Saturday, March 18, 2006



(photo credit:AP)

UCLA vs. Alabama: Game Day Stories

By Bruin Basketball Report

Stories from outside the L.A. Writer's Beat Beltway

Steele downplays high-profile matchup: One's from the San Fernando Valley, a high-profile talent who went to a high-profile basketball school. The other is from Birmingham, not exactly known as a mecca for basketball talent. He's a high-profile player as well, but his background and his decision to play at a university known more for its football program keeps him under the radar. Today, Jordan Farmar and Ronald Steele will meet on the court, and each will play a major roll in whether UCLA or Alabama advances to the Sweet 16. Montgomery Advisor

Gottfried leads Alabama against school that gave him his start: Mark Gottfried ripped the page about soft-selling his Alabama team out of old boss Jim Harrick's playbook. Yeah, right.UCLA coach Ben Howland knew a fraud when he heard one later. "Is that a Jim Harrick deal?'' Howland said, drawing laughter before mimicking a typical Harrick phrase in the former UCLA coach's slow drawl. "I mean, come on,'' Howland said, chiding Gottfried. "That is very, very unfair of him to characterize his team like that after the kind of year they've had and some of the quality wins they've had.'' Sports Illustrated

Alabama faces UCLA in NCAA tournament: The concept of favorite and underdog felt like a hot potato to Alabama coach Mark Gottfried and UCLA coach Ben Howland on Friday. Gottfried insisted a win by Bama over the No. 7 Bruins tonight (7 p.m., WKRG-TV 5) in a second-round game of the NCAA tournament's Oakland Regional at Cox Arena would have to be a "huge, huge upset." Howland wasn't buying that line of logic. Mobile Register

Coaching carousel brings UCLA-'Bama matchup full circle: Howland wouldn't let him get away with it. Told of Gottfried's comments, Howland said, "What, is that a Jim Harrick deal?" Then Howland broke into an all-out Harrick impersonation, speaking ver-r-r-r-y slowly, with a lazy country drawl. "Well, we're not ver-r-r-r-y good," Howland said. "We're just gonna try to stay in the ballgame the best we can." The truth is, they're both good teams, and ver-r-r-r-y well-coached. USA Today

Future bright for UCLA freshman: UCLA forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is only a freshman, but his career prospects couldn't be better. He may be a prince someday. Montgomery Advisor

Tide hopes upset of UCLA brewin': The roles are crystal clear: UCLA is the overwhelming favorite, Alabama the overwhelming underdog. The Bruins are supposed to roll into next week's Sweet 16 just up the coast in Oakland, the Crimson Tide is supposed to fly back home until next season. The Huntsville Times


(photo credit: AP)

Friday, March 17, 2006

UCLA vs. Alabama - NCAA Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

With each team winning their first round game in contrasting fashion, the No.2 seed UCLA Bruins meet the No.10 seed Alabama Crimson Tide in the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Saturday in San Diego.

The Bruins (28-6) recovered from a slow start against No.15 seed Belmont, and went on to crush the Atlantic Sun conference champions, 78-44.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had a career-game, scoring 17 points, pulling down 8 rebounds, and handing out 6 assists; while Darren Collison had 10 points and 3 key steals to help the Bruins win its first NCAA tournament game since 2002.

Alabama (18-10) had a much more difficult task against Marquette. In a game which went back and forth in the second-half, Marquette had a chance to tie the game with 19 seconds remaining, but forward Steve Novak missed a three-pointer from the wing, and Alabama went on to win, 90-85.

The Crimson Tide won behind a career-high 31 points from reserve Jean Felix. The 6’7 forward from the Congo hit 8 of 11 from three-point distance. Felix entered the game averaging only 8.9 points per game.

Sophomore guard Ronald Steele and junior forward Jermareo Davidson also had huge contributions in the victory, scoring 23 and 21 points, respectively. Davidson also pulled down 12 rebounds.

Many did not figure Alabama would even make it to the NCAA tournament this season after they lost their senior and leading scorer, Chuck Davis to a knee injury in their SEC conference opener.

However Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried rallied his team, making adjustments – namely reducing his rotation of key players to just seven.

In addition, both Steele and Davidson have raised their games on both ends of the court, helping the Crimson Tide to a second place tie in the SEC and an invitation to the NCAA tournament.

Davidson (Jr, 6’10, 220) possesses excellent mobility for someone his size which makes him difficult to handle underneath. He averaged 14.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and almost 2 blocks a game.

He controls the paint well for Alabama and will be a tough match-up down on the low blocks.

Richard Hendrix (Fr, 6’8, 265) is another big body on the frontline. He averages 9.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks a game. Hendrix is a load underneath, and when joined with Davidson, the pair creates a size match-up problem for most teams.

Against Marquette, the pair combined for 19 rebounds, in addition, they muscled down low for 11 offensive rebounds and several put-back scores.

The Bruin big men will certainly have their hands full with the Tide’s physical pair. Yet, UCLA has been getting strong physical play from their own frontline which is suddenly at near-full strength.

UCLA’s 7’0 center Ryan Hollins has been playing the best basketball in his career over the last five games. He is averaging over 12 points and 6 rebounds over this span, and has been outstanding in defending the paint.

Hollins has the speed and size to defend either Davidson or Hendrix, however in the past, Hollins has been shown he can be dominated by more physical opponents. The Bruins need their senior to step forward in this game.

If Hollins is unable to sustain his effort in the game, especially on defense and rebounding, then UCLA coach Ben Howland will not hesitate to play sophomore Lorenzo Mata and freshman Alfred Aboya more minutes.

Mata has surprised many with quality play so soon after returning from injury. He has played tremendously on defense in limited minutes of play. Although he does not have all his stamina yet, his contributions on defense and rebounding are sorely needed against Alabama.

Aboya has struggled in his last two games averaging only 1.5 points and 2.5 rebounds, but he provides UCLA with an active and physical presence. He would perhaps be UCLA’s best match-up against Davidson, but Aboya needs to avoid early foul trouble to have an impact.

Conversely, with the lack of depth Alabama has at every position due to a shortened rotation, the Tide can find themselves in trouble with fouls if they try to match UCLA’s expected physical play, especially Davidson who is crucial to Alabama’s interior game.

The marquee match-up of the game will be between super sophomore point-guards, Alabama’s Ronald Steele (6’3, 185) and UCLA’s Jordan Farmar.

Steele is averaging 14.1 points, 4.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is a tremendous decision-maker and sets-up his teammates well. He has struggled from the field this year shooting only 41%, but is shooting well from the three-point arc (41%). He is also an excellent defender.

Although the game features these two outstanding point-guards, neither Farmar nor Steele may be guarding each other for most of the game. For UCLA the honors will likely go to Arron Afflalo who usually gets the top opponent’s scoring guard.

Alabama has two outstanding players off the bench in Jean Felix and freshman Alonzo Gee.

Felix has already shown what he is capable of doing if he gets hot, yet one would expect it to be difficult for him to shoot 23 points above his season's average two games in a row.

Felix will be no surprise to UCLA, and whether it is Cedric Bozeman or Michael Roll, they will be sure to make Felix put the ball on the floor to beat them, rather than allow him to shoot over them as Marquette allowed Felix to do all game long.

Gee (Fr, 6’6, 215) is an active and scrappy player. He averages 8.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.0 steal a game. He is quick to the ball and hard to block out, and is a good complement to Davidson and Hendrix when they’re in the game together.

Brandon Hollinger ( Fr, 5’11, 170) and Evan Brock (Sr, 6’9, 210) start the game for the Crimson Tide, but it’s to allow Felix and Gee to come off the bench and provide the team balance in their rotations.

As a team, aside from Steele and Felix, the Tide do not shoot particularly well from the perimeter. They average 45% from the floor and only 34% from three-point distance. The team averaged 70 points per contest this season.

