Saturday, March 11, 2006

UCLA Has Much In Reserve

By Gregg Patton, Staff Writer
The Press-Enterprise

So, UCLA's centerpiece player, Jordan Farmar, disappears to the bench five minutes into the game with his second offensive foul.

And after the sophomore point guard comes back eight minutes later, he produces one of his least inspiring games of the year in the semifinals of the Pacific-10 Tournament against Arizona.

So what's the big deal?

With freshman backup Darren Collison picking up the slack -- a career-high 15-point game -- the Bruins rolled to an easier-than-it-looks 71-59 win over the Wildcats.

UCLA is looking so ridiculously good these days, even a freshman can offer a pithy analysis.

"It's scary how many weapons we have," said Collison, an Etiwanda High product who has played so well lately, the team barely misses a beat when Farmar sits down. "I think this team can go pretty far (in the NCAA Tournament) if we stick to our defensive roles."

Suffocating defense has been the defining key for the Bruins this year.

But the offense clicked nicely Friday night, too, especially with Collison racing the ball up the court, taking a page from Farmar's book.

"Darren came right in where I left off and kept it going," said Farmar, who had six assists, but negated that number with seven turnovers, including three offensive fouls. He had a paltry 5 points.

That might have been a recipe for disaster early in the year, but these days Collison is more of a Plan 1A to Farmar than a Plan B.

He was 6 of 10 shooting from the floor, leading the team in scoring for the first time. He had only one assist, but was effective at pushing the ball up court and getting the Bruins rapidly into their offense.

Most pleasing was his lack of turnovers -- perhaps the one statistic that tells the freshman from Rancho Cucamonga that he's found his college game. Collison brought a special quickness gear with him from high school but had to figure out how and when to use it.

"With my speed, Coach was always saying, 'Slow down, you're a little too quick out there,' " said Collison. "It was tough to learn, but the big thing was to limit my turnovers."

Zero was the magic number against Arizona.

If he has figured out when to turn the speed on and off, he also has been an effective part of the Bruins' stifling defense.

"I didn't really have to guard guys in high school," said Collison, who was deft enough to get by on his talent alone.

Division I basketball is something else.

"I had to get much more intense on defense," he said. "I think that's what I do now -- bring a lot of energy to the floor, especially on the defensive end."

At 6-foot, 155 pounds, Collison is often the smallest player on the floor. His game on both ends is predicated on having fast hands and faster feet.

But then again, the Bruins as a whole have never displayed more quickness and intensity on the defensive end of the floor.

After the Steve Lavin years, it's almost hard to imagine a UCLA team getting in the faces of their Pac-10 opponents, night after night.

"We're starting to make a habit of playing aggressive defense for 40 minutes," said sophomore forward Arron Afflalo. "That takes its toll on teams."

It did on Arizona, which had 15 turnovers and shot only 37 percent in the second half, when UCLA ran a seven-point halftime lead up as high as 22.

Said Collison, "This team loves playing defense. We compete against each other really hard in practice, and that carries over to the games."

The current run has the Bruins at 26-6, and a win today away from a tourney title. That would bookend nicely with their regular-season championship.

Those baubles were all on UCLA's radar at the beginning of the season and will make a nice addition to the Bruins historic collection.

But that was no small milestone they pocketed almost by accident against Arizona. It's the first-time a Bruins team has swept three games from the Wildcats in a season -- a notable achievement considering Arizona's dominance in the Pac-10 for the past two decades.

It seemed very much an afterthought in the wake of Friday's victory.

"That was a good Arizona team we beat three times," senior Ryan Hollins said. "But we can't rest on that."

Rest? It's not something the Bruins do much of these days.

Orginally published in The Press-Enterprise March 11, 2006
(reprinted with permission)


UCLA vs. California - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.1 seed UCLA Bruins (26-6, 14-4) play the No.3 seed California Bears for the Pac-10 tournament championship this afternoon at Staples Center.

California (20-9, 12-6) went into double-overtime to outlast the Oregon Ducks, 91-87 late Friday evening. With the victory, the Bears are almost assured a spot in the NCAA's field of 64.

Against Oregon, forward Leon Powe scored a career-high 41 points on 14-17 shooting from the floor and was 13-18 from the foul line.

He was helped by fellow All-Pac-10 Team member, Ayinde Ubaka, who finished with 17 points in the contest.

Freshman Theo Robertson has been playing key minutes for the Bears as of late. He scored 18 points against the Ducks and was 3-3 from three-point range.

Both Powe and Ubaka played heavy minutes in the Oregon game. Powe played 47 minutes while Ubaka was close behind with 46 minutes in the game.

With the title game beginning on Saturday at 3:00 PM, the Bears will not have much time to rest at their hotel before having to come back to the arena for the title game.

UCLA and California split their two regular season games with each team winning on the opponent’s home court. At Pauley Pavilion on New Year’s Eve, Cal defeated UCLA 68-61, while back at Haas Pavilion; the Bruins defeated the Bears 67-58.

Powe scored 20 points in the last game against the Bruins, but he was only able to score 5 points in the second half. UCLA’s strategy of sending fresh bodies at Powe to defend him appeared to wear him down during the second half.

The Bruins were selective with their double teams against Powe in the last game. Both Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya did a good job denying the ball to Powe. The two players from Cameroon will likely get the call again to defend Powe on Saturday.

After logging 47 minutes against Oregon, it will be interesting how Powe recovers to play on Saturday.

Ayinde Ubaka is the Bears’ second leading scorer with 14.6 points per game. He has scored in double figures in four games straight. Ubaka was only 3-14 for 12 points against UCLA in their last game. Arron Afflalo did a great job defending Ubaka and limiting his shot selection.

Cal’s freshman guard Theo Robertson (6’5, 240) has played well coming off the bench lately. He is averaging 5.8 points per game. He hit the key basket from the wing to force the last UCLA game into overtime which the Bruins eventually won.

With starting guard Omar Wilkes struggling offensively, Robertson may get more minutes against UCLA. He scored 18 points against Oregon in the semifinal and was 3-3 from three-point distance.

Cal’s center DeVon Hardin has struggled in tournament play and has averaged only 1 point and 4 rebounds in two games. But he has played tough defensively in both games against the Bruins this season.

UCLA's seven-footer Ryan Hollins is a good match-up against Hardin defensively. Although Hardin is athletic, he does not possess strong post moves and will have some difficulty scoring against the bigger Hollins.

The Bears' physical frontline has given UCLA trouble this season. Hollins, Aboya and Mbah a Moute will need to play a solid game on both ends of the court to neutalize Cal's advantage inside.

Sophomore guard Jordan Farmar looks to bounce back from a tough game against Arizona. He shot 2-6 for only 5 points in the game.

Senior Cedric Bozeman will be playing in the last Pac-10 game of his career. Despite injuring his left ankle against Oregon St. on Wednesday, he played 27 minutes against Arizona and scored 9 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.

