Saturday, March 25, 2006




UCLA vs. Memphis: Game Day Stories

By Bruin Basketball Report

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

Bruins follow sophomore leader: Like any good leader, Bruins point guard Jordan Farmar deflects praise from himself to others.Replays indicated that he - and not teammate Cedric Bozeman - knocked the ball from Gonzaga's JP Batista, then passed to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for the game-winning basket Thursday night in UCLA's 73-71 victory in the Oakland Regional semifinals. Video evidence to the contrary, Farmar refused to accept the role of hero."We were both trapping him and swiping for the ball," Farmar said. "I think Cedric knocked it loose. I picked it up. I found Luc under the basket. "Once and for all." St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Mbah a Moute Kicks Boute: To this day, the story still lights the face of UCLA freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. And how could it not? Life was good back then. He loved soccer. His family. And eating boa constrictors. Dad was the chief of the local village in Cameroon, and he was one of the princes. Everything made sense -- that is, until his brother started coming home from school, bragging about this new game he had learned. Basketball. Sports Illustrated

Memphis should be fresher than UCLA: Although UCLA's players claimed they will be fresh for today's game against Memphis, they admitted the 73-71, comeback win over Gonzaga in Thursday's late game was draining emotionally and physically. Memphis, meanwhile, should be rested. None of its players averages more than 27.3 minutes a game in the tournament, and all three of their games have been decided well before the final buzzer. San Francisco Chronicle

Season of maturity put to test: Even before the NCAA Tournament's Oakland Regional began, there were plenty of ways to illustrate how UCLA had changed since its 88-80 loss to Memphis in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 23. Now that the Bruins are playing the Tigers in today's Elite Eight matchup at the Oakland Arena there is one more significant way they have changed. UCLA is coming off one of the most inspirational victories in school history -- a history, mind you, that is full of such things. Contra-Costa Times

Memphis, UCLA take separate roads to final: Memphis won each of its first three NCAA tournament games by 16 points, while UCLA had a much tougher time reaching the regional final. The top-seeded Tigers played the early semifinal game and got to bed early. The Bruins rallied late for a thrilling 73-71 victory over Gonzaga and struggled to sleep at all until exhaustion finally did the trick.Everything points to Memphis having the upper hand when these teams meet for the second time this season with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Not so fast. Both sides know better. Sun Herald

Out of the way, UCLA: It came from the garbage. Shawne Williams will tell you this with great pride when he talks about the first time he wore a University of Memphis jersey. He didn't have money to buy his own. The NCAA frowns upon amateurs accepting gifts. So as a teenager, Williams' only way of getting a UofM jersey was to scrounge around and make the best of what he could find. But he knew where to look. Memphis Online

Bozeman plays many roles for Bruins – all crucial : The darkness couldn't lull him to sleep or expel the pain. It couldn't stop his shoulder and knee and ankle from throbbing any more than it could prevent all the memories from rushing back again. So he just lay there Thursday evening, the seconds and minutes and hours ticking away, unable even to entertain himself by switching on the television. UCLA senior Cedric Bozeman is comfortable not being the team's center of attention. “Arron (Afflalo) is my roommate and he was sound asleep,” said Cedric Bozeman. “I didn't want to disturb him, you know, out of respect.” Union Tribune

Carney's game taking long way back to Indy: Yeah, as if this happens a lot. High school basketball coach from Indianapolis who played on a national championship team at Indiana under Bob Knight frowns on his players participating with traveling AAU summer teams. His star player isn't heavily recruited. It's December of his senior year and there are no scholarship offers. He's not listed among the nation's top 250 prospects. Union Tribune

Memphis' Carney rises from obscurity to stardom: Ben Howland admitted Friday that as Pittsburgh's coach four years ago, he was unaware of an Indianapolis high school player named Rodney Carney. Howland was not alone. Only a handful of college recruiters had ever heard of Carney, much less seen him play. Howland, who is now UCLA's coach, went so far as to joke that his Memphis counterpart, John Calipari, must have had Carney "tucked away somewhere, a secret recruit." Mercury News

UCLA sees shades of Wooden: One day after beating Gonzaga, the UCLA Bruins couldn't believe they were still standing. If you closed your eyes to their credentials and listened to their words, you would swear the Bruins were Cinderella trying on the glass sneaker for size. But this is a 30-win team from a program that once dominated college basketball, churning out championship after championship under former coach John Wooden. Houston Chronicle

UCLA, Memphis receive rematch: Memphis is taking little comfort knowing it already has beaten UCLA.`Everybody knows it's hard to beat a team twice,'' Memphis forward Shawne Williams said Thursday after the Tigers' 80-64 victory over Bradley. Memphis plays UCLA on Saturday in the regional final. Mercury News

Young Memphis, UCLA Teams Make Strides: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was a nervous freshman playing his first college game away from Pauley Pavilion. John Calipari's crew had yet to discover its chemistry. Even though Memphis and UCLA met once already this season, it was so long ago there's not much either side can glean from that November game as they prepare to play again Saturday with a trip to the Final Four at stake. Star Tribune

Memphis wins by just doin' what comes naturally: John Calipari is funny this way. He doesn't want his Memphis basketball players watching much film of opponents. He doesn't want them getting caught up in strengths and weaknesses and tendencies. He doesn't want them worrying about anything but themselves. “I tell them to just go out and (play) ball,” said Calipari. “I watch (other teams) and get sick to my stomach, thinking, 'Oh, gosh.' I tell the kids to forget about it. Just (play) ball. Worry about us and what we have to do. This team is chasing greatness. We're still on that path.” Union-Tribune

Calipari turns to JC coach for help: Memphis coach John Calipari has led a team to the Final Four, coached in the NBA and learned his trade working under Larry Brown. So it might seem kind of surprising that Calipari turned to a junior college coach to retool his offense. Fresno City College coach Vance Walberg went to Memphis to learn from Calipari a couple of years ago, when Calipari asked Walberg about his offense. Star-Telegram

UCLA hopes fate on its side: UCLA has a quasi-home-court advantage and perhaps a little magic in its pocket.Memphis? It will have to settle for freakish athleticism, depth, fresh legs and its No. 1 seed. "Memphis is the most athletic team in the country," UCLA coach Ben Howland said Friday, looking ahead to today's Oakland Regional final at Oakland Arena. IndyStar

Keating backing Bruins: Work prevented Larry Keating from joining his wife and two daughters today in the Oakland (Calif.) Arena stands. That’s OK, says Keating, Kansas University’s senior associate athletic director who is confident his son’s No. 2-seeded UCLA Bruins will defeat No. 1-seed Memphis in a 6:05 p.m. Elite Eight battle and advance to next week’s Final Four in Indianapolis. Lawrence-Journal World


Friday, March 24, 2006

UCLA vs. Memphis - NCAA Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

Youth will be on display at the Oakland Regional Final game between the No.2 UCLA Bruins and No.1 Memphis Tigers with the winner advancing to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

UCLA plays primarily three sophomores, four freshmen, and two seniors; while Memphis does it with a rotation featuring four freshmen, three sophomores and only one senior.

UCLA and Memphis faced each other last November at the NIT Preseason Tip-Off Classic – it was only the Bruin’s fourth game of the regular season.

Memphis dominated the game and led by as much as 20 points before settling for an 88-80 victory. The Memphis game remains the only time this season an opponent has scored over 80 points against the Bruins.

Tiger’s freshman Shawne Williams made 5 of 7 from three-point distance on his way to a season-high 26 points to pace the Tigers. Memphis was 8 of 17 for 47% from beyond the arc.

The Bruins would have lost by a larger margin if it hadn’t been for the hot-shooting of Jordan Farmar who scored 23 points in the second-half.

But that was then; this is now – the Elite Eight.

Going into the Gonzaga game, UCLA had held their opponents to below 60 points in eight straight games.

