Saturday, December 02, 2006

U-C-L-A! Bruins Bounce Trojans 13-9

Recap | Box Score
Go Bruins!

(photo credit: AP)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

UCLA vs. UC Riverside - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

Fresh off a big victory over Long Beach St., top-ranked UCLA (5-0) hosts another team from the Big West, the UC Riverside Highlanders (3-4), on Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately, UC Riverside comes to Westwood reeling both on and off the court. 

Tragedy hit the team on September 16th when forward Mark Hall was killed in an automobile accident on the 60 freeway in Moreno Valley. Aaron Scott, a 6'4 junior college transfer, incurred multiple injuries from the accident and is out for the rest of the season.

Earlier this month, second-year head coach David Spencer was granted a medical leave of absence from the team for undisclosed health reasons.  Associate coach Von Webb has been serving as the team's interim coach.

More recently, the team was hit by additional season-ending injuries to players on their starting front line.  B.J. Visman, the team's leading rebounder, announced he was red-shirting the rest of the season due to an injured wrist.  Benoit Bekono, a 6'7 forward from Cameroon, was declared out for the rest of the season due to a dislocated knee he suffered in a game last week against San Diego St.

Even before all the turmoil, UCR had been picked in the preseason to finish at the bottom of the Big West conference this season.  In 2005-06 the Highlanders finished 5-23 overall and 3-11 in conference play.

The Highlanders leading scorers are back court mates Justin Bell and Larry Cunningham.

Justin Bell (Sr, 5'10, 165), a red-shirt last season due to a knee injury, is averaging 13.7 points and 3.9 assists a game.  He is a quick guard who is more effective in the open court than the half-court. 

Larry Cunningham (Jr, 6'2, 190) is the Highlanders most athletic and complete player.  He is averaging 13.1 points and is the team's second leading rebounder with 7.6 a game. 

Chris Johnson (So, 6'0, 170), the team's third guard and likely starter on Sunday, averages 5.0 points a game.

Along the front line, the Highlanders are calling out for volunteers.  Against UCLA, UCR will suit up only two front court players who have averaged more than 10 minutes a game this season.

Henrik Thomsen (Fr, 6'8, 200), a rail-thin forward, is averaging 6.8 points and 1.8 rebounds - he is more of a perimeter threat; and Christian Soto (So, 6'8, 220) is averaging 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds.   Both players will be forced into more action, in addition, Sean Anderson ( Fr, 6'10, 230) and Charles Jim-George (Fr, 6'4, 200) will also have to step up for the Highlanders.

UCLA will approach the game as they would any other regular season contest, but considering UCR's decimated roster the Bruins will probably have faced tougher opponents in Division II Cal Poly Pomona and Humboldt St during the exhibition season.  UCR started NCAA Division I play in 2001-02.

BBR Notes: Sophomore center Ryan Wright played a season-high 12 minutes against Long Beach St. and should see more minutes against UCR.  Wright had some bright moments against the 49ers on Tuesday including drawing two offensive charges in the paint.  He appears to be getting more comfortable on the court as he gains more experience in games.  UCLA could certainly use his size in the middle to back-up Lorenzo Mata especially once Pac-10 play begins in late December.

(photo credit: UCR Athletics)


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Tribute to John Wooden

Hall of Fame Magazine's ( Tribute to John Wooden

Success In The Teachings Of a Lifetime
by Andrew Hill
Monday, November 27
[read story]

Faith, Love and Lessons from an Old Coach
by John Vallely
Tuesday, November 28
[read story]

A HOF Dinner With John Wooden
by Frank Pace
Wednesday, November 29
[read story]

Words for a Lifetime: A Tribute to Coach
by Swen Nater
Thursday, November 30
[read story]

In His Own Words
by John Wooden
[read story]


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Collison's Nine Steals Leads Bruins Over 49ers

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Darren Collison had 9 steals and Josh Shipp scored a career-high 24 points to lead top-ranked UCLA to an 88-58 rout of Long Beach St. before a crowd of 8,428 at Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins (5-0) built a 14 point lead midway through the first-half when it appeared they eased off the throttle and lost some intensity and focus.  Rather than working for good shots off their offensive sets, players began settling for outside jumpers which allowed Long Beach St. back into the game.

The 49ers' comeback was also sparked by strong offensive rebounding, primarily by former Centennial HS star Sterling Byrd, to cut the Bruin lead to only two points before UCLA's Arron Afflalo hit a three-pointer to send the Bruins into halftime with a five point lead, 41-36.

Long Beach St., a team with no starter over 6'6, out-rebounded the Bruins 25-14 in the first half and were led by Byrd who finished with a game-high 16 rebounds. For the game UCLA was out-rebounded 45-38.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland expressed his displeasure over the team's first-half performance during halftime.

"I explained to them that if we don't come out and play hard and play passionately, we're going to be at risk of losing," Howland said.

"There was a lot of hoopla surrounding the ranking," Afflalo said. "We came out as if they weren't going to come after us."

The Bruins came out in the second-half much more focused on defense and on getting the ball inside.  UCLA ratcheted up the defense causing four quick turnovers, while on the offensive end, the first five UCLA baskets were all inside the paint. They outscored the 49ers 15-0 in the first five minutes of the second-half to put the game away.

Collison's career-high 9 steals were only two short of Tyus Edney's team record of eleven. For the game the Bruins recorded 15 steals and forced 23 Long Beach St. turnovers.  Alternatively, the Bruins committed only 10 turnovers.   Collison also finished with 10 points, 6 assists and just 2 turnovers in 29 minutes.

"We played like we were tired from the Maui trip.  Three games in three days was very difficult." Howland said. "With all the traveling we haven't had much rest but we came out strong in the second-half."