Alabama likes to pound it inside to Davidson and Hendrix, or allow Steele to create offensive opportunities. UCLA will likely double down in the post against either Davidson or Hendrix, which will require the Bruins to be quick on the weak side to cover the open man.

Controlling Steele will also certainly be key, and Afflalo will likely get the primary assignment.

Defensively, Alabama will play primarily a 2-3 zone. One reason is to preserve their players and keep their big men out of foul trouble. Secondly, UCLA's offense has struggled at times against the zone.

Although in recent games, UCLA has solved the zone, forcing opponents to switch out of the zone defense - Alabama will more be patient and stay with the zone out of necessity.

Basketball is a game of match-ups, and although Alabama is just a No.10 seed and plays seven players, the Bruins will have a tough game. Primarily due to Alabama’s big frontline match-up, and secondly, UCLA will likely face a 2-3 zone for most of the game.

UCLA can not start the game slowly and hope to recover as it did against Belmont. Alabama has too much size and skill at key positions, and is perhaps one of the most dangerous lower seeded teams in the tournament.

UCLA’s Jordan Farmar needs to have his “A game” ready, and begin the game with intensity and energy. His Bruin teammates usually feed off their leader, and when Farmar starts slowly the Bruins usually follow.


Flashbacks for Gottfried?

By Matt Tiano
Freelance Writer

With Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried preparing to face UCLA in the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday, he can’t help but remember the career jump-start he received from Westwood.

Gottfried, a graduate of Alabama, passed up a chance to return to his alma mater in 1987 as a graduate assistant, and instead accepted an offer from Head Coach Jim Harrick to join his staff at UCLA.

He progressed up the “food chain” to become the lead assistant at UCLA, learning the ropes from Harrick and also from longtime friend and mentor John Wooden.

During his seven-year tenure at UCLA, the Bruins made the NCAA tournament each year, including winning a national title in 1995.

Known as a brilliant recruiter and judge of talent, Gottfried was instrumental, along with fellow assistant coach Lorenzo Romar, in recruiting the No.1 ranked freshman class in 1994 which included; Toby Bailey, J.R. Henderson, omm’A Givens, and Kris Johnson.

Gottfried’s ability to judge talent is evidenced by the number of players he helped recruit and who went on to play in the NBA including; Ed O’Bannon, George Zidek, Tyus Edney, Don MacLean, Tracy Murray, and Mitchell Butler.

As the lead assistant coach on the nation’s top team in 1995, Gottfried was primed to receive head coaching offers – and they came. The first offer came from Murray State, and Gottfried immediately accepted.

Later in the summer, coach Jim Harrick was found guilty of various recruiting violations and was subsequently fired by UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis, thereby sending UCLA in search of a new head coach.

If Gottfried had been available for the UCLA head coaching position, one wonders if UCLA would have remained atop the college basketball world? Instead, fellow UCLA assistant coach Steve Lavin received the call, and was placed in a position he was by no means prepared for.

Upon his arrival, Gottfried turned around a Murray State team which had previously struggled. In his first three seasons, the Racers were NIT bound, but in his final two seasons at the helm of Murray State, they advanced to the NCAA tournament. He led Murray State to three Ohio Valley Conference titles.

Then Alabama came calling, and Gottfried jumped at the opportunity to be in charge of his former alma mater and a team in a major conference, the SEC.

The year 2002 marked the first-time in Alabama history it received a No.1 ranking in college basketball. He was named AP & SEC Coach of the Year that year.

Gottfried does not take for granted the opportunity he was given to learn from his mentors at UCLA, veteran coach Jim Harrick and legendary John Wooden.

UCLA has had a long history of excellent assistant coaches. Fellow assistant Romar, who also left prior to the firing of Harrick, went on to other head coaching positions, and currently enjoys success as the head coach at Washington. Today, UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has two top-25 ranked recruiters on his staff in Donny Daniels and Kerry Keating.

“It’s a great opportunity for our program [to play UCLA],” he said. “I have great memories from my stay there. It was a life-changing experience being a part of the 1995 championship.”

Now, Gottfried’s Crimson Tide stand in the way of the Bruins, as UCLA eyes a twelfth national championship, their first since Gottfried helped earn one in 1995.


UCLA Overwhelms Belmont In Opening Round

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Perhaps it was best for UCLA to play through some nerves in the opening round rather than in a tougher game later in the NCAA tournament.

The UCLA Bruins used a 27-7 run midway through the first half in route to a 78-44 blow out of the Belmont Bruins at Cox Arena in San Diego.

For the first eleven minutes of the game the Bruins ‘of Belmont’ looked more like the No.2 seed team than UCLA.

UCLA opened the game attempting too many early outside shots, and most of them out of rhythm with the offense. They missed 10 of their first 15 shots as Belmont broke out to an early 16-10 lead.

When UCLA did get it inside their players either rushed their shots or neglected to shot-fake, as evidenced by two early blocks by Belmont’s big, but slow, Boomer Herndon.

Perhaps it was the glare of the lights or the size of the stage, but in the early going, UCLA did not look like the same team which easily dispatched opponents in the Pac-10 tournament last week.

"We're really young. It's the first or second time for most of us, it's very exciting," sophomore guard Jordan Farmar said. "We were just a little jittery to begin the game."

Yet, it was two young freshmen who helped the team settle down later in the first half. One did it with speed and guile, while the other did it with old-fashion blue-collar hustle.

Freshman point guard Darren Collison helped turn the game around in the first-half when he scored six points and made two steals in a two minute span to convert a four deficit into a six point advantage. It was a lead UCLA would not relinquish the rest of the game.

Collison, a freshman from Etiwanda high school, finished with 10 points, 2 assists, and 3 steals in 22 minutes.

In the first half, forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, a freshman from Cameroon, scored 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds to help pace UCLA to a 35-23 halftime lead.

Mbah a Moute finished with a memorable game scoring a career-high 17 points, dishing 6 assists, and of course, grabbing a team-high 8 rebounds.

Along with Collison, it was Mbah a Moute’s relentless hustle for loose balls and toughness on the backboards which kept UCLA in the game until the offense righted itself.

"We just needed to execute," sophomore guard Afflalo said. "We were getting good shots. We were just missing them. What changed was on the defensive end."

Indeed, it was the UCLA defense which helped prevent Belmont from getting too far ahead in the first half while the offense was sputtering.

UCLA held Belmont to just 35.7% shooting from the floor in the first-half, but it was in the second-half when the defense completely snarled the Belmont offense.

Belmont was held to a single field goal for the first seven minutes in the second half, as UCLA extended its lead over Belmont to an insurmountable twenty points.

“We committed too many turnovers early but we settled down,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.

Howland was pleased with his team’s defense especially in the second-half, holding Belmont to just 22.6% shooting from the field in the second half and an anemic 29% field goal shooting for the game. Belmont entered the game shooting 50% from the field - 4th best in the nation.

“Fortunately in the second half,” Howland said, “we eventually wore them down with our defensive intensity.”

No Belmont Bruin scored in double figures. Their leading scorer, guard Justin Hare, was held to only 8 points by UCLA’s elite-defender Arron Afflalo.

“This is a defensive team.” Afflalo said. “It’s one way I can help this team.”

For the game, Afflalo shot 3 of 6 from the field for 7 points but grabbed 7 rebounds.

Jordan Farmar played a sub par game especially at the start when he committed two turnovers which helped spark Belmont to their early lead.

The sophomore finished with 8 points and 5 assists, and was 0 of 4 from beyond the three-point arc. The Bruins will need a better effort from their point-guard leader if they expect to advance further in the tournament.

Senior Cedric Bozeman was once again a steadying force on the floor, scoring 9 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. He hit a key 3-pointer at the end of the first half to help UCLA extend its lead in the game.

Center Ryan Hollins had a solid game in the middle. He was an intimidating force inside altering a number of shots, as well as doing a stellar defensive job on Belmont's big man Boomer Herndon. Hollins also scored 10 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in the contest.