On Saturday, the Bruin defense will be strongly challenged by Memphis’ high-powered offense. The Tigers averaged 81 points per game this season (8th in the nation).

Memphis, with a 33-3 overall record, played a tough non-conference season at the beginning of the season but has been barely tested over the last two months due to playing in a weak C-USA conference.

Memphis is stocked with long and athletic players, and they use it to their advantage by applying defensive pressure on the ball for the entire 94 feet of the court.

The Tigers are ranked 5th in the nation in field goal percentage defense allowing only 38.2%

They play an aggressive man-to-man defense in which they overplay the passing lanes to disrupt offenses and to create turnovers. The Tigers have six players who average over 1.0 steals per game, and rank 9th in the nation in team steals per game (9.8).

With Memphis’ pressure defense and stable of athletes, turnovers will be a key to this game. Although the Bruins have taken better care of the ball lately, they are still prone to committing unforced errors during a game.

Against Bradley on Thursday, Memphis’ athleticism was on display and they looked every bit like the No.1 seed of the region. Senior forward Rodney Carney scored 27 points on 7-12 shooting in the Tigers victory.

Carney (Sr, 6'7, 205), the C-USA Player of the Year, is an immense talent who can score in different ways. He averaged 17.5 points per game and shot nearly 40% from three-point distance. Carney has tremendous leaping ability and is a premier finisher around the basket.

UCLA senior forward Cedric Bozeman did a good defensive job on Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, and his task against Carney will be just as tough and important to the Bruin's success.

Although Memphis has many offensive weapons, they tend to play off Carney’s offense, especially his awe-inspiring dunks.

“That's what my dunks do," Carney said. "That gives my team intensity, gets them going. That's my purpose. I want to dunk on 7-foot guys just to get the team going. Once I come out, the intensity will still be there."

Although Shawne Williams (Fr, 6'9, 225) practically single-handedly sunk UCLA with his three-point shooting display in the first meeting, he is not necessarily known as a three-point threat, not with a 31% three-pointer field goal average.

He has been streaky and inconsistent from the floor, in general, shooting only 42% while averaging 13.3 points per game.

Williams is long, very athletic and an excellent defender, averaging 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. He is second on the team in rebounding with 6.1 caroms during the season.

UCLA’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute matched up with Williams in the first meeting and was torched by William’s outside shooting.

In that game Mbah a Moute never made the defensive adjustment to stop Williams’ jumper, but there is no doubt he will be aware of Williams’ ability to light it up from the outside if he gets hot in this game.

Joey Dorsey (So, 6'9, 265) was a dominant interior force in the first game grabbing 9 rebounds and blocking 3 shots. He is a wide-body and physical presence in the paint and averaged 7.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game during the season. He intimidated the Bruins inside and controlled the paint.

Senior Ryan Hollins has not backed down from the tough post play of the postseason so far, and UCLA will need to him to continue to provide a strong interior presence against Memphis.

As good as Memphis is in the frontcourt, they may be stronger in the backcourt.

In another tournament marquee point-guard match-up, UCLA’s Jordan Farmar will go head-to-head with Memphis’ Darius Washington Jr. (So, 6'2, 195).

Washington is a very physical player, and played strong defense against Farmar, many times forcing him out 35-feet away from the basket to initiate the offense.

However, Farmar was hampered in the first Memphis game by an ankle sprain he suffered days earlier against Temple, and was subsequently less effective – although he did finish the game with an offensive rampage.

Farmar needs to take care of the ball against Washington and find a way to get to the basket. UCLA is much more effective when Farmar is aggressive on offense.

Freshman Darren Collison’s may play a very important role against Memphis. The Tigers really don’t have anyone on their roster that can match Collison’s quickness.

The Tigers lack of speed was evident against Bradley, when the Braves began to rally with a smaller and quicker line-up.

Antonio Anderson (Fr, 6'6, 190), another long and athletic Tiger player, is proficient from three-point distance (37%) and a good defender. His defense against Afflalo helped limit him to only 14 points in the first contest.

Memphis plays three primary players off the bench in close games.

Robert Dozier (Fr, 6'9, 205) is an athletic big man off the bench who averages 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in just 18 minutes of play.

Forward Chris Douglas-Roberts (Fr, 6'6, 180) is a spark off the bench with his scoring and defense. He averages 8.4 points on 52% shooting, mostly from mid-range and around the basket.

Sophomore Guard Andre Allen (So, 5'10, 205) backs up Washington, and like him, provides physical play at the point despite his smaller size.

As with most every UCLA game, how Farmar initiates the offense at the game’s outset will determine how the Bruins start the game.

When Farmar begins the game executing the offense and attacking the opponent’s defense, the Bruins usually follow suit with energy and intenstiy, but when he is passive and settles for long-range jumpers the team usually starts off slowly.


Afflalo and Hollins Exhibit Class In Victory

By Bruin Basketball Report

In an act of selfless human compassion and sportsmanship, UCLA’s Arron Afflalo and Ryan Hollins, exhibited the type of players the Bruins have in their basketball program.

As the final seconds ticked off in UCLA's victory over Gonzaga, a despondent Adam Morrison folded onto center court and began weeping.

Morrison, an emotional and competitive player, and his Bulldogs had just been beaten by one of the most remarkable comeback victories in the history of college basketball.

The arena was deafening with a joyful UCLA crowd, and the Bruin players were rejoicing with each other on the floor.

Yet, in the throes of their victory celebration, Afflalo and Hollins noticed Morrison crumpled on the court.

"I was running around celebrating with my teammates," Afflalo said, "but then I saw him laying there on the floor, and I felt for him a little bit. I know he's a competitor and he wants to win, but there was no reason for him to cry.”

“He's a great player and he's going to have a great career, and I know it's hard when you've just won a game to say this, but he should definitely keep his head up. I just wanted to tell him he should still be in a good mood."

Morrison was appreciative of the gesture.

"That's just a sign of obviously a great program, you know, great people," Morrison said of Afflalo and Hollins.

"They had enough guts (as men) to come over in their moment of victory and pick someone up off the floor. That's just a sign of great people and great players. That's more than basketball and I would thank them now if I could."

The moment last night brought back memories of UCLA’s 1973 championship victory over Memphis. Bill Walton had just finished making an unbelievable 21 of 22 field goals and scored 44 points when he sprained his ankle late in the game.

Despite his Tigers being down by 20 points to the Bruins, Memphis star Larry Finch went to the injured Walton and helped him off the court walking him back to the UCLA bench.

Finch earned the respect and adoration of many fans that day.

Yesterday night, Afflalo and Hollins earned it too.


Team of Destiny, UCLA Stuns Gonzaga

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

For thirty-seven excruciating minutes, the UCLA Bruins were outplayed in most every facet of the game by Gonzaga, and appeared to be a team destined to lose – but instead, they became a team of destiny.

UCLA (30-6) went on an 11-0 run in the final three minutes to rally and defeat Gonzaga, 73-71, in a game whose improbable finish will go down as one of the most remarkable in Bruin basketball history.

With fifteen seconds remaining in the game and UCLA down by one point, 71-70, the Zags inbounded the ball to Adam Morrison who was trapped by two Bruin defenders.

In desperation, Morrison passed the ball cross-court to J.P. Batista at the opposite sideline. He was immediately doubled by UCLA’s Cedric Bozeman and Jordan Farmar.

Batista had an opportunity to pass the ball down to point-guard Derek Raivio at the baseline, but under the intense pressure from the double-team he turned to pass the ball up-court instead.

Bozeman saw his chance and knocked the ball out of Batista’s hands. Farmar swooped up the loose ball and found Luc Richard Mbah a Moute gliding towards the basket.

Mbah a Moute caught the ball high up in the air and softly put in a lay-up to put the Bruins ahead for the very first time of the game, 72-71.

"We were trying to apply extreme pressure," Farmar said. "I saw Luc was coming under the basket. Raivio was also near there so I had to put it up a little higher. Thank God Luc is 6-7 with a seven-foot wingspan."

