top sophomore centers, will miss his second straight game tonight after receiving two technical fouls in his team's WCAL opener last week. S.F. Chronicle (1/10)

The Monarchs (12-4, 3-2) didn't need a big game from their marquee player, 6-9 sophomore center Drew Gordon, who had just nine points, eight rebounds and four blocks. S.F. Chronicle (1/15)

Zane Johnson's play has been the one constant for Thunderbird this season.He has scored at least 30 points five times, even though he is often double- and triple-teamed. He is also averaging more than eight rebounds a game, to go along with close to five assists. (1/11)

However, another post player has caught the eyes of several Northwest coaches: Westview center Andy Poling. The 6-11 sophomore is making a name for himself in his second season for the Wildcats. As of Jan. 7, he was averaging 17.8 points, up from 12 last season. The Oregonian (1/12)

Andy Poling, Westview basketball: Poling, a sophomore, scored eight of the Wildcats' 10 points in overtime during Westview's 69-66 win against Beaverton last Thursday. He converted all four of his free-throw attempts and added two field goals, finishing with a season-high 34 points. The Oregonian (1/12)

“That guy is good,” said the La Marque boys basketball coach of 6-foot-8 sophomore Luke Babbitt, who scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Grizzlies pulled out a 62-58 overtime win over the Cougars. Galveston County Daily News (1/9)

Luke Babbitt powered the inside to lead Galena with a 20-point performance, including a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Lahontan Valley News (1/12)


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Afflalo's Playing Best For UCLA...Pass It On

Nothing against Farmar, who is a fabulous player. Daniel Gibson and Darius Washington get more hype, but Farmar is the best sophomore point guard in America. But he's not the best player at UCLA. Not the best sophomore. Not even the best guard.

Here's another insider tip, something you can use to impress your friends:

Arron Afflalo.

Afflalo, a 6-foot-5 sophomore shooting guard, has overtaken Farmar and damn near everyone else out West. Not that Afflalo seems to care about that. He says he's not competing with Farmar, and UCLA coach Ben Howland says he's not lying. CBS Sportsline

Bruins' Players Injury Bugged

They could try laughing, but that would probably injure something. Could try cursing the fates, but somebody would no doubt rip a vocal cord.

So mostly they shrug. Say what are they supposed to do? Just keep playing, and try to be very careful not to trip over the next fallen teammate.

The UCLA Bruins aren't a basketball team, they're a medical experiment. They're a walking exercise in kinesiology, or would be if most of them could walk.

A lot of them are limping, which is difficult to do while carrying X-rays. They're bandaged and stitched. There are more tears in the Bruins than a frayed ancient document.

They are a standing headline: Another Bruin lost to injury.

The thing about it is, they keep manufacturing different combinations, using one unproven freshman after another, and mostly winning. L.A. Daily News