Surprisingly, Belmont's game plan was different from what some expected of the team.

Belmont shot 38% from three-point distance this season but were held to 21% (4-19), usually they would attempt 24 to 25 in game. Belmont appeared resolute to establish an inside game with their centers, mainly Boomer Herndon, but they were unable to finish their shots. Herndon was 3 of 13 from field for just 6 points.

In addition, most figured Belmont would employ a defensive zone throughout most of the game, instead it played primarily man-to-man defense with some zone defense mixed in. Interestingly, the Belmont defense was effective most times against UCLA. UCLA shot only 1 of 9 in the first half from beyond the arc when the game was still in question.

UCLA completely dominated Belmont on the boards, 45-27. The team shot 53.6% from the field; in addition, the UCLA offense accounted for 20 assists in the game.

With the first round victory, UCLA will face Alabama on Saturday. Alabama defeated Marquette 90-85 in an earlier game.


(Photo credit: AP)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bruins' Boss

By Dan Weber, Staff Writer
The Press-Enterprise

Under Ben Howland, UCLA is once again a national title contender

Mary Howland is a Stanford graduate, a Shakespearean scholar and a former missionary to China.

But Saturday, in her baby blue and gold UCLA sweatshirt, she was all Bruins basketball fan -- and proud mother.

Her smile matched that of her son Ben, whose Bruins had taken a big step back into the world of the basketball elite, having just won their first Pacific-10 tournament championship since 1987, and 27th game this season, to go along with their first regular-season title since 1997.

Mary Howland nods and agrees about the big, broad smile her often oh-so-serious son is sporting these days. She knew exactly where that smile was coming from.

"Ben loves to win," she said.

It's that simple.

In his third season at UCLA, just as in the third seasons in his previous head coaching jobs at Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh, Ben Howland has the Bruins basketball program winning -- big time.

That big old smile is the proof. He can't help himself.

Driven. Detail-oriented. Demanding. Meticulous. Passionate. Tough-minded. Relentless recruiter. Ben Howland is all that and more.

He is a tough guy, and so are his teams. That's the unanimous evaluation of those who covered Howland's Pittsburgh teams that rocketed to the top of the Big East.

But he's also a small-school guy who played high school basketball in Santa Barbara and Cerritos. His goal, his dream, he's always said, was to get back home to California some day.

"Why would you want to live anywhere else?" he said.

And get to his dream job, UCLA.

His basketball mentors, with the exception of current ESPN analyst Rick Majerus, are mostly guys he coached with at places like Gonzaga and UC Santa Barbara.

"The level they coach at doesn't matter to Ben," said Chris Carlson, UCLA's director of basketball operations. "He knows who can coach."

Howland has proved he can, and his more hard-scrabble basketball background has shown him how to do it with whatever he has.

At Northern Arizona, his little Lumberjacks made a name for themselves with jump shooters from long range who earned back-to-back NIT and NCAA tourney berths his third and fourth years there (1998 and 1999). At Pitt, the Panthers did it with defense and pounding power, earning him numerous national coach of the year honors in 2002.

At UCLA, the Bruins at their best are doing it with both.

But there's no question where it all starts for a Howland team. A guard in his playing days, Howland led his Weber State teams to a pair of NCAA appearances as the team's defensive MVP.

Defense is Key

"We emphasize defense," freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "There's no question about that. Defense wins championships."

Defense also won Howland his first big-time recruit. Just as USC's Pete Carroll got his program going by luring All-American defensive tackle Shaun Cody, a Southern Californian, away from Notre Dame, Howland targeted flashy McDonald's All-American Jordan Farmar, a creative shotmaker and inspired ballhandler from Van Nuys.

"When Coach recruited me, that's all he talked about -- defense," said Farmar, an All-Pac-10 guard as a sophomore whose biggest improvement has come on defense this season. "That's why I came here, to be a complete player."

It's a line you hear from every UCLA player. You don't have to ask Ben Howland for his philosophy, you just have to talk to his players.

The commitment to 40 minutes of defense, to out-tough opponents, to squeeze them until they quit, may sound oddly misplaced coming from the mouths of young players who mostly made their mark on offense, but it may be the best tribute to how Howland does his job.

Fifth-year senior Cedric Bozeman, after serious knee and shoulder injuries and surgery that cost him last season, had seen it all at UCLA. Even a long losing struggle his second season as one of the last wave of McDonald's All-American recruits attracted by the flash of Bruins basketball that flamed out in Steve Lavin's last season.

"A great coach," Bozeman said of Howland. "From the get-go, I knew he was. He said we were going to be winners. That's all I needed to hear. But he does run a tighter ship than Coach Lavin did."

"He should be tough on you if you don't play defense," Mbah a Moute said. "If you don't, he should pull you off the court."

Freshman Surprises

Easily the pleasant surprise of the season with his extraordinary rebounding production, the 6-foot-7 Mbah a Moute was assigned primary duties on the boards by Howland in an injury-filled preseason when no other Bruin proved capable.

"I hadn't ever thought about it until he told me I'd be the rebounder," Mbah a Moute said.

Just as he'd never thought about playing in an NCAA Tournament until three years ago when he watched teams like Marquette and Michigan State in the Final Four.

Now he's one of five freshmen in Howland's top 10, along with three sophomores now that Lorenzo Mata has returned.

"We had to play them," Howland said, as if there were no choice.

To play with the intensity he demands, there was no other way, he figured. Only there is. Look at Duke. All-American J. J. Redick puts in more than 37 minutes a game for the Blue Devils, one of the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 seeds.

Contrast that with Howland's approach. Only two Bruins, Arron Afflalo (34) and Farmar (30.5) put in more than 30 minutes a game. All 10 players in the rotation average at least 10 minutes a game.

Farmar has been able to rest his five sprained ankles with freshman Darren Collison coming in, although Collison is much more than a backup. His speed on offense and his relentless defensive dogging of the opposite point guard have changed the nature of the games recently. Often he's the man UCLA opponents have been unable to match up against.

This hard-nosed approach has been noticed in a Pac-10 known more for free-flowing offense and officiating geared at times to a no-contact game featured by ticky-tack calls.

Then along came Howland.

More Physical Team

No less a figure than Lute Olson, the Hall of Fame coach whose Arizona team lost three times to UCLA this season, has noticed.

"They were just a whole lot more physical than we were," Olson said of the Bruins' 71-59 victory Friday that wasn't nearly that close. "They have great quickness, good strength and they just play really hard."

UCLA did one more thing for Olson, who is taking his Wildcats to a record 22nd straight NCAA Tournament: "It got us ready for the way they play in the NCAA Tournament."

"There were a lot of no-calls in the game, and they let us play," Arizona point guard Mustafa Shakur said. "This game definitely prepared us for that because in the Pac-10 it can go either way, depending on who you play. I think that's something we'll be prepared for because in the tournament, the refs are going to let you play."

That's what Howland demands. And what he reminds the Bruins in his policy of early and often calling timeouts, especially after a UCLA score. He wants to remind the Bruins that it's defense that matters most.

"He showed us that tape just once," Farmar said. "But we went over it play-by-play, pointing out the mistakes, the lack of effort. That's all it took."

No special motivational gimmicks. No tricks.

"I don't play psychological games with my players," Howland said.

But he does need to remind them of what he expects. They expect the criticism that will surely come.

"Definitely," said senior center Ryan Hollins, whose career has finally blossomed under Howland. "That's how we get better."

So he'll let you know when you fall short?

"Oh definitely, He's (ticked) off when we miss blockouts or throw the ball away."