Gonzaga quickly inbounded the ball to Derek Raivio. He hastily dribbled up-court but just as he reached past half-court he was caught from behind by a lunging Mbah a Moute who grabbed the ball from him while sprawled on the floor.

Mbah a Moute was tied up by Gonzaga but UCLA gained possession since the alternating possession arrow pointed towards them.

Arron Afflalo received the inbound pass and was immediately fouled by Gonzaga’s Jeremy Pargo with 2.8 seconds remaining. Afflalo stepped up to the line and missed the first foul shot but made the second to give the Bruins their final margin of victory 73-71.

Gonzaga did have one last shot at the game. David Pendergraft made a length of the court pass to Batista who caught the ball 18 feet from the basket but missed it wide right while he was under duress by Mbah a Moute and Farmar as time ran out.

With the victory UCLA advances into the round of the Elite Eight.

Yet, reaching the Elite Eight did not appear to be a realistic proposition for the Bruins considering how they played in the first half.

Instead of aggressively attacking the Gonzaga zone defense, UCLA began the game settling for too many long-range jumpers. To make matters worse, they were missing them.

UCLA did not make their first field goal until Arron Afflalo scored on an acrobatic shot in the key after 8:43 into the game. They ended up missing their first eight shot attempts of the game.

Ironically, the Bruins were able to stay with the Zags in the first half due to their stellar foul-shooing. The team shot 9 of 10 from the foul line in the half.

Gonzaga extended its lead to 17 points in the first half, but the Bruins were able to cut the deficit to 13 by half-time.

UCLA coach Ben Howland made adjustments in the locker room at the half. He wanted his players to increase the intensity and pressure on defense, and to attack the zone more aggressively inside.

“We were taking too many outside shots in the first half.” Howland said, “We wanted to get the ball inside more in the second half.”

UCLA came out in the second half with renewed vigor and made numerous runs to cut the Zag’s lead to single digits, but the Zags always had an answer and would push the margin back up to a double-digit lead.

Then something happened to the Zags in the final three minutes of the game – it appeared they were playing not to lose. They began to lose their intensity just as the Bruins were beginning to ramp up their intensity level.

Sophomores Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar each scored a team-high 15 points as both shot 5 of 13 from the field.

Afflalo combined with Cedric Bozeman to guard Morrison, although he was still able to score a game-high 24 points, it was a rather "quiet" 24 point performance by Morrison.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 14 points and hauled down 10 rebounds including the key steal down the stretch.

Ryan Hollins was huge down the stretch when the Bruins started to look in the low-post. He finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds including two key free throws to help UCLA pull close at the end.

Freshman Darren Collison did not play well in the first half, but came back to help spark the Bruin offense in the second half. He finished with 5 points all in the second half.

UCLA will face the No.1 seed Memphis Tigers in the Elite Eight round of the Oakland Regional on Saturday.


Thursday, March 23, 2006




UCLA Guard Legacy

By Steve Bisheff, Columnist
Orange County Register

Ben Howland raves about them. Dick Vitale rants about them. John Wooden quietly compliments them.

Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo are the primary reasons UCLA is in the NCAA's Sweet16 and favored to beat Gonzaga on Thursday night and advance to the Elite Eight.

If these two gifted sophomores don't form the finest backcourt in college basketball, they certainly have to be included in any serious discussion on the subject.

So the next question is where do they rate in the pantheon of great Bruins guard combinations? After two seasons, are they ready to advance to the top echelon at America's most decorated basketball institution?

"They are a fine pair of guards," said Wooden, the UCLA coaching legend who has to rank as the ultimate authority. "But let's remember they are both sophomores.

"I think Afflalo is the best all-around guard we have. He can shoot, drive and he is very competitive. He's a very good defensive player.

"Farmar is a good point guard, but he is not under full control yet," Wooden said. "I think he still holds onto the ball a little too much. But he sees the floor well, and he can shoot from outside, too. He's a good shooter."

If you know Wooden, you realize he never will compare one group of UCLA players to another. He wouldn't when he was coaching, and he won't now.

Other than to mention he is "still very partial" to a couple of guard combinations he had during his extraordinary run of 10 NCAA titles in 12 years, he refused to elaborate.

So I will attempt to do it for him. As someone who either has covered or observed every UCLA team since Wooden's magical era began, this is how I would have rated them coming into this season:

1. Walt Hazzard, Sr., and Gail Goodrich, Jr., 1963-64: They remain the blue-and-gold standard, the perfect complementary pair.

Hazzard was the flashy passer, great open-court player and quintessential leader, while Goodrich was the ideal off-guard, a wonderful shooter who might have been the best player in college basketball history without the ball.

Both contributed to Wooden's withering zone-press defense, too, particularly Goodrich, who led the team in steals.

It is fitting they will be remembered as the All-American guards who began the long domination of Bruins basketball, winning Wooden's first national title in '64.

2. Mike Warren, Sr., and Lucius Allen, Jr., 1967-68: The inclination is to say anybody could have played guard with Lew Alcindor at center, but these two weren't just anybody. Wooden always has described Warren, who played at his old high school in Indiana, as the smartest player he ever coached.

He was a smooth, controlled point guard who almost never turned over the ball. He was a deadly shooter from outside, too.

Allen was the stylish and slightly more erratic one with the slashing moves of an NBA player and a feathery soft jumper of his own.

When they were on, and they usually were, few were more fun to watch.

3. Henry Bibby, Sr., and Greg Lee, So., 1971-72: In his senior year, Bibby, a great shooter and a fine all-around player, was as good as any guard in America. Lee was a young point guard, not unlike Farmar, both brilliant and out of control at times.

Again, with a center like Bill Walton, there was less pressure in the backcourt, but these two complemented each other well, especially once Lee, who was Walton's closest friend in college, developed an unmistakable rapport with the big guy.

Nobody threw more successful lob passes than Lee.

4. Tyus Edney, Sr., and Toby Bailey, So., 1994-95: Edney's career was summed up by that surreal coast-to-coast bucket against Missouri in the final 4.8 seconds of the NCAA Tournament second-round game in '95. The little guy was a winner who seemed to improve every year in Westwood.

Bailey was a terrific athlete and marvelous leaper who came on as the season progressed, enjoying his biggest moment on the biggest stage, scoring 26 points in the national title game against Arkansas when an injured Edney couldn't play.

5. Baron Davis, So., and Earl Watson, So., 1998-99: If they had completed four years together, there's no telling where they would have rated. Davis was a spectacular athlete who was good enough to jump to the NBA after the 1999 season. He was hurt part of the time at UCLA, but he provided more than enough highlight-reel footage while he was there.

Watson was the ultimate grinder who could and eventually did play both guard positions in Westwood. He was a good passer, a decent shooter and a fine defender. But most of all, he'd lay his body out to win, and you had to admire him for that.

Throw in Bibby, as a sophomore, and John Vallely, a brilliant-shooting senior, in 1969-70, as honorable mention, and you have to wonder how Farmar and Afflalo could crash such an impressive group.

But again, as Wooden reminded everyone, they're only sophomores and, already, they are generating positive reviews.

"We have the best guard combo in the country in my opinion," Howland said.

An admiring Mark Gottfried, after watching the pair help outpoint his Alabama team in San Diego, said: "I think Farmar, Afflalo and when you throw in Ced Bozeman, the combination of those guys is one of the best in the nation."

The most encouraging thing about Farmar and Afflalo is that they're still coming on, they're still improving.

And maybe more important, they're still hungry.

They should be.

Unlike most of their counterparts on our top five list, they haven't even made it to their first Final Four yet, let alone won a national championship.

They figure to have plenty of time and lots of opportunities, though. The rest will be up to them.