"This is my last hurrah," said Bozeman, a fifth-year senior. "I want to go out with a bang.

UCLA’s depth has been the key to their victories so far in the tournament. The Bruin team has overpowered and out-hustled their opponents especially in the second half of play.

With Cal likely playing fatigued tomorrow due to the early start time and consecutive tournament games, UCLA's depth may very well be the deciding factor in the game.


Collison Sparks Bruins To Victory Over Arizona

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

With Jordan Farmar struggling and tagged with two early fouls, Coach Ben Howland needed Darren Collison to step-up for the team, and the freshman point guard answered the call.

Collison scored a career-high 15 points on 6-10 shooting, including 2-3 from three-point distance, to lift UCLA to a 71-59 over the Arizona Wildcats in a semifinal game of the Pac-10 tournament.

"Yeah, I'm a little surprised," Collison said of scoring a career-high as a Bruin "Coach told me to be aggressive and take it to the basket tonight."

UCLA (26-6, 14-4) began the game sluggishly primarily due to the pressure defense of Arizona. The Bruins struggled to match the Wildcat's energy at the start.

Chris Rodgers, Arizona’s defensive specialist, hounded Farmar full-court and caused him to commit two (questionable) offensive fouls in the first five minutes of play.

Farmar left the game with the Bruins down 11-10, and Collison entered the game in his place.

Collison immediately began pushing the ball up the court - energizing his team from the point as UCLA went on a 15-4 run.

During the span, Collison hit a five-foot floater in the lane and sunk a three-pointer, and more importantly, created scoring opportunities for his teammates in transition.

Arizona’s Mustafa Shakur will be glad he won’t be facing Collison again until next year.

For the third straight game, Shakur was overmatched by the speedy freshman. Shakur finished the game with 5 points on 2-7 shooting. In the three games against Collison and UCLA, he has averaged a miserable 4.3 points per game on 4-21 shooting.

UCLA went into halftime protecting a 33-26 lead despite being out-shot by the Wildcats 47% to 39% from the floor. UCLA had six offensive rebounds and six steals by halftime which resulted in the team taking ten more shots than the Wildcats by halftime.

The Bruins came out for the second half with a lot more defensive intensity which appeared to demoralize the Wildcats. UCLA started it with a 19-6 run to put the game away.

Arizona was playing without their leading scorer Hassan Adams, and without him, the Wildcats did not have nearly enough firepower to answer the Bruin's offensive bombardment in the second half.

With UCLA making some halftime adjustments on offense, the Bruins came out and shot a sizzling 65% from the floor in the second half.

UCLA had struggled scoring against Arizona when the Wildcats ended the half playing a 1-3-1 zone. In the second half, the Bruins attacked the zone defense more with dribble penetration and crisp passing with most of their scores coming in the paint.

After taking 13 three-point field goal attempts in the first half, UCLA took only five the rest of the game. The Bruins scored 36 of their total points in the paint.

In addition, Coach Howland neutralized Chris Rodgers' defensive pressure on the ball by having the guard who was not being guarded by Rodgers bring the ball up the court to set up the offense.

Senior Cedric Bozeman shook off the effects of a left sprained ankle to start and play 27 minutes in the game. He scored 9 points on 4-10 shooting and also grabbed 4 rebounds of which 3 were offensive rebounds that resulted in put-backs.

Guard Arron Afflalo played a solid game hitting 5-9 from the floor for 12 points in 32 minutes of play.

Tying for team-high rebounds with seven were Luc Richard Mbah and Ryan Hollins.

Mbah a Moute also scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting. Interestingly, many of his scores were on dribble drives to his left

In previous games, Mbah a Moute had a common habit of going to his right whenever he put the ball on the floor which allowed defenders to anticipate his move and steal the ball. However, coaches obviously pointed this out to him, and in the always-improving world of Luc Richard, this is no longer the case.

Ryan Hollins had another solid game on both ends of the court. In addition to his rebounding, he scored 7 points, blocked 2 shots, and controlled the defensive paint in his 24 minutes of play.

Aflred Aboya came off the bench to score 7 points on 3-4 shooting. He also had the play of the game when he was on the receiving end of a lob pass from fellow Cameroonian Mbah a Moute which he converted into a rousing slam dunk. UCLA’s bench outscored Arizona’s 26-4.

With the Bruins raising the intensity bar on defense in the second half, the Wildcats appeared to wear down.

That's what coach really emphasizes - defense," Collison said. "On the defensive end, we did what we had to do."

“They really play well together,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said, “they play very physical and they have a lot of weapons." "There's no question the better team won."

UCLA now possess a six-game winning streak and are clearly playing their best basketball of the season.

For most of the year, it was Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo carrying the team offensively.

In this game, the backcourt duo accounted for only 24% of the team’s points, in comparison, when the two teams last met in February, Farmar and Afflalo accounted for over 48% of the team’s total points. The Bruins are improving and evolving as a unit.

"You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season.” Howland said, “But not only are we playing good, we're getting better. This is truly a team."

"Although we won by 12, the score was not indicative that we were pretty much in control the last 16, 17 minutes," said Howland. "It was fun."

UCLA faces the California Bears in the championship game of the Pac-10 tournament tomorrow. The Bears edged the Oregon Ducks 91-87 in 2 overtime periods in the second semifinal game.


(photo credit: AP)

Friday, March 10, 2006

UCLA vs. Arizona - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.1 seed UCLA Bruins take on the No.4 seed Arizona Wildcats in a semifinal match-up in the Pac-10 tournament.

The Bruins (25-6, 14-4) easily disposed of the Oregon St. Beavers 79-47 on Thursday. Led by Ryan Hollins 17 points and 8 rebounds, the Bruins never trailed and put the game away at the start of the second half.

Arizona (19-11, 11-7) advanced to the semifinal with a 73-68 victory over Stanford. Four of five Arizona starters scored in double figures led by Ivan Radenovic's 21 points.

But it was the Wildcat defense which was difference in the game. Arizona forced Stanford into a season-high 23 turnovers on 13 steals. Guard Chris Rodgers had 5 steals by himself as the Wildcat pressure defense unraveled Stanford.

"It's the best defensive team we've had,” Arizona coach Lute Olson said, “and I think that pressure on the ball forced a lot of those turnovers. We ended up with 16 more possessions as a result of the turnover margin."

Arizona won despite shooting only 39% from the field versus Stanford’s 50%; and were out-rebounded 33-25.

The Wildcats will be looking for payback when they face the Bruins in their next semifinal match-up.

UCLA swept Arizona this year in conference play for the first time since the 1996-1997 season. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats in Tucson 85-79 behind 22 points from Arron Afflalo; and beat them again in Pauley 84-73 when Afflalo scored a career-high 27 points.

Arizona is without their leader and top scorer, Hassan Adams, who was suspended from the tournament due to a DUI arrest over the weekend. He was averaging 17.3 points and 2.7 steals per game.