Orginally published in the The Press-Enterprise March 16, 2006
(reprinted with permission)


(Photo Credit: Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise)

UCLA vs. Belmont: Game Day Stories

By Bruin Basketball Report

Stories from outside the L.A. Writer's Beat Beltway

Bruins winning gritty way: Exit the UCLA campus in Westwood, drive west on Sunset Boulevard, and a visitor lands in Brentwood and Santa Monica. Drive east, and the next towns in line are Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Is it any wonder the school is not a place normally associated with blue-collar work? Union Tribune

UCLA learning Howland's mantra: Defense: In the 2002-03 season, storied UCLA men's basketball broke apart like a $10 Times Square Rolex. The Bruins finished 10-19 and coach Steve Lavin was finished, seven years after the stunning firing of Jim Harrick because of allegations of impropriety. Fix-it man Ben Howland was summoned and, like clockwork, the pieces were gradually put back together with an emphasis on defense and obsessive attention to detail. USA Today

Belmont hopes to have UCLA singing a sad song: The lights went out on Belmont coach Rick Byrd as he talked in a soft Southern twang about the thrill of being a rookie in the NCAA tournament. The 15th-seeded Bruins hope their time in the spotlight doesn't have the same rude ending. "If I'd have known how great this was, I would've really dreamed about it and worried about it and I'd have been crushed if we hadn't gotten here,'' Byrd said Wednesday, "but I wouldn't have known what I'd missed until this happened.'' ESPN

UCLA's season bittersweet for ex-Capital star Fey: Rather than leading UCLA in minutes, rebounds or blocked shots, Michael Fey is a team leader in less desirable stats. Like tape used, bench time and trainer's sessions. It's not the season Fey, who was rated as the 10th best center in the country coming out of Capital High School, dreamed of going into his senior year as a Bruin. Instead of a last hurrah it's been a lasting hurt. Injury following injury. The Olympian

Hoop hopes high at underdog Belmont: Whether or not the Belmont Bruins basketball team wins today's game in San Diego, Belmont University students are revved up for a sort of campus holiday to celebrate just how far their team has come. "There's a real buzz on campus," said Belmont student Mitchell Hastings, 21. "It's the topic of conversation. You can overhear it just about anywhere." The Tennessean

Hare’s NCAA trip started in Rome : The kid who once scored 55 points in a youth-league game at the Rome-Floyd YMCA is all grown up now. He’s a well-built 6-foot-3 college sophomore. And yeah, he’s still scoring. Justin Hare, who was born and spent his early childhood in Rome, is presently the leading scorer for the Belmont Bruins, averaging 15.9 points per game for the Nashville, Tenn., school. Rome-News Tribune


(photo credit: Union Tribune)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Howland Knows Firsthand Not To Take Belmont For Granted

By Bruin Basketball Report

When asked about his thoughts on how far his team could advance in the tournament, UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland kept to a single theme, “One game at a time.”

"All I care about is Belmont," Howland said. “They are a solid team.”

Certainly, the Belmont Bruins have racked up impressive offensive numbers this year, averaging 81.8 points per game (7th best in the nation), shooting over 50% from the floor (4th best in the nation), and hitting 38.2% from three-point distance.

But those statistics could be interpreted by some as inflated numbers, earned against feeble competition.

Belmont plays in an Atlantic Sun conference, which includes schools such as Gardner-Webb, Kennesaw, and Stetson - good academic centers but certainly not basketball powerhouses. With the low level of competition within the conference, its not surprising Belmont possesses an anemic strength of schedule rating of 239.

Subsequently, one wonders if coach Howland is just being polite and courteous to his Bruin-counterparts from Nashville when he says, “Belmont is a solid team, and we (UCLA) better be ready to play them.”

In truthfulness, Howland means every single word.

He is honestly concerned about UCLA's first-round game against Belmont, because at one time not long ago, he was the head coach of Northern Arizona - a No.15 seed team which almost upset a No.2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

In 1998 coach Ben Howland’s Northern Arizona Lumberjack team was selected to be the No.15 seed team in the West region, and were scheduled to play a heavily favored No.2 seed Cincinnati Bearcats at the opening round game in Boise, Idaho.

“I’ve been on the flip-side of one of these situations when I was at Northern Arizona,” Howland said. ”Cincinnati beat us at the end of the game with a last second three-point shot.”

“We should have won that game,” Howland said replaying the final seconds of the game in his mind. “They (Cincinnati) had a pretty good team that included Kenyon Martin and Ruben Patterson, both NBA players, but we really should have won it.”

In that first round game, Northern Arizona entered as the best three-point shooting team in the nation, and they lived up to their billing with an early barrage of three-point baskets to take a six point lead with under nine minutes remaining in the game.

But then Cincinnati's defense clamped down and were able to tie the score at 62-62, and had the ball with 17 seconds left in the game.

After a Bearcat time-out, Cincinnati’s Kenyon Martin set a hard screen to free up teammate D'Juan Baker's for an open three-pointer with 3.6 seconds left to help the Bearcats escape with a 65-62 victory, and avoid an early exit.

After the game a dejected Northern Arizona coach Ben Howland told the press, "We deserved to win the game. It's just unfortunate. They did everything I asked them to do, and we just came up a little short. It's unfortunate, because I think we're a really good team."

Eight years later, coach Ben Howland returns to the West Regional with a No.2 seed UCLA team to face, coincidentally, a prolific three-point shooting No.15 seed team. But coach Howland has been here before, of course last time on the other side of the seeding, but he understands the mind set of how an underdog enters the tournament. He’s been the coach of a No.15 seed team given no chance of winning a tournament game, a team which played inspired ball and narrowly missed upsetting a heavily favored opponent.

“Look, Belmont, they’re not afraid of us. They have no pressure on them.” Howland said. “We better be ready to play.”

You can be sure Howland has repeatedly shared his experiences with his players as they prepare for their game against the Belmont Bruins on Thursday.

Some final eerie comparisons between coach Howland's 1998 Northern Arizona squad and this year's Belmont Bruins. Like the Belmont Bruins, Northern Arizona’s offense was predicated on prolific three-point shooting.

The 1998 Northern Arizona team attempted 38% of their total field goal attempts as three-point field goal attempts. They led the nation in three-point field percentage at 42%.

The Belmont Bruins are very similar. Three-point field goal attempts also account for 38% of their total field goal attempts, and they make them at an impressive 38% clip as a team.

Injury update: Senior forward Cedric Bozeman will be held to limited practices this week as he continues to heal from a sprained ankle he suffered Thursday at the Pac-10 tournament. “We won't have Ced participate in any contact drills", Howland said. “We don't want him to accidentally tweak the ankle.” On Bozeman’s strong play in the Pac-10 tournament, Howland said “Ced is excited to be playing, he’s pumped, and he knows these are his final games in college. He makes our team so much better when he plays.”


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Interview With Former UCLA Star: Dave Immel

By Ken Wong

Bruin Basketball Report (BBR) caught up with former UCLA basketball star, Dave Immel (’83-’88), for an in-depth interview.

Immel shares memories from his UCLA playing days, and gives an interesting insight into the basketball program during his career at UCLA.

As a high school star at Glencoe High School in Oregon, he led his team to a 24-1 record and a basketball state championship in his senior year, and was named Oregon Player of the Year.

He was a starter at UCLA for two years, leading the PAC-10 in three point field goal percentage and graduating as a team captain in 1988.

During his career at UCLA, Immel averaged 7.8 points over 107 games, and still ranks No.12 all-time in UCLA history for three-point field goals scored.

In 1987 he helped the Bruins to their first-ever Pac-10 Tournament title in the same year they won the Pac-10 regular-season. This feat was not matched until this year's 2006 team.

Immel recently helped coach the Southridge High School Girls Varsity basketball team in Beaverton, Oregon, to a second consecutive OSAA Class 4A championship.

BBR: In 1983 you graduated from Glencoe High School, and were named Oregon Player of the Year. Both Oregon universities had solid basketball teams at the time. I'm surprised Hall of Fame Coach Ralph Miller didn't give orders to state troopers to stop you from crossing state lines. What made you decide to leave your home state to play college basketball at UCLA?