(reprinted with permission)


UCLA vs. Gonzaga: Game Day Stories

By Bruin Basketball Report

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

In all-West throwdown, Gonzaga can prove it belongs: All right, Gonzaga. This is your chance. It's time for you to Zag up. Or whatever you call it in Spokane when you need to prove a point. In tonight's case, if you really wish to prove that you really want to call yourself the best basketball team on the Left Coast, you must get right with UCLA. You must beat the Bruins in Oakland. Mercury News

Bulldogs are even bigger underdogs in some eyes: Not often in recent years has Gonzaga been an underdog in the NCAA tournament. The Zags have consistently been the better-seeded team in their recent matchups, dating to the 2003 second-round game in which they were a No. 9 pitted against No. 1 Arizona in a memorable, double-overtime loss to the Wildcats. Tonight, they're a No. 3 seed against UCLA's No. 2, and the point spread is variously 3 or 4, favoring the Bruins. Seattle Times

UCLA thinking national championship: UCLA defeated California less than two weeks ago to win the Pac-10 championship. There will be no banner hanging at Pauley Pavilion next season to commemorate the triumph. Just about every other school in the country would find such an accomplishment worthy of tribute.Not at UCLA. It's just not a big enough deal. That's one of the most confounding things about being a Bruin. Players choose the school because of of its glorious tradition, then spend their careers chasing the unattainable Mercury News

Mbah a Moute: UCLA's 'glue' : UCLA coach Ben Howland recruited Snohomish (Wash.) High School's Jon Brockman hard, figuring he was the kind of rugged, hard-working forward who could help rebuild the Bruins into a national power. UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has only played basketball for five years, but was still named the Pac-10's freshman of the year. But when Brockman decided to stay close to home and committed to Washington, Howland turned his eye to a less-heralded recruit, an African-born relative newcomer to basketball who was attracting attention with his extraordinary quickness and dogged competitiveness. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's name was harder to pronounce (it's Luke ri-SHARD umbah-a-moo-teh) but, as things have turned out, his game is just as easy on the eyes. USA Today

Some question Zags' defense: It has become fashionable this March Madness to complain about Gonzaga's defense and free throwing shooting.Pundits contend the Zags defense is too porous. Some opponents are upset that the Zags (29-3) shoot so many more free throws than their rivals, hinting at referee intimidation by their fans at home. Coach Mark Few is exasperated by the free throw controversy. The Zags do have a big advantage at the line, making 647 of 827 attempts this season, for 78 percent. Their opponents have attempted only 607 free throws, making 418 for 68 percent. The Daily World

Zags, Bruins eager to settle bragging rights: Los Angeles is celebrities, glitz and showtime basketball. Life’s a little bit slower in Spokane, Wash. When second-seeded UCLA faces third-seeded Gonzaga in the third round of the Oakland regional on Thursday night, it will be a showdown for West Coast supremacy between teams with styles and histories as different as their home cities. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Gonzaga offer Few chances: Ben Howland knew it. So did Tubby Smith. And Roy Williams.
There are only so many college basketball Meccas. When one calls, an ambitious man listens. Even if he's already happy, successful and rich where he is. Even if he's beloved and can do no wrong. If Indiana calls, Gonzaga coach Mark Few should listen. Odds are he will. And if he's offered the job, he should take it. Odds are he will. Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Bay Area coaches pick Bruins to advance: Defense will be the difference for UCLA at this weekend's Oakland Regional, according to Bay Area coaches, who expect the Bruins to return to the Final Four for the 16th time since 1962. Five of six local Division I coaches believe UCLA will survive a field also including Gonzaga, Memphis and Bradley and be crowned regional champion Saturday at the Arena in Oakland. Inside Bay Area

Rather than Zag, Farmar zigged to UCLA: Jordan Farmar was going to be a Zag, and what a fit he would have been: seeing the floor, drilling the open three, controlling the pace and the game like he has a joystick in his hand. "He would have fit in fine," said Adam Morrison, who would have helped make Farmar one of the nation's assist leaders. "He just made his own decision." Seattle Times

You needn't squint too much to see in Ben Howland's work a bit of Pete Carroll: By any measure, the program is in better shape than it has been in at least 10 years. That does not mean the Bruins are becoming what they were under John Wooden. But they could become what USC football is under Pete Carroll, or something approaching it: the dominant program in the Pacific-10 and one of the top five in the nation, a perennial threat to reach the Final Four, an occasional national champion.``That's what we aspire to be,'' Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said Wednesday. Mercury News

UCLA's stingy defense meets formidable foe in Morrison: Every team that faces Adam Morrison and Gonzaga seems to try some new wrinkle to slow the nation's leading scorer. Not many have worked. "I've seen triangle-and-two, box-and-one, face guard ... I've seen everything," Morrison said. "Nothing really surprises me anymore. I knew coming in this year I was going to get a lot of that similar type of stuff. When teams do that, it opens it up for everybody else." San Francisco Chronicle

Zags get matchup they have long sought: Mark Few paid Ben Howland more than a few compliments yesterday, none greater than how cagey the UCLA basketball coach is at scheduling nonconference games. “Ben is a great coach, a funny guy, a hard worker and the greatest scheduler in the history of mankind,” said Few, whose Gonzaga team faces UCLA in an Oakland Regional semifinal tonight. “Thank God for (UCLA Athletic Director) Dan Guerrero, or else they would be playing Alabama A&T and four Division II schools each year.” Union Tribune

'General', if not contained, can inflict damage: A guy nicknamed "The Big General" who plays basketball for Gonzaga should be pretty easy to identify, right? A gimme, a lock, a throwaway question. But if it's Final Jeopardy and you've got the whole wad down on the scribble "Who is Adam Morrison?" you're bankrupt, bub ... sort of like UCLA could be if the Bruins don't come up the right answer themselves in tonight's wildly anticipated Oakland Regional semifinal. Inside Bay Area

Fans appreciate the way Morrison goes through life: Big-time college athletes develop fans and followers, but Adam Morrison’s groupies aren’t just delighted by the way the Gonzaga junior plays basketball. They also admire the way he lives his life as a diabetic.More than a dozen kids held up banners for Morrison at Gonzaga’s open practice Wednesday in preparation for tonight’s NCAA tournament regional semifinal game against UCLA. “Go, Adam, Diabetes Rocks,” one read. News Tribune

UCLA's Bozeman left from the days of Lavin: AS A highly-recruited high school All-American freshman at UCLA, Cedric Bozeman figured his future with the Bruins was promising and boundless after his team upset top-seeded Cincinnati in the 2002 NCAA tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 in his first year in Westwood. Marin Independent Journal


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

UCLA vs. Gonzaga – NCAA Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

In an Oakland Regional Semifinal the NCAA tournament selection committee hoped would materialize, the No.2 UCLA Bruins play the No.3 Gonzaga Bulldogs Thursday night.

It’s an intriguing match-up between two teams with contrasting college basketball pedigrees and styles of play.

UCLA, a traditional college basketball powerhouse and winners of 11 national NCAA men’s basketball titles, are a rejuvenated program under third-year Head Coach Ben Howland.

Under Howland, UCLA has developed into a team known for its physical and punishing brand of basketball on both ends of the court.

On offense, the Bruins will run in transition when an opportunity is available, but are comfortable slowing the ball in the half-court and patiently waiting for a high-percentage shot - sometimes to a fault. UCLA led the Pac-10 in field goal percentage shooting at 46.9%.

Yet what sets the Bruins apart from most college teams is their end to end, 40 minute focus on defense.

“Defense wins.” Howland said, “It doesn’t matter which sport it is - you win by playing great defense.”

Over their last nine games, UCLA has limited opponents to an average of 54 points and a paltry 39% field goal shooting percentage.

UCLA defeated No.15 Belmont (78-44) and held off No.10 Alabama (62-59) to reach the regional finals.

The Bruins struggled mightily at times against Alabama’s zone defense which Tide’s coach Mark Gottfried employed for most of the game.

Much of the time UCLA’s offense was too passive and did not attack the seams of the zone defense, but instead settled for long outside jumpers.