Against Stanford, a number of Wildcats stepped up to make up for Adam’s absence from the line-up

In addition to his game-high 21 points, forward Ivan Radenovic grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds, and got to the foul line often shooting 9-10 from the stripe. Radenovic averaged 11.4 points per game during the regular season.

Radenovic has played well against UCLA in both their meetings scoring 30 points on 12-16 (75%) shooting. He can step out and hit from the perimeter, but at the urging of coach Lute Olson, he has been posting up effectively inside.

Depending on whether Radenovic is paired with teammate Kirk Walter in the line-up, coach Ben Howland will likely rotate Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alfred Aboya, and Ryan Hollins on him hoping to slow him down.

Arizona’s Chris Rodgers has not shot well from the field this year (34%) nor has he shot well from three-point distance (35%). Yet, he creates most of his offensive opportunities from his suffocating defense.

Rodgers is averaging 9.4 points and 2.2 steals per game. His defensive pressure on Stanford's guard Chris Hernandez was a key to the Wildcat victory on Thursday.

The Bruins, who have been prone to turnovers this year, must take good care of the ball. Against Oregon St the Bruins committed 11 turnovers in the first-half, but only 4 in the second half. Not surprisingly, UCLA began pulling away in the second half after they began cutting down on their turnovers.

Arizona's junior guard Mustafa Shakur has been inconsistent this year but pulled together a great game against Stanford. He scored 18 points and dished out 6 assists in the loss.

However, Shakur has struggled. mightily against the Bruins this year. He has scored only 8 points on 2-14 (14%) shooting and has committed 7 turnovers in two games.

UCLA guard Darren Collison has given Shakur fits in both games with his speed and quickness.

With Hassan Adams out, Shakur’s play on Thursday may determine how well Arizona does in the game.

Arizona’s Marcus Williams has had a terrific freshman campaign. He was the runner-up to UCLA’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.

Williams scored 19 points in the first meeting against UCLA but only 11 in the rematch at Pauley. The biggest difference between the two games was the defense of UCLA’s Cedric Bozeman.

Bozeman did not play in the first game due to injury (shoulder) but played in the second game and he completely blanketed Williams. Unfortuantely for the Bruins, Bozeman may not play on Friday.

Shortly before the end of the first half against the Beavers on Thursday, Bozeman sprained his ankle. Whether Bozeman will play on Friday – it will be up to the coaching staff who have indicated his playing status will be a game-day decision.

If Bozeman does not suit up for the game then UCLA’s Michael Roll and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will match-up with Williams.

Center Kirk Walters was 6-6 for 14 points against the Bruins in the second conference game and was aggressive in the paint. With Hollins and Alfred Aboya presently playing good solid interior defense, the Bruins should be able to match-up better with Walters this time around.

Arizona reserve Bret Brielmaier played a season-high 25 minutes against Stanford in place of Hassan Adams. He scored 6 points on 3-6 shooting. Brielmaier has been known to hit key shots during a game.

UCLA has been playing their best basketball of the year, and much of it can be attributed to the improved play of senior center Ryan Hollins.

In just his last two contests, Hollins has averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds per game while shooting 73% (11-15) from the field. He needs to continue his stellar play – both offensively and defensively, especially if both Radenovic and Walters play well on Friday.

Bruin opponents have been attempting to exploit the Bruin's weakness against zone defenses, but it appears coach Howland and the team have finally solved the zone.

Over the past few games, Michael Roll has been consistently hitting from three-point distance. He is 6-7 from beyond the arc in his last two games (86%).

In addition, the Bruins have altered their offensive sets against zone defenses. Rather than have Jordan Farmar dribble the ball around the perimeter of the defense, they now put Farmar in the soft corners of the zone where his shot has been deadly.

Beavers’ coach Jay John tried a 2-3 zone for only a short while against UCLA on Thursday, but when Farmar and Roll showed they could hit the three-point shot, the zone was called off.

The Bruin offense has been humming along. They are scoring inside with their big men and scoring from the perimeter with solid three-point shooting. Against the Beavers, the Bruins shot 10-16 (62%) from beyond the three-point arc.

The Bruins have scored 70 or more points in four of the last five games and are shooting at a 54% clip from the floor.

As they did against the Beavers, UCLA needs to come out against Arizona with energy and intensity to avoid a slow start.

Although the Wildcats are without Hassan Adams, they still have a lot of offensive weapons in Radenovic, Shakur, and Williams. In addition, Arizona has won many games this year with their pressure defense creating turnovers and scoring opportunities.

The Bruins need to make sure they take care of the ball and play with the urgency they have displayed in their previous two games.

If UCLA beats Arizona then they will face the winner of the Oregon Ducks/California Bears contest. On Thursday, No.7 seed Oregon upset No.2 Washington; while No.3 seed California took care of No.6 seed USC to advance to their semifinal game.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bruins Take Care Of Business, Beat OSU

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Coming into the game heavily favored against an injury-riddled Oregon St. team (OSU), coach Ben Howland wanted his team to get out to an early big lead to allow him to rest his starters.

Mission accomplished.

The Bruins went on a 14-0 run to begin the second half and put the game quickly out of reach to beat the Oregon St. Beavers, 79-47.

"We were able to get through this game limiting the number of minutes for Jordan and Arron," Bruins coach Ben Howland said. "That's great because when you're playing three games in a row -- if we're fortunate enough to be able to win tomorrow -- you want to be able to stay fresh."

No Bruin played more than 24 minutes in the game. The backcourt duo of Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo played only 22 and 23 minutes, respectively. Afflalo scored 16 points on 3-4 shooting from three-point distance; while Farmar finished with 7 points and 5 assists.

Senior center Ryan Hollins continued his outstanding play of late. Hollins scored a season-high 17 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. He continued to get good low post position in this game, and it appears his teammates are gaining more confidence in passing the ball down low to him in the low blocks.

"My teammates were doing a great job of getting me the ball," Hollins said. "I know I can help the team. I just try to do the little things."

Yesterday, OSU rallied to upset the Arizona Sun Devils, despite playing without their leading scorer Sasa Cuic. Center Kyle Jeffers stepped up for his team and scored a career-high 20 points to the lead the Beavers.

Unfortunately for OSU, they were unable to duplicate the same effort on Thursday - primarily because the UCLA defense simply did not allow it. Bruin defenders contested every shot in route to limiting the Beavers to just 32.1% shooting from the floor.

Jeffers was held to only 3 points on 1-3 shooting. He wasn't able to attempt a single field goal until the second half, as UCLA's Hollins and Alfred Aboya took turns frustrating the Beaver center.

OSU senior Chris Stephens was held once again in check by Afflalo. Stephens scored just five points on 2-14 shooting. He had been instrumental in the upset victory over ASU when he scored 14 points.

Forward Marcel Jones, a local product from Mater Dei HS, was the only Beaver to score in double-figures by shooting 8-14 for 19 points. Jones kept the Beavers in the game in the first half, but his contributions were not nearly enough.