Immel: "This was an easy choice. I was born in Encino, CA and lived in and around Simi Valley for 13 years before moving to Oregon in 1977; and therefore, I grew up following UCLA basketball. When I had the opportunity to attend UCLA on an athletic scholarship, my only concern was whether or not I felt I could play at that level. On my recruiting visit in November of 1982 I watched a Saturday practice and felt like I could compete making my choice to attend UCLA an easy one. I will say that Ralph was not happy with my decision to leave and he had some rather choice things to say upon my departure. I was the first Oregon Player of the Year not to attend Oregon State in some time.”

BBR: After your freshman year, UCLA Head Coach Larry Farmer, who recruited you out of Glencoe High School, resigned as coach. Former Bruin great, Walt Hazzard, was hired in his place. Was it a difficult transition?

Immel: “Yes, I came home to Oregon over spring break and I was very concerned with the transition. When Hazzard became the coach, he called me in Oregon and ‘re-recruited’ me to stay at UCLA. After several discussions with Hazzard, I was comfortable with the transition early on as I was told many promising things about the program and where we would be heading. Bottom line – I wanted to win and Hazzard appeared to represent that.”

BBR: You were part of a great UCLA recruiting class in 1983. Did you ever think a freshman by the name of Reggie Miller would develop into the All-Star NBA player he became later?

Immel: “Reggie is a tremendous competitor; he always has been as long as I’ve known him. I never felt he was the best athlete on the court, but he’s always been able to figure out how to be successful. He’s one of the few players I’ve seen that seemed to have a knack for turning it up another level when the ‘lights’ came on. It’s been a real pleasure watching his career and I’m very happy for him. However, having said that, I would never have thought that Reggie would have become an NBA superstar. He had a great career!”

BBR: During your career at UCLA, you were involved in a number of memorable basketball games. Let's go back into history and reminisce about some of those games.

BBR: In a 1987 game against Louisville at Pauley Pavilion, you scored a career-high 23 points including 6-10 on three-point shots to help your team defeat a Louisville team led by Pervis Ellison. Your teammate, Reggie Miller, scored 42 points in the game (7th best in UCLA history). After the game, Louisville Coach Denny Crum was quoted as saying; "They can shoot from anywhere (referring to Immel and Miller)", he continued "In fact they did." You and Reggie were on fire! What are some of your recollections from the game?

Immel: “It was an early afternoon game and my first 3 pointer was an ‘air’ ball; a rather inauspicious start to such a prolific day. However, once I got going, the confidence just seemed to build and I felt like I could do no wrong. It was a fun game because Louisville was the defending national champs and Ellison was a great defender.”

BBR: A game which didn't end positively was a 1985 game against USC. The Trojans beat the Bruins 80-78 after four overtime periods; the game still remains the longest game in UCLA basketball history. With eight seconds remaining in the last overtime, you were at the free throw line with an opportunity to put your team up by two. You missed both free throws, and the Trojans rushed down to score the winning basket. Ironically you would lead the Bruins in free throw shooting two years later. Talk about displaying character under adversity, your team didn't lose another game on its way to an NIT championship. How did you and your teammates come back from such an emotional setback?

Immel: “Yes, that was an extremely tough pill to swallow. Earlier in the season, we had lost to USC in double-overtime as well. I think what really helped the team was the senior leadership of Nigel Miguel, Gary Maloncon and Brad Wright. They were determined to end their careers on a positive note.”

BBR: In 1987 you played in your first and only NCAA tournament. UCLA won the Pac-10 title and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Wyoming and Fennis Dembo, 78-68. You had a great tournament averaging 10.5 points per game. What were your most memorable moments from the tournament?

Immel: “I remember feeling very confident about our team at the time…we played like a team and it was fun! It was one of the few times at UCLA when I really felt like we actually banded together for the greater cause of the team rather than individual play. I only wish we had accepted this approach more often. Unfortunately, that was not a common theme during my time at UCLA.”

BBR: You live in the Portland vicinity, and Kevin Love, a highly recruited high school junior, attends nearby Lake Oswego High School. As you're probably aware, UCLA is recruiting him heavily. What are your impressions of Kevin Love as a player?

Immel: “He’s an outstanding player and a good kid! I would love to see Kevin in a Bruin uniform. He has the best outlet pass of any high school or college player I’ve ever seen. He’s a very smart player and has great command of the low post and team game. It would be special to see him in Pauley Pavilion helping the Bruins win.”

BBR: What are your impressions of the current UCLA team and Head Coach Ben Howland?

Immel: “Great season thus far. I really like Howland and I think his approach brings a winning formula. I’ve not spoken to him personally, but from what I hear, he believes in ‘tough’ players and in great defense. I believe those are attributes for a successful program. Apply those qualities to the type of athletes UCLA will be able to attract and I’m confident the Bruin program is in good hands for many years to come. I think he has been a great hire.”

BBR: What did you do after your college and professional playing days were over?

Immel: “Playing basketball professionally was not a major goal for me. I tried out with the Trailblazers in 1988 and the Pacers in 1989. I also played two seasons in Australia before calling it quits at age 26. When I returned from Australia in 1991, I moved to Seattle, which is where my wife is from, and explored a couple of different career paths. An opportunity to manage an athletic club (basketball only) in Beaverton brought me back to the Portland area in 1995 where I’ve been ever since. I am now working toward getting my real estate license which I should have in about 2 months. Throughout this time I’ve managed to stay connected to basketball as a coach. I love being around the game and helping young people realize the greatness in themselves. Coaching is one of my ways to give back and I feel most alive when I’m coaching.”

BBR: Tell us about a program you're involved in called "CompetitiveEdge Basketball"?

Immel: “CompetitiveEdge Basketball is a skill building program that offers individual, small group, academy programs as well as competitive games for kids aspiring to improve their understanding and ability in all areas of basketball. I’ve partnered with two Oregon Hall of Fame coaches to provide kids with some of the best instruction available anywhere. Anyone interested in learning more can check our web site at”

BBR: Dave, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to share memories from your playing days at UCLA.


(photo credit: ASUCLA)

Dijon Thompson Out Six Months After Knee Surgery

By Bruin Basketball Report

According to the Arizona Republic today , former UCLA basketball star Dijon Thompson had microfracture surgery performed on his right knee Monday. He is expected to miss up to six months.

Coincidentally, Thompson's knee surgery is similar to the one which has kept his teammate, Amare Stoudamire, out of action for almost the last six months.

Thompson was chosen by the New York Knicks in the second round (54th overall) of the NBA draft last year and then traded to the Phoenix Suns shortly afterward.

He was designated to the NBA Developmental League at the beginning of the regular season but was recalled to the NBA club in November.

He was averaging 2.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in 4.3 minutes of play. His best game this season was against Portland in December when he scored 10 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in a victory.

Bruin Basketball Report wishes Dijon a complete and speedy recovery.


UCLA vs. Belmont - NCAA Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.7 ranked UCLA Bruins begin their quest for a twelfth NCAA Men's Basketball Championship banner with an opening round game against the Belmont University Bruins in San Diego on Thursday.

Pac-10 regular-season champion, UCLA (27-6, 14-4), swept through the Pac-10 Tournament last week in convincing style, smashing opponents by an average margin of almost 18 points a game. Two of the wins were against NCAA tournament-bound teams, Arizona and California.

UCLA was rewarded by the NCAA selection committee with a No.2 seed in the West (Oakland) region.

"I'm excited about a No. 2 seed. It was well-deserved," coach Ben Howland said. "Our guys have worked very, very hard. One of the criteria that is used by the NCAA is how are you playing at the end of the season."

In addition to their march through the Pac-10 tournament, UCLA enters the NCAA tournament with a seven-game winning streak, and are ranked in the top 10 in both national polls for the first time this season.

The UCLA Bruins take on another Bruin team - the Belmont University Bruins.

Belmont University, located in Nashville Tennessee, is known more for the country music performers it’s produced, rather than NBA basketball players.