UCLA did a better job solving the zone in the second-half by attacking the middle with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and dribble-penetration by Jordan Farmar and Darren Collison, but it was not enough to avoid a close decision at the end although the Bruins persevered.

In Spokane, Gonzaga began ten years ago as Cinderella-darlings, but now bear heavier expectations of making the NCAA tournament every year. They reached the Sweet 16 by defeating No.14 Xavier (79-75) and No. 6 Indiana (90-80).

Gonzaga, like Alabama, will play primarily zone defense against UCLA, except Head Coach Mark Few figures to employ a variety of defensive schemes throughout the game to confuse the Bruins.

Against Indiana, the Bulldogs used a 2-3 zone, 1-3-1 zone, match-up zone, and man-to-man to fluster the Hoosiers. Indiana responded by hoisting up 36 three-point shots, accounting for more than 5o% of their total field goal attempts in the game.

UCLA needs to come out aggressively and attack the Zag’s defense, and not settle for the long jumper; otherwise, the Bruins will have the exact same fate as Indiana's awaiting them.

Much pressure will be placed on UCLA’s sophomore point-guard Jordan Farmar to recognize the Zag's defensive sets; and then to direct his teammates to attack accordingly.

Farmar may be hampered by a wrist brace he plans to wear during the game. He suffered a bruised wrist during a fall on a drive against Alabama.

UCLA’s back-up point-guard Darren Collison may be called upon for more minutes due to Farmar’s injury. He has been inconsistent offensively during the last stretch of games, although he has provided the team with stellar defense.

Collison, only a freshman, still has problems recognizing defenses causing the offense to stall at times; and many times, coach Howland will shuffle Farmar back into the game quickly for this very reason.

Gonzaga does not have the same type of athletes as Alabama which is a big reason why they play multiple zone defensive sets. They do not have guards who can stop dribble-penetration nor do they have a good shot-blocker patrolling the lanes.

Therefore, UCLA should be able to attack the Zag’s zone more effectively than they did against Alabama, but they need to do a good job recognizing the defenses, and then run their sets as crisply as possible.

Although the Zags give up a lot of points, 72.8 points per game, it’s probably due to their up-tempo style. They also average 80.4 points scored per game (4th in the nation) and shoot 48% from the field.

Gonzaga is an offensive-minded team which prefers getting up and down the court, although they are quite accomplished in the half court, running a multitude of sets for their main-scorers, forward Adam Morrison or low-post scorer J.P. Batista.

Morrison leads the nation in scoring at 28.2 points per game. He is in constant motion on the offensive end, running through multiple screens to get free for a shot. Morrison shoots 49% from the floor and an astounding 43% from three-point distance.

UCLA will use multiple defenders against Morrison.

Arron Afflalo, at 6’5, will get the initial assignment. He will likely try to use his speed advantage to keep the ball out of Morrison’s hands; and use his lateral quickness to try to take away Morrison's first-step if he has the ball.

Morrison stands 6’8 and has a high release on his shot, but if Afflalo can take advantage of his quickness and body him up on the perimeter, he may be effective in slowing Morrison down.

The Hoosiers used a similar tactic of using quicker 6’5 defenders against Morrison in the previous game, and held him to only 5-17 shooting.

Another successful tactic used against Morrison during the season was to defend him with a tall, long-armed player. When Memphis’s 6’7 Rodney Carney was unable to check Morrison in a December game, 6’9 freshman Shawnee Williams was switched onto Morrison and held him scoreless the rest of the game. With this reasoning, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute may be effective against Morrison.

Senior forward Cedric Bozeman, an excellent on-ball defender, will also have his shot at Morrison as well.

The second leading scorer on Gonzaga is senior center J.P. Batista (6’9, 269) who is as much an offensive threat as Morrison, but he scores primarily from the inside.

Batista is averaging 19.3 points per game on 59% field goal shooting. He has a variety of low post moves which makes him virtually impossible to stop one-on-one.

The Hoosiers tried to guard him straight-up and paid for it, Batista went on to score 20 points on 10 of 18 shooting, in addition, Indiana’s only inside threat Marco Killingsworth, got into early foul trouble trying to guard him.

"I was just trying to be aggressive.” said Batista. “It seemed like they (Indiana) were trying to play me one-on-one and I had the green light to go to work."

UCLA’s seven-footer Ryan Hollins has been playing the best basketball of his career recently, and he will face his biggest defensive challenge with Batista.

Batista is neither very mobile nor athletic, but his ability to establish good low post position makes him difficult to stop without fouling. Although Hollins will have a decided height and quickness advantage, he needs to stay out of foul trouble.

The Bruins will double-down on Batista whenever he touches the ball in the low blocks; however, that will leave a Zag open, mostly likely either forward Sean Mallon on the weak side or guard Derek Raivio on the perimeter.

Mallon (6’9, 218) tied a season-high with 15 points against Indiana; he also grabbed 10 rebounds. He has underachieved for most his career at Gonzaga but he has the ability to knock down shots facing the basket. The Bruins will need to rotate onto Mallon quickly if their double on Batista is to be effective.

Raivio (6’3, 175) averages 11.0 points per game, but his shooting has been streaky and inconsistent all year. He is shooting only 38% from the floor, but Raivio can light it up if he gets hot – and his shooting could be the difference in this game.

He scored over 20 points in the Maui Invitational against both Michigan St. and Maryland. Raivio also has the ability to drive and get to the line where he shoots over 90%.

The Bulldogs also start sophomore Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes (6'0, 181) who is a solid distributor of the ball in the Zag’s motion offense. He averages only 4.3 points in 21 minutes but his quickness fits the team’s up-tempo offense.

Coming off the bench are three key reserves each who play their roles well.

Freshman Jeremy Pargo (6’2, 215) is strong and athletic. He may be used by coach Few to check Farmar if Raivio has problems with him defensively.

Guard Erroll Knight (6’7, 211), a transfer from Washington, is perhaps the most athletic player on the team. He has been injury plagued for most his career but appears healthy now.

Knight provides the Zags with a strong perimeter defender and will likely be guarding Afflalo either when Gonzaga goes into a man-defense or to a match-up zone with Knight trailing Afflallo. He had 10 points against Indiana which included a couple of acrobatic dunks.

David Pendergraft (So, 6'6, 218) is a spark off the bench with his hustle and hard-nosed play. He can play both the frontcourt and backcourt positions. He averaged 3.2 points and 4.0 rebounds during the season.

UCLA has not been to the Sweet 16 since the 2002 season, and they should hardly need any prodding to get motivated for the game.

Yet, this Bruin team is still young, with 3 sophomores and 4 freshmen in the rotation, and can be prone to start off games tentatively - even during the tournament as they did against low-seed Belmont.

UCLA needs to come out of the gate and aggressively attack the Zag’s defensive zone. If the Bruins begin settling for long jumpers as they did for stretches of time against Alabama, this game can get away from them quickly, especially considering the Zag’s high-scoring offense.


Oakland Has Been Good Site For UCLA

By Dave Albee, Writer
Marin Independent Journal

The last time UCLA came through Oakland for the West Regional of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Jim Harrick was its coach, Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Romar were his top assistants and Steve Lavin was a restricted earnings coach with a clothing allowance.
They were all en route to Seattle where the Bruins won the national championship game in 1995.

Oakland was their oasis along the way. The Oakland Coliseum was their stage. Jack Nicholson even came up from Hollywood to watch UCLA's 102-96 regional championship win over UConn in person.

"It was like a Lakers game," said Lavin, the former Drake High standout who eight months later unexpectedly became the Bruins head coach. "The Oakland Coliseum was rooting for the West Coast team, the Pac-10, and it was electric in terms of the home crowd that we had. The entire area was pulling for UCLA."

The Bruins opponent on that day was UConn, which was on the verge of its first Final Four appearance and hadn't yet acquired a national following.

The Bruins' opponent this Thursday at the Oakland Arena will be Gonzaga. Big difference.