UCLA played the game the way a No.1 tournament seed should play. It dominated a bottom-seed team and controlled the contest for the entire 40 minutes.

UCLA shot 52.8% from the field, and even better from three-point distance - shooting 10-16 for 62.5% from beyond the arc.

After committing 11 turnovers in the first half which helped keep the Beavers in the game, the Bruins committed only 4 turnovers in the second half to allow them to put the game away.

The only negative of the evening was an injury suffered by senior forward Cedric Bozeman.

Bozeman sprained his left ankle after he fall out of bounds and attempted to avoid cameramen and cheerleaders. X-rays on the ankle were negative and Bozeman was immediately placed in a walking boot to take any pressure off the ankle. His status is unknown at this time.

Bozeman had scored 6 points on 2-2 shooting from three-point distance.

UCLA can not afford to lose Bozeman for the Pac-10, and more importantly, the NCAA tournament. Although they have some depth at the position, Bozeman provides intangibles and leadership which are irreplaceable on the team.

UCLA will face the No.4 seed Arizona Wildcats in a semifinal game on Friday. The Wildcats defeated Stanford, 73-68, in an earlier game.

Game notes: Sophomore center Lorenzo Mata made a surprise entrance at the end of the game and played 5 minutes. He scored 2 points and recorded 2 blocks. With Hollins and Aboya playing well at the center position, 5-10 minutes from Mata during the tournament would solidify a position which was the weakest point on the team to begin the season.


(photo credit: AP)

Ben Stellar

By Steve Springer, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

The Pac-10 champion Bruins have been focused under Howland, who is right on schedule in his third season in Westwood

He never saw a kid he didn't think he could successfully recruit, never saw a bad call he wouldn't ferociously dispute. He never saw an offense he didn't think he could frustrate, never saw a defense he didn't think he could dominate.

There is no room for doubt in UCLA basketball Coach Ben Howland's world. There are absolutes.

And losing focus is absolutely forbidden.

Early this season, the Bruins found themselves in trouble on a snowy day in Ann Arbor, Mich., falling behind the Wolverines, 8-0, in front of a pumped-up crowd in Crisler Arena. Then, UCLA guard Arron Afflalo hit the ignition switch on his team's offense, making four three-pointers and scoring 14 of the Bruins' first 16 points to get his team back into the game.

But then, while in his own frontcourt, Afflalo thought he was fouled but failed to get a whistle. As Michigan gained possession and the rest of the players raced to the other end of the court, Afflalo lagged behind to question a referee.

Even though the Bruins had regained the momentum, even though it was Afflalo's hot hand that had cooled the crowd, Howland called time out and got on Afflalo — in front of his teammates, the crowd and an audience viewing on national TV.

Mental discipline must be maintained and there are absolutely no exceptions.

"He is very intense," said UCLA assistant Ernie Zeigler, now in his third season under Howland at UCLA after working for him for two seasons at Pittsburgh. "Some people might look at it as brashness, but if you don't get the opportunity to know him, you don't understand how great a guy he is."

His players have bought into Howland's approach.

Afflalo certainly did that day in Ann Arbor.

"The coach got on me and he should have," Afflalo said. "He's not supposed to cater to me. This is not the NBA. He's supposed to harp on me when I deserve it."

Howland's methods are paying off this season. The Bruins begin play this afternoon in the Pacific 10 Conference tournament at Staples Center with a 24-6 record that includes a 14-4 mark in the conference, good enough to give UCLA its first conference title in nine seasons.

And for his success, Howland was chosen conference coach of the year. It's a pattern of success that Howland has woven through a coaching career that spans more than two decades.

After graduating from Cerritos High and playing for Santa Barbara City College and Weber State, then putting in 14 years as an assistant at Gonzaga and UC Santa Barbara, Howland got his first head coaching job at Northern Arizona in 1994. After going 9-17 and 7-19 his first two seasons, Howland led the Lumberjacks to a 21-7 mark in his third season, the 10th-best single-season turnaround in NCAA history.

For that, he was chosen Big Sky Conference coach of the year. The next season, he led Northern Arizona into the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

After five seasons at Flagstaff, Howland moved to Pittsburgh. The pattern was repeated. The Panthers went from 13-15 and 19-14 to 29-6 in Howland's third season. Pittsburgh got as far as the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament that season and Howland was chosen national coach of the year by the Associated Press. The next season was more of the same, the Panthers going 28-5 and again reaching the Sweet 16.

People back home in California noticed. On April 3, 2003, Howland became coach of the Bruins. UCLA was 11-17 and 18-11 the first two seasons under Howland. Once again, the third time was the charm.

The Bruins' success has been based on a foundation of solid defense. No surprise. It's telling that Howland was twice chosen Weber State's most valuable defensive player because defense has been his mantra throughout his coaching career.

"Winning starts with defense, whatever sport you are talking about," Howland said. "Michael Jordan was the greatest defensive player in NBA history at his position. The great Laker teams, whether under Phil Jackson or Pat Riley, started with defense. I loved guys like Michael Cooper and Dennis Johnson, who played great defense."

And Howland, 48, made it clear the first time he addressed his first UCLA squad, that they were going to be active at both ends of the court or inactive on the bench.

"If you are a negative defensively, that's going to limit your minutes," Howland said. "You have got to be able to go out there and hold your own and not hurt your team when playing defense, or not play at all."

Howland knows it can be a struggle to persuade kids weaned on "SportsCenter" dunks to pay attention to the guy trying to stop that dunk.

"As kids grow and learn more about the game," he said, "and want to get to the next level, the NBA, which they all do, they'd better be able to play both ends of the floor because all the great ones do. It's more fun to play offense than defense. But the most fun is to win."

It wasn't a hard sell to the Bruins, said Cedric Bozeman, a fifth-year senior.

"Coach talked about defense from day one," he said. "He talked about it as far as the left side of the won-loss column, the W side."

Howland has always stuck strictly to a man-to-man defense, although he now varies that a bit by double-teaming the player in the post.

"A good man-to-man is like a zone and that is a John R. Wooden quote," Howland said. "The NBA is allowed to play zone now, but no one is playing it because it is easier to score against a zone than against man-to-man if you are patient and have good players."

Howland says he gained inspiration from three fellow coaches: Jerry Tarkanian, Rick Majerus and Jerry Pimm.

It was under Pimm at UC Santa Barbara that Howland learned his craft and Pimm still chuckles at the length he had to go to keep his intense assistant under control.

"He would get upset over a call," Pimm said, "and I finally had to tell him, 'You sit and watch the substitutions and I'll take care of the officials.' But he would bark at them until he got it off his mind.

"It was tough for him to stop recruiting a guy even after we learned the player had already committed elsewhere. 'We can still get him, Coach,' he'd say. 'We can still get him.' He doesn't like to let go."

Howland also has trouble letting go after a loss.

"It's like a hole in his gut," Zeigler said. "He can't put that feeling away until he figures out why we lost. We may watch a tape of the game over and over for hours until we are mentally exhausted. He doesn't eat and has a difficult time sleeping after a loss."