Belmont (20-10, 15-5), was co-conference regular-season champion of the Atlantic Sun conference.

Atlantic Sun conference teams include; Campbell, East Tennessee St., Florida Atlantic, Gardner-Webb, Jacksonville, Kennesaw, Lipscomb, Mercer, Northern Florida, and Stetson.

A former NAIA division powerhouse, Belmont, made the move to Division 1 seven seasons ago. This year’s regular-season conference championship was the first one won by the school at Division 1.

In the Atlantic Sun conference tournament, Belmont defeated archrival Lipscomb, 74-69, for the title which earned the team an NCAA automatic-bid to the tournament. Belmont received a No.15 seed in the West regional.

Belmont finished the season with a No. 117 in RPI and an extremely low strength of schedule (SOS) of 239.

Belmont ranks seventh best in the nation in scoring offense with 81.8 points per game; however, two other Atlantic Sun conference teams, Campbell (82.8) and East Tennessee St. (81.6) rank in the top 10 in points scored per game as well.

From a conference perspective, the Atlantic Sun conference has one of the poorest scoring defenses in the country, the teams combine to allow a whopping 75.3 points per game. Obviously, not much defense is played in the Atlantic Sun conference. Belmont allows 75.9 points per game.

As a team, Belmont shoots extremely well from the floor, making 50% of their field goals (4th best in the nation); in addition, they hit on 38.2% from three-point distance.

Belmont plays an uptempo game (72.4 possession per game), and runs a motion offense looking to hit the open man - the team averages more than 17 assists per game.

Many of their assists are the result of lay-ups off back cuts or back screens which open up because of an opponent's concern over Belmont's prolific three-point shooting.

On the other hand, as a result of their uptempo offense, Belmont is prone to turnovers averaging 16.3 per game.

Four players average double figures in points scored for Belmont:

The leading scorer on the team is guard Justin Hare (So, 6’3, 185). He averages 15.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. He shoots 48% from the field and is a deadly marksman from three-point distance shooting at 39%.

Hare scored a career-high 32 points to lead Belmont to the conference tournament title last week, and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Arron Afflalo, of UCLA, will certainly get the initial assignment on Justin Hare. Afflalo, the team’s best on ball defender has been a nightmare for most opposing players.

Center Boomer Herndon (Jr, 6’11, 260) scored 14.9 points, grabbed 7.5 rebounds, and recorded 1.8 blocks per game this season. He takes up a lot of space underneath with his size, and can be an effective scorer in the low blocks. He is shooting over 59% from the field.

Junior guard Josh Goodwin (6’2, 200) averages 12.5 points and shoots 48% from the field, and just as well from three-point distance hitting at a 46% clip. In a conference game against East Tennessee St., Goodwin made 11-16 on three-pointers.

Brian Collins (Sr, 6’4, 175) averages 10.9 points and 4.4 assists per game. Although not a three-point threat like the other Belmont guards, he still shoots extremely well from the field averaging over 51% from the field.

Coming off the bench to provide a spark offensively is three-point specialist Andy Wicke (Fr, 6’3, 185). He averages 8.6 points per game and shoots almost 40% from three-point distance.

On the defensive end, Belmont usually prefers to play man-to-man defense; however due to the athleticism of UCLA, we may see Belmont employ much more zone defense in this game to help negate some of UCLA's advantage in this area.

Look for UCLA to come out and immediately establish a slower, more methodical tempo in order to cut down on Belmont's offensive opportunities, and to make them work hard on both ends of the court.

Belmont does not have the depth to stay with UCLA nor have the ability to handle its physical style of play.

If Belmont gets hot in the early going, especially with its three-point shooting, they may be able to stay in the game with UCLA. But by the second half, one would expect UCLA to pull away if they haven't already.

Ultimately, UCLA should win this game going away, but Howland knows he can't let his team look past Belmont to the next round.

"Some higher seeds always get upset in the first round every year." Howland said, "We're preparing so that won't be one of them."

"We have to look at Belmont right now and just focus on them. It's one game at a time."


Monday, March 13, 2006

Polls Agree: UCLA No.2 Seed Worthy

By Bruin Basketball Report

In the latest national polls released today, UCLA was ranked No.7 and No.8 in the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, respectively. In the AP poll, the Bruins were tied with Boston College for the seven spot.

After sweeping through the Pac-10 tournament with convincing wins by margins of 22, 12, and 19, voters awarded the Bruins with their first Top Ten ranking of the season.

Fittingly, UCLA's rank among the top eight in the nation coincides with their No.2 seeding in the NCAA tournament.

According to Ken Pomeroy's RPI ranking, UCLA enters the tourney with a No.9 RPI ranking and a strength of schedule of No.29 in the nation.

Although four Pac-10 teams were named to the NCAA tournament this week, Washington remained the only other Pac-10 team ranked in the polls at No.17. California received votes in both polls, while Arizona received four sympathy votes in the AP.

The top four teams in both polls were also the four No.1 seeds named by the NCAA tournament selection committee: Duke, Connecticut, Memphis, and Villanova. Gonzaga was ranked No.5 in both polls.


Interesting Match-ups For Bruins In Oakland

By Bruin Basketball Report

The NCAA tournament selection committee regularly places teams together in certain regions to create intriguing match-up possibilities.

In the Oakland Region, the UCLA Bruins have quite a number of interesting potential upcoming games:

No. 10 Alabama
Alabama coach Mark Gottfried was an assistant at UCLA for eight years including 1995 when the Bruins won the NCAA Championship. If Gottfried, or for that matter Lorenzo Romar, hadn’t left UCLA to pursue other jobs, Ben Howland might never have become the UCLA coach. Alabama needs to defeat Marquette in the first game to meet the winner of UCLA-Belmont on Saturday.

No.8 Arkansas
Since we’re discuissing the 1995 championship, UCLA defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks, led by Corliss Williamson, for the championship that year. The Razorbacks could face the Bruins in the Great 8 in Oakland, not likely, but just think about all those 1995 UCLA championship team flashbacks and interviews you’d see on the CBS telecast.

No. 7 Marquette
UCLA coach Ben Howland has a chance for some payback if UCLA meets Tom Crean and Marquette in the second round game at San Diego. The Golden Eagles beat Howland and his Pitt team in a 2003 Sweet 16 game.

No. 6 Indiana
Two storied programs facing off in the Sweet 16, UCLA vs. Indiana - you can’t get more old-school than this match-up. Of course, mercurial Bobby Knight is not longer at Indiana, but outgoing coach Mike Davis makes a good story.

No.5 Pittsburgh
Most people were guessing the NCAA selection committee would put Pitt and UCLA together in the same region somewhere. Most know the story, Ben Howland was head coach at Pitt and built a powerhouse before he left for his dream job at UCLA. His protégé, Jamie Dixon, is now head coach at Pitt. It would be Big East original-style vs. Big East west coast-style. In a contest between these two tough teams, the winner would likely be the team with the last player standing. In this part of the bracket, a Great 8 meeting between the two is a strong possibility.

No. 3 Gonzaga
A great match-up to decide the “Best in the West”. The Zags (26-3), led by Adam Morrison, feel disrespected, and believe they should have been a No.2 seed, if not a No.1 seed, in the region. Can Ben Howland’s defensive-minded Bruins stop national POY candidate Morrison? An epic Sweet 16 match-up is in the works.

No. 1 Memphis
The Memphis Tigers defeated UCLA at the NIT Tip-Off Classic way back in November, 88-80. The Tigers were up by 17 points at halftime, before Jordan Farmar single-handedly shot UCLA back into the game. The young Bruins have improved tremendously since November – especially the freshman. How much more have they improved? It would be interesting to find out.

But first things first, the No.2 seed UCLA Bruins take on the No.15 seed Belmont Bruins in a first round game on Thursday. A Bruins vs. Bruins Game Preview is coming on Wednesday.