"The team UCLA wouldn't want to see is Gonzaga," Lavin said on Friday before appearing as a studio college basketball analyst for ESPN. "The sway vote will be rooting for Gonzaga."

By that, Lavin means that the Zags still have a Cinderella-like appeal, the mighty mid-major flashing visions of the David-like underdog taking down the Goliath from L.A. The Zags also have one of the best, most unique and entertaining players in college basketball, Adam Morrison. An all-around "old-school" player, he led the nation in scoring, tallying 30 or more points 13 times and over 40 five times.

Back in 1995, UCLA was the main attraction and all the other teams in Oakland were merely sideshows. The Bruins' first opponent in the West Regional was Mississippi State and Erick Dampier.

Then the Bruins played the UConn Huskies in the West Regional title game when Rebecca Lobo and the undefeated UConn women's team was more famous.

This Western Regional in Oakland has more star value and intriguing storylines to share the spotlight with UCLA. If the Bruins beat Gonzaga - which has the nation's longest winning streak at 20 - they face the winner of Memphis State-Bradley on Saturday and those two teams will have a way of catching the imagination of the Bay Area viewing audience.

Top-seeded Memphis has the Conference USA Player of the Year - Rodney Carney - who just might be the first choice of the Warriors in the NBA draft in June. Carney led the Tigers in scoring and 3-pointers and Memphis' up-tempo style under coach John Calipari is fun to watch and infectious. That's in stark contrast to defensive-minded UCLA, which lost to Memphis 86-80 in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament in New York.

Bradley is the new age Gonzaga, a suddenly celebrated school without a football team. The Braves hail from Peoria, Il. and the last time they were this good and advanced this far in the NCAA tournament, the late, great and long-time Sausalito resident Bill King was the play-by-play announcer for them in the mid-50s.

The Braves lost earlier this year at Missouri State, which beat Stanford in the NIT last week, but the biggest battle Bradley has encountered this year is from the NCAA. It put the Braves on its "hostile and abusive" nickname hit list. Bradley is appealing that ban through the NCAA Management Council.

The Braves will be the decided underdogs and media darlings in Oakland while Memphis will bring the fastest team and Gonzaga will start the most fascinating player in the game today. Still, UCLA will be the clear fan favorite, Lavin's favorite last week to make it to the Final Four.

"A month ago I thought UCLA was (only) capable of a Sweet 16 run because of the fact they were averaging only 66 points a game, their fewest in 46 years," Lavin said. "I didn't think they could make it to the Final Four."

Lavin now picks UCLA to go all the way to the title game, where he predicts they will meet UConn for the national championship in Indianapolis 11 years after they met for the regional championship in Oakland. He praises his successor at UCLA, Ben Howland, for making an adjustment to play freshman guard Darren Collison more with the Bruins' dynamic backcourt of Aaron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar.

"Now they have three or four play-makers on the floor at the same time. As a result, they're more efficient," Lavin said.

That, according to Lavin, puts them in the same category as Villanova this year and Illinois last year and even Arizona in 1997 when the Wildcats won the national championship. It's also a formula UCLA used in 1995 and tested in Oakland.

You know how that turned out.

Originally published in the Marin Independent Journal March 22, 2006
(reprinted with permission)


Howland's Gonzaga Connection

By Steve Springer, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

The point guard was so good, he was frustrating his own coach.

Former Gonzaga coach Jay Hillock would try to run a productive practice but the point guard kept getting in the way, intercepting passes, shredding the defense, overwhelming any strategy. He was only a sophomore, but John Stockton was clearly the dominating figure on the court.

But Hillock looked around the gym and saw a solution: his 24-year-old graduate assistant.

Ben Howland, who was just starting out as a coach, had been a defensive star at Weber State. So Hillock would put Howland on Stockton, day after day in practice during the 1981-82 season.

Howland, using the tough, bruising defensive style that would later become the hallmark of his own teams, spent hour after hour trying to stay in Stockton's face.

"I fouled him a lot," Howland said. "He probably thought I was a jerk. But I didn't care. I wasn't competing for a job with him. There were no officials around. And Jay kept everything in practice half court, so that made it easier for me."

Hillock, now in the front office of the Chicago Bulls, still shakes his head in amazement at how good Stockton, a future NBA superstar with the Utah Jazz, was even in those days.

"It seemed like he would get 30 steals every practice," Hillock said. "It was so disruptive. We could never get anything done. He probably weighed about 158 pounds and Ben was 185 and physical. John didn't get upset at Ben. John was too competitive for that."

Howland will again be in the face of the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday, arms raised, body hunched over, ferocity written across his face. But now, he'll wearing a suit, walking the sidelines, directing his UCLA Bruins, who'll face Gonzaga in Oakland Arena in an NCAA tournament Sweet 16 game.

All the coaching success Howland has enjoyed — this is the third team he has taken to the tournament and the third time he has reached the Sweet 16 — began with that first job at Gonzaga.

It was Hillock who brought him in to augment a staff of only two full-time assistants. Hillock and Howland had met when Howland, 8 years old and living in the Santa Barbara area, would ride his bike over to a neighborhood convenience store where he and Hillock, who was twice his age, would talk basketball.

Howland's favorite player then was Laker guard Jerry West, with whom he shares a birthday. Hillock would tease Howland by claiming other players were better.

Hillock first saw Howland on a basketball court at a local boys club. Years later, Hillock recruited Howland when Hillock was an assistant at Santa Barbara City College.

Hillock remembers Howland's intensity and emotion.

"During warmups, even when he played at Weber State, Ben would always disappear from the court with 11 minutes to go before the start of the game," Hillock recalled. "What people didn't know was what he had gone off to throw up.

"He was so emotional."

When Hillock became head coach at Gonzaga, he called Howland, who had been telling everyone who would listen — since before his teens — that he wanted to be a coach.

Gonzaga was a small-time program in those days. So small, the school's entire recruiting budget was $7,500. So small that the assistant coaches kept a beat-up jalopy in the San Francisco Bay Area that they would use to not only get around on recruiting trips, but to sleep in when they couldn't afford a hotel. So small, they studied game film on an old projector.

Howland, newly married, received a stipend and supplemented his income by working in the turf club at a nearby racetrack.

But he wasn't complaining. He was living his dream.

The intensity from Howland's playing days was unabated.

"I remember one game, which his parents were attending," Hillock said. "Ben was barking at the officials. I finally told him, 'If you get a [technical foul], you can go up there and sit with your parents and I'll mail your stuff back home to you.' "

A year later, Howland moved on to his first paying job as an assistant at UC Santa Barbara.

And now, he will be back on the same court with Gonzaga.

"I can't really lose on Thursday," Hillock said. "I always root for Gonzaga. But this time, I'm going to be in Ben's corner. Ben is family."

Orginally published in the Los Angeles Times March 22, 2006
(reprinted with permission)


(photo credit: AP)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Farmar Practices Wearing Wrist Brace

By the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA point guard Jordan Farmar returned to practice Tuesday wearing a brace on his injured left wrist.

He was hurt using both hands to break a fall during the Bruins' second-round NCAA Tournament win against Alabama on Saturday. His right thumb has a slight sprain, coach Ben Howland said.

Farmar had two X-rays and an MRI on his wrist Monday, which were negative. But swelling remained in his wrist and thumb.

He plans to wear the brace during Thursday's regional semifinal game against Gonzaga in Oakland, even though it affects his range of motion.

"I'm all right," he said. "By the time we start playing, it'll be fine."


Mission for UCLA – Stop Gonzaga’s Batista

By Bruin Basketball Report

Part of UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland's normal preparation for an upcoming game is to study opponent game films for endless hours to devise his game plan.

In studying Gonzaga footage, Howland will obviously note Adam Morrison’s constant kinetic motion on offense as he knocks down countless perimeter shots while other times taking the ball aggressively to the basket.