Howland's intensity carries over to practices. Detailed stats are kept on every aspect. That means not only the usual — shots, rebounds, assists and steals in scrimmages — but also charges, deflections, post feeds, screens and the number of times contact is made on screens.

And Howland processes it all in making personnel decisions.

"He's big on numbers," said assistant Chris Carlson, who has been with Howland since the Northern Arizona days. "And he's got a photographic memory. He can tell you the starting lineup of a game between Santa Barbara and Long Beach back in 1991 and what the score was with a minute and a half to go."

Howland is also big on the numbers appearing on his watch. He is meticulous about adhering to a schedule, whether it be when his players eat, the bus leaves for the arena, the players dress for the game and they start their pregame warmup. Howland appreciates tardiness about as much as he appreciates lazy defense.

"He got that from me," Pimm said. "If you are going to be late to practice, you are going to be late getting back on defense."

His intensity can get Howland in trouble. He will call a timeout whenever he has a message for his team or wants to send a message to the other team, sometimes leaving him without a timeout when it is needed in the closing minute of play.

There are few diversions in Howland's life. He doesn't play golf, doesn't play tennis.

"Basketball has been his life," Pimm said. "It's not a job to him."

Other than the time he spends with his family, including wife Kim and their two grown children, Howland's only hobby is fly fishing, if he can sneak in a few weeks in the off-season.

So then, he finally cuts back on the intensity and just enjoys the lazy atmosphere?

Uh, no.

"I'm there," he said, "to catch fish."

Orginally published in the Los Angeles Times March 9, 2006
(reprinted with permission)


(photo credit: AP)

UCLA Gets OSU in Quarter-Final Rematch

By Bruin Basketball Report

During the second-half of their Pac-10 tournament opening round game against injury-plagued Oregon St. (OSU), Arizona St. (ASU) began planning how it would deal with UCLA on Thursday. One problem. They forgot to win their game on Wednesday first.

After losing leading scorer, Sasa Cuic, in the game’s opening minutes and trailing by 8 points at halftime, the Beavers rallied behind a career-high 20 points and 9 rebounds from Kyle Jeffers to edge the Sun Devils 71-68.

Cuic suffered a high ankle sprain only four minutes into the game when he landed on a fallen Sun Devil player’s foot. Cuic crumpled to the floor and had to be helped off the court. He was averaging 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Cuic is not expected to play against UCLA.

OSU is already playing without starters Lamar Hurd (groin) and Nick DeWitz (shoulder). The three injured starters account for almost 50% of the Beaver’s offensive production.

Jeffers was averaging only 5.9 points and 4.1 entering the game, but as often happens when a team’s star gets injured during a game - other players on the team step up.

Senior guard Chris Stephens, who had scored in double-digits only once in the last ten games, stepped up and scored 14 points, as did senior Jason Fontenet who added 11 points.

Jack McGillis, a 6’6 freshman forward, played a career-high 28 minutes in place of Cuic, and scored 8 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.

The Beavers’ reward for defeating the Sun Devils is a quarter-final rematch from last year with No.12 ranked UCLA.

UCLA, the No.1 seed in the tournament, must guard against complacency and not look past the game against Oregon St.

The Bruins need only look back to the opening round game (OSU vs. ASU) to see what can happen when a superior team overlooks an opponent. UCLA coach Ben Howland can also point back to the loss to a Gabe Pruitt-less USC team in February.

Although, playing the Beavers in a Pac-10 tournament game should be enough incentive for some of the older Bruin players. Last year in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament, OSU eliminated UCLA, 79-72.

In that game, the Bruins started off slowly against the Beavers and fall behind 15 points at halftime and were unable to make up the deficit.

UCLA can not afford another slow start on Thursday, or for that matter, in any upcoming tournament contests. With three games in three consecutive days, the Bruins need to play as efficiently as possible.

Against OSU, the Bruins need to start the game with high energy and intensity to take the Beavers out of the game immediately. Such a start by the Bruins would allow coach Howland to rest his starters in preparation for the next game the following day.

Without Cuic and DeWitz, UCLA will have a rare advantage on the frontline. This game may be a good opportunity for the Bruins to continue developing their inside offensive game. Against Stanford last week, UCLA guards did their best job of the season in effectively passing the ball inside to post players for scores.

On the perimeter, the Bruins need to make sure neither Chris Stephens nor Jason Fontenet get hot from the outside.

Stephens, the all-time best three-point shooter in Beaver history, has not played well this year against the Bruins - primarily due to the lock-down job by Arron Afflalo. Stephens has averaged only 6 points against the Bruins.

Fontenet is a streaky outside shooter who can cause problems with his quickness. He was 3 of 4 from the three-point distance against ASU.

The Bruins will need to find these two guards in transition, as well as fight through the high picks Beaver head coach Jay John likes to employ in order to get them open for shots.

Nevertheless, UCLA will be the overwhelming favorite for the game against OSU; yet, it would be best for the Bruins if they were oblivious to it at all.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

UCLA Men's Basketball Injury Update (3/8)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Senior forward Cedric Bozeman continues to play effectively for the Bruins despite playing with discomfort and pain.

"Ced is playing with a torn labrum and tendinitis in his knee.", UCLA head coach Howland said, "He couldn't go through a walk-through at practice the other day because of the pain. He's really stepped up and played well for us - I'm very proud of him."

In the past two weeks, freshman Alfred Aboya has not participated in practices for fear of re-aggravating his groin injury.

"We really need Alfred for the (NCAA) tournament." Howland said, "We'll let him practice somewhat today."

But trying to keep Aboya from going all out during practice is something easier said than done.

"Alfred is the only player," Howland said, "I've ever had to tell during a walk-through that if he went any faster than 70% he'd be out (of practice)."

Sophomore center Lorenzo Mata participated in his first practice yesterday with the team since injuring his knee back in January.

"We'll see how he goes today," Howland said, "he'll play limited minutes in practice but I don't expect much more from Lorenzo this year."


Pac-10 Tourney Goes Through UCLA

By Bruin Basketball Report

Bruins play on Thursday, March 9, at 2:50p.m. PT.

The Pac-10 tournament begins Wednesday night with games between the four lowest seeds of the tournament.

In the first game No.8 seed Arizona State plays No.9 seed Oregon State; while the second game matches No.7 seed Oregon and No.10 seed Washington State.

It’s the first time all ten conference teams will be participating since the Pac-10 tournament resumed four years ago.

The UCLA Bruins are the No.1 seed team in the tournament after winning their first Pac-10 regular-conference championship since 1997 with clinching victories over California and Stanford last weekend.

With a Pac-10 regular-season title won and an NCAA bid assured, how important is winning the Pac-10 tournament to the Bruins?

“We want to build momentum going into the NCAA tournament.” Howland said, “How we play in the (Pac-10) tournament is taken into consideration in our (NCAA) seeding.”