Oakland Region

At Dallas, TX
No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 16 Oral Roberts
No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Bucknell

At Auburn Hills, MI
No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Kent State
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Bradley

At Salt Lake City, UT
No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 14 Xavier
No. 6 Indiana vs. No. 11 San Diego State

At San Diego, CA
No. 7 Marquette vs. No. 10 Alabama
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 15 Belmont


Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (3/13)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup published every Monday during the season.


Artesia defeated Santa Margarita at home, 50-38, in the second round of the CIF Division III state playoffs. It was the second time in five days that the top-seeded Pioneers (31-1) have beaten the Eagles (27-5) ... James Keefe, a McDonald's All-American who's going to UCLA, finished with 16 points but only four came in the second half. Press Telegram 3/10


It was sixth-tenths of second that felt like forever to Kevin Love.The Lake Oswego center could only watch helplessly from under the basket as South Medford's Michael Harthun's desperation 3-point shot at the buzzer missed its mark.‘‘Oh man I was scared when hit the backboard,'' Love admitted. ‘‘But when it bounced off the rim, that felt good.'' Love had 24 points and nine rebounds to lead the No. 2 Lakers to a 59-57 win over the top-ranked Panthers in the OSAA Class 4A boys state basketball championship game at McArthur Court on Saturday. Herald and News 3/12

Kyle Singler, South Medford's 6-foot-8-inch junior, runs the floor and attacks from the wing in a style that recalls Mike Dunleavy, the former Jesuit High School and Duke star. Singler roams the floor like a point forward for South Medford. He rebounds well but his ballhandling and shooting suggest he'll bloom into a great perimeter player in college. But if Singler is a lanky Dunleavy, Kevin Love, Lake Oswego's 6-foot-10 junior is Elton Brand. Singler is a smooth cup of latte; Love a mug of joe, served straight up in the paint. Oregon high school basketball fans got to see these two great players collide Saturday night at McArthur Court in the Class 4A state title game. Lake Oswego prevailed, 59-57, in a thrilling, hard-fought game that was a capstone to a terrific state tournament. Oregonian 3/12

Kevin Love got 20 points and 20 rebounds to lead No. 2 Lake Oswego to a 74-59 victory over No. 3 Jefferson in a semifinal game of the Class 4A state boys basketball tournament at McArthur Court Friday night.The Lakers (25-3) will play in their second straight state championship game, and for the second year in a row, they got there by beating the Democrats (23-4). South-Oregon 3/11

The game billed as Kevin Love vs. Andy Poling quickly developed into a showcase of Lake Oswego's oft-criticized guards. And the team billed as a "one-man team" looked like anything but Thursday at McArthur Court.Ernie Spada and Vince Thomas combined for 39 points, eight assists and four steals and overshadowed their heralded teammate, Love, in leading Lake Oswego to a 72-39 victory over Westview in the opening round of the OSAA Class 4A boys basketball tournament...The strong performance came at the urging of Love, who finished with 15 points, 16 rebounds and three assists after scoring two points in the first half. Oregonian 3/10

Myles Daley hit a jumper at the buzzer to lift South Medford over defending state champion Jesuit.It was the only time South Medford had the lead.South Medford’s Kyle Singler hit two free throws to tie the game at 60 with 45 seconds left in regulation and Seth Tarver missed a three at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Corvallis Gazette 3/10

Kyle Singler had 20 points and 10 rebounds and top-ranked South Medford rallied from a halftime deficit to beat West Salem 62-42 in a quarterfinal game Thursday at the OSAA Class 4A boys basketball tournament. Oregonian 3/9

Today in Eugene, the Class 4A boys basketball tournament begins its 88th edition, drawing more interest than it has in years. Many fans can't wait to see Lake Oswego's Kevin Love and South Medford's Kyle Singler. The two much-hyped juniors are not only national-level college recruits, but also potential NBA material. Oregonian 3/9

The Panthers are led by 6-foot-8 forward Kyle Singler, who is one of the most heavily recruited juniors in the nation. Singler has made unofficial visits to Duke and UCLA this season, and he is also considering North Carolina, Arizona and Washington. Singler averages 20.5 points per game and is shooting 60.8 percent from the field, including 35.4 percent on three-pointers. He averages 8.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and more than one blocked shot. Register Guard 3/8

No. 1-ranked South Medford against No. 2 Lake Oswego. Kyle Singler against Kevin Love. It’s the Oregon version of Duke-Gonzaga, sort of a mini-Adam Morrison vs. J.J. Reddick. The Panthers taking on the Lakers for all the marbles. “It would be really fun — a hell of a game between two of the best teams ever out of Oregon,” says Love, the 6-10, 260-pound post man for Lake Oswego. “If it did happen, it would be some game. It would be a packed crowd (at the Pit) on that Saturday night.” Portland Tribune 3/7

Westview's Payton Brooks scored 20 points and Andy Poling blocked seven shots Friday afternoon to help the Wildcats beat South Eugene 62-49 in the consolation round at the OSAA Class 4A boys basketball tournament. Oregonian 3/11

Behind the terrific game of point guard Jeremy Lin (16 points, seven assists), clutch fourth-quarter shooting of Brad Lehman (13 points) and tough interior defense by Cooper Miller who helped hold 6-foot-9 Drew Gordon to six points, the Vikings caught, passed and eventually pulled out a tenacious 45-43 victory in the CIF North Region Division II finals at Arco Arena on Saturday. Palo Alto (31-1), the top seed which was embarrassed 55-35 in last year's NorCal final by eventual state champion Oak Ridge, now plays Mater Dei of Santa Ana in next week's state title game. San Francisco Chronicle 3/12

Archbishop Mitty 58, Montgomery 56: Drew Gordon had 19 points and 14 rebounds and Kevin Toth added eight points and six assists as the Monarchs (28-4) hung on for an overtime victory in a Division II quarterfinal. Montgomery forced overtime with a jump shot to end regulation. Mercury News 3/8

The Pioneers used an 11-point run during a stretch of the third and fourth quarters to turn what had been a close Div. III title showdown into a 73-55 rout of the Wolverines at the Sports Arena...Derek Glasser scored a career-high 25 points, Malik Story added 17 and James Harden finished with 16 for the Pioneers (32-1), who advance to the CIF State title game next weekend against St. Mary's of Stockton at Arco Arena in Sacramento. L.A. Daily News 3/12

James Harden was a short, pudgy freshman when he arrived at Lakewood Artesia. He carried an asthma inhaler, had a drawn-out jump shot and seemed apathetic during conditioning drills.Much has changed in the last 2 1/2 years. Though he still keeps his inhaler nearby, Harden has discarded everything else that impeded his development into a coveted high school basketball prospect. He is no longer chubby, having grown six inches into his 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame. He also developed a quicker release on his outside shot and discovered the benefits outweigh the pain when working to get into peak shape.Harden has averaged a team-high 18.9 points and eight rebounds for Artesia, ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports for most of the season. He has attracted interest from colleges, including written offers from Washington State and Pepperdine Los Angeles Times 3/11

Jrue Holiday led all scorers with 23 points and Justin Holiday added 22 points and a game-high 15 rebounds for fifth-seeded Campbell Hall (26-6), which fell victim to a 14-point second-quarter run, the final seven with Jrue Holiday on the bench after picking up his third foul.
Robin Lopez's blocked shots and Brook Lopez's rebounds. L.A. Daily News 3/10

And at the end, it came down to Campbell Hall star Jrue Holiday, a tie score and two free throws. Holiday hit both shots with 3.5 seconds remaining, and the visiting Vikings (26-5) pulled out a 74-72 triumph - their third victory this season over the Mounties - to advance to a Div. IV regional semifinal Thursday at top-seeded San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno (32-3). L.A. Daily News 3/8


(photo credit: Portland Tribune)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

UCLA No.2 Seed In NCAA Tournament

By Bruin Basketball Report

The Pac-10 Champions UCLA Bruins (27-6, 14-4) were named the No.2 seed in the Oakland Region of the Men's Basketball NCAA tournament.