Yet, it’s not Morrison who should cause the most concern for Howland and the Bruins - it’s someone who shouldn’t be hard to miss at all on the game film considering he stands 6 feet 9 inches and weighs 265 pounds.

Gonzaga’s center J.P. Batista is the man who should catch Howland’s eye.

Morrison gets all the attention, especially from the media, for national player awards mentions, news headlines, and for his mop-haircut and ‘stache which is plastered across reams of magazine covers.

Nevertheless, ask any person associated with the Gonzaga basketball program, or an opponent who has played the Bulldogs this year, and they’ll tell you J.P. Batista is just as important to the team as anyone, including Morrison.

Memphis coach John Calipari said about Batista after their game in December, “He’s so big when he got down low we had no answer for him”

"You get him the ball down low,” Gonzaga teammate Derek Raivio said “and he's either going to get fouled or get a bucket."

Batista, a muscular wide-body with soft hands, can not be rooted out of the low post. Although he is neither quick nor agile, he has an excellent repertoire of back to the basket post moves making him nearly impossible to stop one-on-one.

He is averaging 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season. The only player in the Pac-10 close to having Batista’s gaudy numbers is California’s Leon Powe, whom many felt deserved to win Pac-10 Player of the Year, except, Powe only shot 50% from the floor – Batista has a 59% field goal percentage this season.

So far this season, Batista has produced seven double-double games in points scored and rebounds.

Batista, a native Brazilian, attended Barton County Junior College in central Kansas where he averaged 20 points and nine rebounds, and was rated as one of the top JC prospects.

He was pursued by many top programs in search of a big man with his size and skill, at the end, he chose Gonzaga as a red-shirt junior because he preferred the small town atmosphere the school offered.

"He works hard and is a great team guy.” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, “He is a big part of the heart and soul of this team and may be the best low post player in the nation. "

Now teammates for two year, Batista and Morrison have formed a potent inside-outside combination for opposing teams to defend.

With his size and bulk, Batista usually has no problem getting good position against defenders on the low blocks. UCLA will double-down on Batista whenever he receives the ball in the low post; however, the Bruins will need to react quickly as Batista usually makes his offensive move as soon as he receives the ball.

Bruin seven-footer Ryan Hollins will get the starting assignment against Batista, but he will need back-up help from his teammates on the floor and from the bench.

Despite UCLA having practically its full stable of centers available for the game, aside from Hollins, none of the other players would appear to match up well against Batista. Lorenzo Mata, Ryan Wright, and Alfred Aboya may not have the size or experience to guard Batista; however, senior center Michael Fey might be an option.

Fey, who has been little-used thus far in the tournament, may see significant minutes especially if Hollins gets into early foul trouble or if the other Bruin centers are unable to check Batista.

In basketball match-ups are everything, and at seven-feet and 270 lbs, Fey may play a key defensive role in the game.

The Bruins will have difficulty holding Adam Morrison’s point total down on Thursday; on the other hand, teams have shown Morrison can be checked by single coverage especially if defenders are quick and long armed, like Shawnee Williams of Memphis.

Batista is different, and defending him will take a team effort.

Against Indiana, Morrison was held to 14 points on 5 of 17 shooting, but it was Batista, who scored 20 points on 10 of 18 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds, that paced Gonzaga to victory.

Adam Morrison is the star of Gonzaga, but it’s J.P. Batista whom the Bruins must stop.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Sweet 16: Oakland Region at a Glance

By Bruin Basketball Report

The NCAA tournament Sweet 16 round of games begin this week. Oakland (West) regional contests take place on Thursday, March 23 in Oakland, CA with No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 13 Bradley, and No.2 UCLA vs. No.3 Gonzaga.

The Memphis and Bradley game is a classic NCAA tournament story of top seed versus Cinderella. Memphis has marched easily through the first two rounds, while Bradley upset two teams who were predicted by some to make the Final Four, Kansas and Pittsburgh.

An interesting match-up to watch will be between Bradley's sophomore-phenom 7-footer Patrick O'Bryant and Memphis' big, athletic frontline. O'Bryant scored 28 points in the victory over Pittsburgh.

The winner of the contest between UCLA versus Gonzaga not only advances to the next round of the tournament, but can also stake claim to bragging rights for unofficial title of "Best in the West."

The game pits together two teams with contrasting styles. UCLA is a tough, physical team whose play is keyed by its defense; while, Gonzaga is more of an offense-minded team. The Zags are led by Player of the Year candidate Adam Morrison.

A glance at the remaining four Oakland Regional teams playing in the Sweet 16 round of games.

No. 1 Memphis Tigers (32-3), C-USA

Road to Sweet 16
Def. No. 16 Oral Roberts (94-78), Def. No. 9 Bucknell (72-56)

Probable Starters
F-Shawne Williams (Fr, 6'9, 225), F-Rodney Carney (Sr, 6'7, 205), C-Joey Dorsey (So, 6'9, 265), G-Antonio Anderson (Fr, 6'6, 190) , G-Darius Washington Jr. (So, 6'2, 195)

Key Reserves
F-Robert Dozier (Fr, 6'9, 205), G-Chris Douglas-Roberts (Fr, 6'6, 180), G-Andre Allen (So, 5'10, 205)

No. 13 Bradley Braves (22-10), MVC

Road to Sweet 16
Def. No. 4 Kansas (77-73), Def. No. 5 Pittsburgh (72-66)

Probable Starters
F-Marcellus Sommerville (Sr, 6'7, 225), C-Patrick O'Bryant (So, 7'0, 260), G-Tony Bennett (Sr, 6'0, 175), G-J.J. Tauai (Jr, 6'3, 215), G-Daniel Ruffin (So, 5'10, 165)

Key Reserves
F-Lawrence Wright (Sr, 6'4, 198), Will Franklin (Jr, 6'0, 185), F-Zach Andrews (Jr, 6'8, 225)

No. 2 UCLA Bruins (29-6), Pac-10

Road to Sweet 16
Def No. 15 Belmont (78-44), Def No. 10 Alabama (62-59)

Probable Starters
F-Cedric Bozeman (Sr, 6'6, 205) F-Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Fr, 6'7, 225), C-Ryan Hollins (Sr, 7'0, 235), G-Jordan Farmar (So, 6'2, 180), G-Arron Afflalo (So, 6'5, 210)

Key Reserves
Darren Collison (Fr, 6'0, 155), C-Lorenzo Mata (So, 6'8, 235), Alfred Aboya (Fr, 6'8, 235), Michael Roll (Fr, 6'5, 205)

No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-3), WCC

Road to Sweet 16
Def. No. 14 Xavier (79-75), Def. No. 6 Indiana (90-80)

Probable Starters
F-Adam Morrison (Jr, 6'8, 205), F-Sean Mallon (Jr, 6'9, 218), C-J.P. Batista (Sr, 6'9, 269), G-Pierre Marie Altidor-Cespedes (So, 6'0, 181), G-Derek Raivio (Jr, 6'3, 175)

Key Reserves
G-Jeremy Pargo (Fr, 6'2, 215), G-Erroll Knight (Sr, 6'7, 211), F-David Pendergraft (So, 6'6, 218)

Tentative Game Start Times

No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 13 Bradley 4:27 p.m. PT
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 3 Gonzaga 6:55 p.m. PT (approx.)


Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (3/20)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup published every Monday during the season.