In the past, certain coaches have complained the Pac-10 tournament was unnecessary and wore teams down before the NCAA tournament. Howland doesn’t agree with the assessment.

“The conference tournaments are great for college basketball.” Howland said, “It creates attention for the NCAA tournament.”

The teams in UCLA’s Pac-10 tournament bracket include No.4 seed Arizona, No.5 seed Stanford, No.8 seed Arizona State, and No.9 seed Oregon State.

It appears to be a favorable draw for UCLA since the Bruins have won all games this season against the conference teams in their tournament bracket.

Moreover, Arizona, the highest seed in the bracket besides UCLA, recently lost their top player, Hassan Adams, due to disciplinary reasons. Adams was arrested over the weekend for a DUI violation and was suspended for the entire Pac-10 tournament by Arizona head coach Lute Olson.

The first tournament game for the Bruins is scheduled for Thursday when they face the winner of the opening round contest between Arizona State and Oregon State.

UCLA swept Arizona State this season, winning at Tempe on a last second Jordan Farmar lay-up, 61-60, and then beat the Sun Devils in Pauley Pavilion, 69-60. The Sun Devils are led by guard Kevin Kruger and All-Pac-10 Freshman team forward Jeff Pendergraph.

Oregon State is led by 6’10 sophomore standout Sasa Cuic from Croatia. UCLA defeated the Beavers twice this season, the first time at Corvalis 63-54, and then rallied in the second half to crush the Beavers 78-60 in Pauley Pavilion. Last year, Oregon State eliminated UCLA from the Pac-10 tournament in the opening round, 79-72.

The No.2 tournament seed is No.13 ranked Washington which is led by Pac-10 Player of the Year Brandon Roy. Washington swept UCLA in both conference games this season.

The Huskies will have a tougher road than the Bruins to get to the Pac-10 championship game.

The Pac-10 teams in Washington’s bracket are No.3 seed California, No.6 seed USC, No.7 seed Oregon, and No.10 seed Washington State.

California poses the biggest concern for Washington - they split their games together this year. The Bears are led by Pac-10 Player of the Year runner-up Leon Powe and fellow All-Pac-10 team member Ayinde Ubaka.

The Washington Huskies have handled the Ducks in both their games this season but Oregon has great athletes, and they have the ability to cause a stir in the tournament.

Surprisingly, it is last-place Washington State Cougars which might provide the Huskies with their most dangerous match-up of the tournament - considering the Cougars swept both games against the Huskies during the regular-season.

Notwithstanding the tough games in the tournament, most expect the two top seeds, UCLA and Washington, to be in the championship game on Saturday - a game which will have important implications for each school’s NCAA tournament seeding.

With already two conference losses to Washington, a third consecutive loss by the Bruins to the Huskies would not bode well with the NCAA selection committee.

More specifically, if the two teams meet in the Pac-10 tournament championship game, the winner will likely receive the higher NCAA tournament seed and have a better chance of staying in the West Region bracket.

This year’s NCAA West Region is highly desirable to UCLA, since the first two rounds in the region take place in nearby San Diego and then is followed by two rounds in Oakland. Conceivably, a West Region team would not have to leave the state of California until the Final Four round in Indianapolis.

With two potential games against teams with high RPI ratings (Arizona and Washington), UCLA has an opportunity to improve upon its NCAA seeding this week in the Pac-10 tournament.

“From my experience, if we win the Pac-10 tournament we can be as high as a (NCAA) No.2 seed,” Howland said, “and as low as a No.3 seed if we lose.”


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lady Bruins Capture Pac-10 Tournament Title

Coach Kathy Olivier wore the net around her neck. Nikki Blue grabbed the glass trophy and gave it a kiss. Noelle Quinn offered hugs to anyone who would accept.

Just down the road from Stanford's campus, another team celebrated a Pac-10 tournament title for a change.

Quinn scored the final seven points of regulation and four more in overtime, lifting UCLA to its first Pac-10 tournament title with a thrilling 85-76 comeback victory over the 11th-ranked Cardinal on Monday night.

Congratulations to the Lady Bruins!


(photo credit: AP)

UCLA Moves To No.12 and No.13 in Polls

By Bruin Basketball Report

After victories in the Bay area over California and Stanford to win the Pac-10 conference regular-season title, UCLA (24-6, 14-4) moved up to No.12 and No.13 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and AP polls, respectively.

The Washington Huskies also moved up in the polls after sweeping the Arizona schools on the road last week, and are ranked No.13 and No.12 in the Coaches and AP polls this week, respectively.

Connecticut recaptured the top spot in both polls, and are followed by Villanova, Duke, Gonzaga, and Memphis in the rankings.

The Bruins enter the Pac-10 tournament as the No.1 seeded team. They will face the winner of the Arizona St. and Oregon St on April 9 at the Staples Center.


Farmar Named Wooden Award Finalist

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA guard Jordan Farmar was named one of twenty-two finalists for the 2005-06 Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year, presented annually to the nation's top collegiate basketball player.

Earlier in January, Farmar was named a Midseason Top 30 candidate, and last August was named a Preseason Top 50 candidate for the award.

Farmar is averaging 14.0 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game this season.

The 10 members of the All-American Team and the Wooden Award recipient will be announced on Saturday, April 8, at the John R. Wooden Award ceremony from the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

Past Wooden Award winners include two Bruins: Marques Johnson (1977) and Ed O'Bannon (1995).


(photo credit: AP)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Howland, Farmar, Afflalo and Mbah a Moute Earn Pac-10 Honors

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland was named Monday Pac-10 Coach of the Year, and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was named Freshman Player of the Year, and named to the All-Pac-10 Freshman team.

UCLA sophomore guards, Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar, were both named to the All-Pac-10 Conference team.

Washington's Brandon Roy was named the Player of the Year.

Additionally, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute received honorable mention to the All-Pac-10 Conference team, and Darren Collison received honorable mention to the All-Pac-10 Freshman team.

Pac-10 Conference coaches vote on the categories.

The Complete Conference Honors:

ALL-PAC-10 Team

Name School Pos Yr Ht Wt Hometown (Last School)

Hassan Adams ARIZ G Sr. 6-4 220 Los Angeles, CA (Westchester HS)

Arron Afflalo UCLA G So. 6-5 200 Compton, CA (Centennial HS)

Jordan Farmar UCLA G So. 6-2 180 Van Nuys, CA (Taft HS)

Matt Haryasz STAN F Sr. 6-10 230 Page, AZ (Page HS)

Chris Hernandez STAN G Sr. 6-2 190 Fresno, CA (Clovis West HS)

Leon Powe CAL F So. 6-8 240 Oakland, CA (Oakland Tech HS)

Gabe Pruitt USC G So. 6-4 170 Los Angeles, CA (Westchester HS)

Brandon Roy WASH G Sr. 6-6 210 Seattle, WA (Garfield HS)

Ayinde Ubaka CAL G Jr. 6-4 200 Oakland, CA (Oakland HS)

Nick Young USC G/F So. 6-6 195 Los Angeles, CA (Cleveland HS)

Honorable Mention (also receiving votes): Malik Hairston (ORE, So., G), DeVon Hardin (CAL, So., F), Bobby Jones (WASH, Sr., F), Kevin Kruger (ASU, Jr., G), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA, Fr., F), Ivan Radenovic (ARIZ, Jr., F), Jamaal Williams (WASH, Sr., F).