UCLA will meet the No.15 seed Belmont Bruins (20-10, 15-5) of the Atlantic Sun Conference in a first round game in San Diego, California.

When asked if he was surprised by the No. 2 seed in the tournament UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said, "I'm not surprised at all, we're playing our best ball of the year right now."

Howland continued, "Not only were we the No.2 seed, we were the fifth overall team based upon the order of selection." With Memphis as the fourth No.1 seed in the tournament, the selection committee picks teams in a serpentine fashion which indicates UCLA was the first No.2 seed team selected by the committee.

Belmont was the co-conference champion and tournament conference champion of the Atlantic Sun. The university is located in Nashville, Tennessee.

The four No.1 seeds in the NCAA tournament are as follows: Duke in the Atlantic Region, Connecticut in the Washington D.C. Region, Villanova in the Minnesota Region, and Memphis in the Oakland Region.

Four Pac-10 teams made the NCAA tournament: UCLA No.2 Region in Oakland; Washington No.5 seed in Washington D.C. Region; California No.7 seed in Atlanta Region; and Arizona No.8 seed in Minneapolis Region.

Complete NCAA Men's Basketball Bracket: Link

Oakland Region

At Dallas, TX
No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 16 Oral Roberts
No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 9 Bucknell

At Auburn Hills, MI
No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 12 Kent State
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Bradley

At Salt Lake City, UT
No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 14 Xavier
No. 6 Indiana vs. No. 11 San Diego State

At San Diego, CA
No. 7 Marquette vs. No. 10 Alabama
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 15 Belmont

Atlanta Region

At Greensboro, NC
No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 Southern
No. 8 George Washington vs. No. 9 UNC-Wilmington

At Jacksonville, FL
No. 5 Syracuse vs. No. 12 Texas A&M
No. 4 LSU vs. No. 13 Iona

At Auburn Hills, MI
No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 14 Northwestern State
No. 6 West Virginia vs. No. 11 Southern Illinois

At Dallas, TX
No. 7 California vs. No. 10 NC State
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 15 Penn

Washington, D.C. Region

At Philadelphia, PA
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 16 Albany
No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 9 UAB

At San Diego, CA
No. 5 Washington vs. No. 12 Utah State
No. 4 Illinois vs. No. 13 Air Force

At Dayton, OH
No. 3 North Carolina vs. No. 14 Murray State
No. 6 Michigan State vs. No. 11 George Mason

At Greensboro, NC
No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 10 Seton Hall
No. 2 Tennessee vs. No. 15 Winthrop

Minneapolis Region

At Philadelphia, PA
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 (Monmouth/Hampton)
No. 8 Arizona vs. No. 9 Wisconsin

At Salt Lake City, UT
No. 5 Nevada vs. No. 12 Montana
No. 4 Boston College vs. No. 13 Pacific

At Jacksonville, FL
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 14 South Alabama
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Wisconsin-Milwaukee

At Dayton, OH
No. 7 Georgetown vs. No. 10 Northern Iowa
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Davidson


Bruins Power Their Way To Pac-10 Tourney Title

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

The UCLA Bruins captured a Pac-10 tournament title for the first time since 1987 with a 71-52 victory over the California Bears.

Sophomore guard Jordan Farmar scored a game-high 19 points, including a nine point barrage on 3 three-points shots in the second-half to help the Bruins turn a close game into a rout.

The Bruins (27-6, 14-4) got balanced scoring from its starters. Four of the five players scored in double-figures with Arron Afflalo, the team's leading scorer, as the only starter not hitting the mark.

With the Cal defense keying on Afflalo the entire game, the sophomore became a playmaker recording a career-high 7 assists. He also scored 9 points in a team-high 35 minutes of play.

Continuing to impress in the low post, 7-footer Ryan Hollins scored 12 points on 5-6 shooting. With Hollins providing scoring inside, opponent defenses no longer can key on UCLA perimeter players.

If Hollins continues his stellar play, the Bruins have an excellent chance of going deeper into the NCAA tourney than most expected.

Senior wingman Cedric Bozeman scored 13 points and handed out 5 assists. He continued his aggressive play of late on the offensive end, driving into the paint for shots or drawing defenders and dishing to teammates for easy baskets.

With Bozeman taking initiative on the offensive end, he now gives the Bruins a third offensive threat which makes the team very difficult to defend against.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 10 points on 5-8 shooting and 4 rebounds. Twice during the game when the Bruin offense was sputtering, Mbah a Moute put back offensive rebounds for scores to help spark the team.

Mbah a Moute was also part of a quartet of Bruin defenders, including Alfred Aboya, Lorenzo Mata, and Ryan Hollins, which limited Cal's leading scorer Leon Powe to a sub par 6-15 shooting for 18 points.

In last night's game against Oregon, Powe scored a tournament-high 41 points in route to being voted the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

But in this contest, the Bruin defense wore Powe down by the second-half - holding him scoreless in the final 16 minutes of the game when the Bruins pulled away.

"Our interior defense doubling the ball was really good," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "To hold Powe to 17 points is an incredible job by our team. He's a load, he's a great player."

The UCLA defense held California to 39.6% shooting from the floor; and the 52 points scored by the Bears marked the third straight tournament game in which the Bruins held their opponents below 60 points.

During the course of the game, one could sense the Bruin's constant defensive pressure and physical-style of play was taking its toll on the Bears who were already playing with limited rest due to a late ending double-overtime win over Oregon and early afternoon start time of the title game.

The Bears (20-10, 12-6) stayed in the game for the first 30 minutes of play and rallied twice from sizeable deficits to threaten the Bruins. However, the UCLA players did not get rattled and never relinquished the lead the entire game.

"This team just continues to battle back," Howland said. "There's nothing that they haven't seen in terms of adversity that's going to bother them."

In the first half, UCLA went on an 18-6 run and built a 16 point lead. Perhaps sensing an easy win, the Bruins lost their intensity on both ends of the court with the Bears roaring back to cut the deficit to just 3 points at the half, 32-29.

UCLA was held scoreless for the final four minutes of the first half, and appeared lackadaisical on offense, settling for six straight missed outside jumpers.

Cal also stayed in the game by pounding the boards, out-rebounding UCLA in the first half 14 to 7, including four offensive rebounds.

At halftime, Coach Ben Howland stressed the need to better execute their offense by getting the ball inside either on post passes or drives to the basket.

With 16 minutes remaining in the game and the Bears trailing by only one point, 36-35, the Bruins started attacking the basket and scored 8 of their next 10 points on either lay-ups or foul shots, culminating with a rim-rattling slam dunk by Ryan Hollins courtesy of an Arron Afflalo assist.

It was another typical UCLA game of attrition - the Bruin's physical style of play is to grind it out on both ends of the court the entire game to eventually wear down an opponent.

On defense, the Bruin's man-to-man pressure defense takes its toll on teams after 40 minutes. UCLA players are schooled well and rarely make mistakes on defense, often forcing opponents to take tough shots.

On offense, the Bruins have become multi-faceted with the development of their inside game. UCLA has always been a threat from the perimeter, but guards are now passing the ball inside with confidence, and post players are catching passes and converting them for scores.

Just as important, the Bruin offense is patient, players willing to pass up a quick shot in order to find a higher percentage shot later on in the shot clock. By playing most the clock, UCLA forces opponents to play a lot of defense which is part of their strategy of wearing down opponents.

UCLA enters NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday as both the Pac-10 regular-season champion and Pac-10 tournament champion. Finishing the season with a seven-game winning streak, the Bruins are poised and ready for the tourney.

"We're a 2 or 3 seed. I think that's pretty certain," Howland said "We won the Pac-10 conference any way you look at it outright in the regular season. We actually played all three of these games where it was pretty clear at the end of the game who was the best team, and it's a credit to these kids."


(photo credit: AP)