Three Rivers League all-star basketball team from the 2005-2006 season: First team -- Kevin Love, jr., Lake Oswego; Brad Tinsley, so., Oregon City; Kenneth Rice, sr., Lakeridge; Matt Ochs, sr., Clackamas; Cody Henricksen, sr., Oregon City; Karrson Koivisto, sr., Clackamas. Player of the year --Kevin Love, Lake Oswego Oregonian 3/16

Indeed, South Medford and Lake Oswego were ranked 1-2 virtually the entire season, with the Panthers owning the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press poll and the Lakers holding the top position in the poll. Both will come back strong next winter. Lake Oswego will return nine of its 12-man roster, including starters Kevin Love and guards Taylor Marr and Ernie Spada. South Medford returns six of its 10-man roster, including Kyle Singler and Harthun, who are, with little argument, the state’s premier small forward and point guard, respectively. Mail Tribine 3/14

Behind the stellar play of junior forward James Harden, Artesia trounced St. Mary's of Stockton 60-41 to claim the school's fourth state crown and finish in style a season that might not have been at all. To do what we've done is incredible,'' said Pera, whose team completed the season at 33-1 and likely as the top-ranked squad in the state regardless of division. Press-Telegram 3/19

College basketball coaches are going to be using the same expression every time they come to Southern California and watch guards from the high school Class of 2008 display their skills. The list of outstanding sophomore guards grows seemingly every week. Call it a glut of good fortune."I'm just glad it's happening, because it's coming at the right time for us," UCLA assistant coach Kerry Keating said. "It's a big need. There's still a long way to go, especially with guards. Some grow late and some mature late, but these guys have proven themselves worthy of recruitment."...One matchup set for 2006-07 is North Hollywood Campbell Hall and Jrue Holiday taking on Woodland Hills Taft and Larry Drew Jr.L.A. Times 3/19

• Best three-point shooter: Malik Story of Lakewood Artesia.

• Best at driving and dishing: Larry Drew of Taft.

• Best passer: Jerime Anderson of Anaheim Canyon.

• Best defender: Jarred DuBois of Westchester.

• Best scorer: Mat Hankins of Sylmar.

• Most effective in transition game: Jrue Holiday of Campbell Hall.

• Best shot creator: Brandon Jennings of Compton Dominguez.

• Fastest-rising prospect: Lorne Jackson of Simi Valley.

Selected to the first team in the City Section were Calvin Haynes and Larry Drew Jr. of Woodland Hills Taft, Jerren Shipp and Chace Stanback of Los Angeles Fairfax, D.J. Gay of Sun Valley Poly, Ricky Boyles of Los Angeles Washington, Jarrel Smith of Lake Balboa Birmingham, Traveion Finister of Los Angeles Crenshaw, Ahmaad Cook of Westchester, Aaron Hill of Los Angeles King-Drew and Mat Hankins of Sylmar. L.A. Times 3/15


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bruins Advance to Sweet 16 With Defense

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

The No.2 seed UCLA Bruins advanced to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 round after pulling out a 62-59 victory over No.10 seed Alabama in the second round of the Oakland (West) Regional.

After winning their last five games by an average of over twenty points, the contest against the Alabama Crimson Tide would come down to the wire.

With 15 seconds remaining in the game and UCLA clinging to a two point lead, everyone at Cox Arena knew Ronald Steele would take the last shot for Alabama.

For UCLA (29-6) there was only one Bruin player, and no other, to be called upon for the defensive assignment against Steele: Arron Afflalo.

Alabama in-bounded the ball to Steele at half-court, and like two young competing bucks in the wild, Steele and Afflalo locked horns.

Steele repeatedly tried to penetrate only to have Afflalo cut him off at the pass each time.

With the clock winding down, Steele drove into Afflalo in order to create space for a pull-up 25 foot jumper, but Afflalo recovered in time to force Steele to arc his shot a little more than normal causing the ball to hit short on the front of the rim.

Cedric Bozeman grabbed the loose rebound and was fouled with 0.8 seconds remaining. The Bruin senior made one of two free throws, missing the second attempt, and then with an Alabama player making one last feeble heave towards the basket time expired.

It didn’t appear at the game's outset, it would be so hard fought as UCLA jumped out quickly to an 8-0 lead.

After Jordan Farmar hit his third consecutive three-pointer of the game, and Ryan Hollins slammed home a lob pass from Farmar, UCLA led 13-7.

Playing man-to-man to start the game, after a time-out Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried switched to a 2-3 zone defense which immediately stifled the Bruin offense.

UCLA was passive against the zone, electing to take outside jumpers rather than attack the zone with dribble penetration. Over the next eight minutes, the Bruins missed seven straight outside jumpers.

The drought ended with a Ryan Hollins offensive rebound and put-back to move UCLA into the lead, 16-15. Moreover, the only two Bruins to score in the first 14 minutes of the game were Farmar and Hollins.

The teams went into halftime with the score tied, 30-30.

In the first half, Alabama shot 61% from the floor as they were successfully getting the ball inside to their big men, Richard Hendrix and Jermareo Davidson.

Hendrix and Davidson combined on 6 of 8 shooting for 14 points, while Steele connected for 12 points including 2 of 3 shooting from three-point distance and 4 of 4 on free throws - all by halftime.

Lately, the second-half of games has been a time when UCLA’s physical play and intensity eventually wore down opponents.

Playing with only a seven-player rotation, it appeared Alabama would certainly tire and fold under the constant UCLA pressure and physicality.

But since deciding to play with a shortened rotation, Gottfried has had one rule for his players, “You are not allowed to get tired.”

In addition, with Alabama’s 2-3 zone so effective against UCLA, the Crimson Tide players did not expend as much energy playing defnese with the zone as they would have playing a man-to-man.

Subsequently, it would be a dog-fight for the rest of the game.

Although UCLA never relinquished their lead, Alabama would continually battle back, tying the game once at 38, but then UCLA caught a break.

Jermareo Davidson, Alabama’s best inside player, was called for his fourth foul with 9:33 remaining and had to sit down. With Davidson on the bench, the Bruins maintained their lead going down the stretch.

"We're a team that needs to avoid foul trouble," Gottfried said. "It hurt our ability to score. That was a big factor."

With 0:35 seconds left in the game and UCLA leading by one, Afflalo took a pass on the far left wing and nailed a three-point shot to halt a Alabama late charge.

The Bruin’s free throw shooting was atrocious which allowed Alabama to stay in the game late. UCLA was only 2 of 8 from the line over the last seven minutes of the game including three crucial misses on the front ends of one-and-one free throw opportunities.

However thanks to Afflalo's late-defensive heroics, the Bruins advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002.

In addition to the phenomenal defensive job on Steele, Afflalo scored 13 points – all in the second half. With the Tide’s defense keying on Afflalo, his backcourt mate, Jordan Farmar, needed to step forward.

Farmar finished with a game-high 18 points including 5 of 10 from three-point distance. His outside shooting helped pace the Bruins in the first-half.

Senior center Ryan Hollins held his ground against Alabama’s big and talented frontline. He shot 5 of 5 from the field for 12 points; in addition, he grabbed 4 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots.

Bozeman scored 5 points, recorded a game-high 7 assists, and was instrumetal in helping UCLA finally break Alabama’s zone.

At halftime, coach Howland switched Farmar off point guard and moved him to the wing with either Darren Collison or Bozeman manning the point. This allowed Farmar to roam more freely to receive the ball for better scoring opportunities.

In addition with Bozeman on the floor, it gave UCLA another available player to help break a stubborn zone press by Alabama. For the game, UCLA only had 10 turnovers.

Freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 9 points and a team-high 6 rebounds, and once again, his hustle made the difference in gaining control of loose balls.

For the game, UCLA, for one of the rare times this year, was out-rebounded 27-16 by. In addition, they shot only 5 of 13 from the foul line (38%).

Yet, despite being out-rebounded and missing key free throws, the Bruins still won.

"All the stats went against us," Howland said. "To have everything go against us and still win, it's a testament to the kids."

"We've got to make our free throws and outboard our opponents if we're going to win any more games in this tournament," he said.

After allowing Alabama to shoot 61% from the floor in the first half, UCLA limited Alabama to just 38% in the second.

This was the seventh game in a row the Bruins have held an opponent to below 60 points.

UCLA will next face Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 at Oakland beginning on Thursday. Gonzaga advanced earlier in the tourney by defeating Indiana.


(photo credit: AP)