PAC-10 All-Freshman Team

Name School Pos Ht Wt Hometown (Last School)

Jon Brockman WASH F 6-7 245 Snohomish, WA (Snohomish HS)

Justin Dentmon WASH G 6-0 180 Carbondale, IL (Winchendon School)

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute UCLA F 6-7 215 Yaounde, Cameroon (Montverde, Fla., Academy)

Jeff Pendergraph ASU F 6-10 210 Etwanda, CA (Etiwanda HS)

Marcus Williams ARIZ F 6-7 205 Seattle, WA (Roosevelt HS)

Honorable Mention (also receiving votes): Darren Collison (UCLA, G), Ryan Francis (USC, G), Mitch Johnson (STAN, G), Theo Robertson (CAL, F).

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Brandon Roy, Washington

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, UCLA



Afflalo Named Pac-10 Player of the Week

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA sophomore guard Arron Afflalo was named Pac-10 Conference Player of the Week for February 27 - March 5.

Against California on Thursday, Afflalo played 43 minutes and scored a game-high 25 points, shooting 8 of 16 from the floor, including 5 of 9 from three-point range. He scored 21 points in the second half during UCLA's come from behind overtime victory over the Bears. Afflalo also grabbed a team-high 7 rebounds.

On Saturday, Afflalo scored a game-high 16 points on 5 of 7 shooting from the field, including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc in UCLA's victory at Stanford

For the week, Afflalo averaged 20.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.0 steals per game.

Despite UCLA winning the Pac-10 conference title last week, Afflalo became just the first Bruin to be named Player of the Week this season.


Final Pac-10 Conference Regular Season Statistics

By Bruin Basketball Report

The final Pac-10 conference regular season statistics have been released (link).

UCLA finished at the top of the conference in the following team categories:

1. Scoring Defense 59.3 (1)
2. Scoring Margin 8.4 (1)
3. Field Goal% Offense 46.9% (1)
4. Rebounding Defense 28.1 (1)

UCLA players finished in the top 5 of the conference in the following individual categories:

1. Scoring: Arron Afflalo 17.1 ppg (4)
2. Field Goal%: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 56.4% (1)
3. 3-PT FG%: Michael Roll 45.7% (4)
4. 3-PT FG Made: Arron Afflalo 2.06 (T-5)
5. Assists: Jordan Farmar 5.06 (T-1)
6. Assists/Turnover Ratio: Jordan Farmar 1.52 (5)
7. Rebounding: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 7.8 rpg (3)
8. Offensive Rebounding: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 3.17 (2)
9. Defensive Rebounding: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 4.67 (5)


Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (3/6)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup published every Monday during the season.


The Pioneers avenged last year's loss to Santa Margarita in the final by absolutely crushing the Eagles, 77-44, for the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA title at the Arrowhead Pond... Their All-American center, James Keefe (14 points), struggled to get open against Pioneers mammoth Shawntell Norman, and nobody else was making shots. .. "They were more athletic and quicker than we were," Santa Margarita coach Jerry DeBusk said. "We got caught up trying to play up an up-tempo style of game and that's not us. We didn't play very smart, but, obviously, they contributed to that. L.B. Press Telegram 3/5

McDonald's All-American and UCLA-bound forward James Keefe leads the Santa Margarita Eagles in their third consecutive CIF Division III-AA title game on Saturday against Artesia. It will be a battle between the top two seeds in the division; Artesia is seeded No.1 and Santa Margarita No.2. Bruin Basketball Report 3/3

Howland's first recruiting class included McDonald's All-Americans Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo. His second was ranked 13th in the nation by His third, due on campus in the fall, features power forward James Keefe, another McDonald's All-American. And his fourth, to be signed in November, might include center Kevin Love, considered by many to be one of the top two juniors in the country. San Jose Mercury News 3/2


Kevin Love enhanced his growing legacy and Lake Oswego prevented its season of redemption from ending before the state tournament as the Lakers made a furious comeback Saturday in the OSAA Class 4A boys basketball playoffs. Love's rebound basket at the buzzer in overtime gave second-ranked Lake Oswego a 50-48 victory over visiting Canby and advanced the Lakers to this week's state tournament in Eugene. Oregonian 3/4

Lake Oswego got 38 points and 18 rebounds from Kevin Love in a 79-58 victory over Redmond, and defending state champion Jesuit rolled over Roseburg 81-40. Portland Tribune 3/2

Once again proving they can take their show on the road, the Panthers shrugged off Mountain View’s deliberate style to win going away, 62-32, in front of a capacity crowd of 2,000 on Saturday. South Medford junior Kyle Singler had 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in a game the Panthers took control of early and were relentless in their pursuit of a return trip to the state tournament in Eugene. Mail Tribune 3/5

Ahmaad Cook was the latest to fill the role, scoring 17 points Saturday night and contributing decisive baskets to help the fourth-seeded Comets (24-6) defeat third-seeded Woodland Hills Taft, 68-58, at the Sports Arena. Taft (22-5) trailed by 13 points at halftime and got as close as six points in the third quarter behind senior guard Calvin Haynes, who finished with 27 points. But the youthful Toreadors missed too many shots and had trouble finding support for Haynes aside from sophomore guard Larry Drew Jr., who had 18 points. L.A. Times 3/5

"Age is just a number," Larry Drew said. "We know we're doing something special here. We want to be known as the top team in the nation by the time we're seniors. We want to take this program to the next level." L.A. Daily News 3/4

Taft of Woodland Hills boys' basketball coach Derrick Taylor on sophomore point guard Larry Drew Jr., who scored 29 points with nine rebounds and six assists in the Toreadors' 71-54 victory over Sylmar in Friday's City Section semifinals. "Not many players can carry a team like Larry does. He understands the game. He knows when to pick his spots. He's a leader's leader."L.A. Daily News 2/28

The Cavaliers (23-7) showed that their team-first mentality could overcome sophomore Jrue Holiday and junior Justin Holiday, who had many convinced that Campbell Hall (25-5) would defend its CIF title. Instead, it was an all-around effort from Serra that proved championship caliber. Daily Breeze 3/4

Omondi Amoke, a 6-5 junior small forward from Oxnard High in Oxnard, Calif., had a rough summer last year in front of college coaches. Amoke hurt his ankle and tried to play through the injury during the evaluation period. By his own admission, he didn't show well in front of coaches, and he is anxious to show them what he can do at full strength. Amoke told us recently that he won't make a college choice until after the upcoming spring and summer evaluation periods. He told us UCLA, USC, Cal, Oregon, Washington and Utah are among the schools that have been in contact with him. Fox Sports 3/3

Oxnard (23-7) fell one win short of a trip to the final for the second time in the last four years.
Omondi Amoke had a game-high 19 points for Oxnard, which lost for the first time in 14 games. Ventura County Star 3/1

Lakewood Artesia 74, Santa Margarita 44 — The top-seeded Pioneers (29-1) stifled the Eagles (26-4) with a full-court press and a series of half-court traps that resulted in numerous rushed shots and several fast-break opportunities in the Division III-AA final at the Arrowhead Pond.Junior James Harden and sophomore Malik Story each had 22 points for Artesia. Derek Glasser contributed 10 points and six assists for the Pioneers. L.A. Times 3/5

"The idea was to go inside to Andy," Westview senior Nathan Clark said, referring to post Andy Poling. And why not? The 6-foot-11 Westview star had already scored 26 points in Saturday night's OSAA Class 4A basketball playoff game with upstart Franklin. But instead, Clark hit a 15-foot baseline shot with 2.3 seconds remaining to push the No. 6 Wildcats (21-6) past the Quakers 64-63 before an overflow crowd at Westview High School. Westview advances to play Lake Oswego on Thursday in the first round of the state tournament in Eugene. Oregonian 3/5

No. 6 Westview 73, Klamath Union 53: Andrew Jones scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half and Andy Poling had 17 points for the Wildcats, who outrebounded the visiting Pelicans 33-15. Oregonian 3/2

Luke Babbitt, a 6-8 sophomore power forward from Galena High in Reno, Calif., is a gifted prospect who figures to be one of the top players in his class nationally. Babbitt recently told us he's been receiving early interest from UCLA, Arizona, Washington, Duke, Syracuse, Nevada and North Carolina State, among other programs. Fox Sports 3/3

Palo Alto (28-1) won the match-up of the section's top-ranked teams when many believed that Mitty was the favorite, having dominated the brutal West Catholic Athletic League with a team strong inside and out. But Palo Alto countered with tough defense on Mitty's 6-foot-9 Drew Gordon. Though the sophomore center scored 16 points, he became virtually the team's only offensive weapon as its guards struggled to score and forward Thomas Fang was held to six points. Mercury News 3/4


(photo credit: Oregonian)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

UCLA Saves Best Game For Last, Pac-10 Champions

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

In what perhaps was the best 40 minutes played by a UCLA team this year, they sent notice to the rest of the nation: The Bruins are ready for the tournament!

UCLA (24-6, 14-4) dominated their last Pac-10 regular season conference game, defeating Stanford 75-54 at Maples Pavilion. With the win, the Bruins are the outright Pac-10 conference champions for the first time since 1997.

"I'm so happy for our guys," said Howland, "and I'm most glad we're Pac-10 champions. We decided it ourselves. We don't have to wait for anybody and get in backdoor. Any time you win a championship it's special."

So many things went right for the Bruins, and at least for this contest, they played their most complete game of the season.

Four Bruins scored in double figures, and fittingly the Bruins shot 50% in each half.

Senior Ryan Hollins played his finest game of his UCLA career. He scored 13 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and along with freshman Alfred Aboya, held Stanford’s All Pac-10 conference player Matt Haryasz to just 3-10 shooting and 8 points.

With Hollins fighting for good low post positioning all game, the Bruins passed the ball inside to him and he converted, hitting 5-7 from the floor including 3-4 from the foul line.

Most importantly, the guards did not force the ball into Hollins, but instead were patient and got him the ball inside within the flow of the offense.

With opponent defenses over-playing and pressuring the UCLA guards in games, against Stanford the Bruin big men, especially freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, exploited back cuts to the hoop, and the UCLA guards kept finding them for easy baskets.

Mbah a Moute finished with 13 points on 6-9 shooting, all on lay-ups, and grabbed a team-high 9 rebounds including 5 offensive rebounds.

He made one of the best plays of the year with just 2 seconds left in the first half; he grabbed an offensive rebound with one hand and softly flipped it off the glass to beat the buzzer.

With the last second basket the Bruins went into halftime with a commanding 38-24 lead. Incredibly, it marked the first time in six games since the Bruins actually had a lead going into halftime.

The Bruins achieved the feat by dramatically cutting down on their turnovers. In the game, the Bruins committed just 7 turnovers, and two of them were 24 second violations at the end of the game.

Most impressively, UCLA guards had only one turnover the entire game.

The Bruins had 15 assists playing unselfishly and delivering the ball to the right man at the right time in most instances.

Sophomore guard Jordan Farmar had 7 assists and scored 13 points on 6-14 shooting. Farmar controlled the tempo of the game in his 28 minutes of play. He got to the basket for lay-ups numerous times by either splitting the high screen up on top, or rubbing off a high-post pick.

Continuing his good play in the late season is freshman guard Darren Collison. He scored 6 points and played under control throughout the game in guiding the offense. His defense was stellar again as he used his speed to hound opponents or deflect passes.

Cameroon freshman Alfred Aboya scored only 1 point and grabbed 4 rebounds, but his contributions to the game do not show up on any stat sheet. His physical and aggressive presence inside the paint changes and disrupts opposing team offenses.

Moreover, UCLA’s frontline held Stanford’s Haryasz, Peter Prowitt, Taj Fingers, and Lawrence Hill – to a combined 6-20 shooting.

"I can't remember a team that's come in here and beat us as handily as that team did," Cardinal coach Trent Johnson said. "This was by far the best team we faced this year.”

Sophomore Arron Afflalo efficiently led all Bruin scorers with 16 points on just 5-7 shooting. Afflalo was 3-5 from the three-point line – including converting on a four-point play when he was fouled making a shot from behind the arc.

Afflalo performed a lock-down defensive job on Stanford senior Chris Hernandez.

Hernandez, the Cardinal’s second leading scorer, only attempted 5 field goal attempts and finished with just 9 points. Afflalo denied Hernandez from getting the ball, and his teammates helped pressure him whenever he had the ball. Hernandez did not score his first field goal until the opening minutes of the second half.

Coming off the bench to spark the Bruin team was freshman Michael Roll. He was more assertive with his shot than in previous games. Roll was 3-4 on three-pointers finishing with 9 points.

UCLA will face a lot of zone defenses in the tournament, and their ability to hit from the perimeter will be key - and the team will need Roll to shoot as he did today in upcoming games.

As a team the Bruins shot 8-17 from beyond the three-point arc for a sizzling 47%. They also out-rebounded Stanford 27-22 in the game.

Stanford shot 43.9% from the floor. Senior Dan Grunfeld, playing his last game as a collegiate, had 12 points; and freshman Anthony Goode had 14 points but it wasn’t nearly enough for the Cardinal.

UCLA sweeps Stanford for the first time since 1995, and now head into the Pac-10 tournament next week as the No.1 seed.

The Bruins will play the winner of No.8 seed Oregon St/No.9 seed Arizona St. game on Thursday March 9.