With Long Beach St. not playing particularly good defense nor guarding the wings closely as other Bruin opponents have done this season, UCLA had a number of wide open looks from the outside.  The Bruins shot 62.5% from three-point distance. Shipp was a sizzling 6 of 9 from long distance while also recording 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

"I was surprised to be that wide open," Shipp said. "I feel like I do a lot of things every game. I don't base my performance on just shooting."

Afflalo finished with 20 points on 8 of 15 shooting while freshman Russell Westbrook hit three consecutive three-point shots from the far corner to finish with 11 points in just eleven minutes of play. 

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 7 points and had team-high honors in rebounding with 11 in the game.  Playing somewhat under the weather, center Lorenzo Mata played only 16 minutes recording just 1 point and 4 rebounds.

The Bruins shot 44.8% from the field and held the 49ers to just 36.5% shooting which brought smiles to the coaching staff.  Last season, the Bruins led the Pac-10 in field-goal percentage defense limiting opponents to below 40% shooting but this season teams have been shooting over 48% against them.

"We need to have more of the same type of defensive effort we put forth in the second half." Howland said. "We are last in the Pac-10 in field-goal percentage defense so far this year.  We need to improve our defense before we start Pac-10 play."

(photo credit: Jack Rosenfeld)


Monday, November 27, 2006

UCLA vs. Long Beach St. - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

With a bull's-eye brightly emblazoned across their uniforms, the No.1 ranked UCLA Bruins (4-0) arrive home to open against the Long Beach St. 49ers (2-2) on Tuesday night.

UCLA is coming off a victorious sweep at the Maui Invitational and was rewarded yesterday with a top ranking in the AP and a No.2 ranking in the ESPN/USA Coaches polls.

Long Beach St. comes into Westwood still looking to hit their stride as a team.  Last season the 49ers finished 18-12 and were runner-up to Pacific in the Big West tournament.

The 49ers are a small team which relies on their quickness in the backcourt, they don't start a player taller than 6'6.

Long Beach St. plays both ends of the court at a frenetic pace to take advantage of their strength in the backcourt.  On defense they apply full-court  pressure in an attempt to disrupt an opponent's offensive flow and create easy scoring opportunities They are averaging 9.8 steals a game and are +6.5 in turnover margin.  In addition, they take a lot of quick shots especially from beyond the arc, this season they are averaging over 24 3-PT shot attempts a game.

Despite five seniors in the starting line-up, Long Beach St. has been inconsistent and struggled especially on the offensive end.   Last season the 49ers led the NCAA in scoring offense averaging 83 points per game but only 72 points so far this season. 

The main problem has been their field goal-shooting.  As a team the 49ers are shooting only 38.%% from the field and 26.8% from beyond the arc - especially bad for a team which relies on the 3-PT shot as a primary weapon.  With their lack of size its not surprising they are being out-rebounded 42-49.

The 49ers utilize a three-guard offense, Aaron Nixon, Kejuan Johnson from Artesia HS, and Kevin Houston.

Aaron Nixon (6'2, 219) is a powerfully built guard who leads the team in scoring at 17.8 points and is the team's second best rebounder at 5.3 per game.  He also leads the team in steals with 2.5 swipes a game.  UCLA's Arron Afflalo will get the likely starting assignment against Nixon.

Kejuan Johnson Sr, (6'4 195) was expected to be the team's offensive leader this season but has struggled with his shooting, making only 25% from the field and 19% on 3-PT.  If the 49ers expect to keep the game close, Johnson will need to regain his shooting touch quickly.  He averages 1.5 steals a game.  Josh Shipp did a a good defensive job on Thaddeus Young of Georgia Tech in Maui and will look to continue his effort here.

Although all three senior guards can play point, the team's primary play-maker is Kevin Houston (5'10, 180).  He averages 9.0 points, 4.8 assists,and 1.0 steals a game but Houston is also struggling with his shooting (31.1% FG and 31% 3-PT). 

Darren Collison leads the team in minutes played per game (33) and Coach Howland hopes to rest his starting point-guard more over the next few games and play freshman Russell Westbrook.  It  will be important for Westbrook to earn Howland's trust in running the team especially with the upcoming tough Pac-10 schedule.

Long Beach St. starts two senior forwards, Sterling Byrd (6'6, 215) and Dominique Ricks (6'6, 220)

Byrd is the team's second leading scorer at 12.8 points.  He is shooting 57.6% from the field and has a good touch from outside.  Byrd is a key player in the 49ers' full-court press and averages 2.3 steals a game.

Dominique Ricks has been a pleasant surprise for the 49ers.  Expected to come off the bench this season, Ricks is averaging 7.3 points and a team-high 8.3 rebounds a game.  Although Lorenzo Mata will start, it will be a good opportunity for both Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright to log more court time in this contest especially against a smaller opponent.

With the up-tempo the 49ers attempt to play, they typically play at least nine deep. Off the bench they bring Mark Dawson (Sr, 6'9, 220) who gives the team some size, Louis Darby (Sr, 6'5, 210) who is the primary guard in reserve, and two younger players in Artis Gant (So, 6'3, 217) and Tim Island (Fr, 6'5, 200)

The two Long Beach St. wins were against San Jose St. and CS Bakersfield and their two losses were to Air Force and USC.  Against USC, the 49ers trailed by only six at the half (32-26), but the Trojans used a big surge to start the second half to win 79-61 win.  The 49ers shot just 29% (20-69) from the field and were out-rebounded 58-44 in the game.

The Bruins are much too physical and athletic for the 49ers and can even beat them at their own game. UCLA is obviously highly favored in this match-up, however as in past seasons, the Bruins have shown a tendency to play down to the level of their opponents - although they don't plan to take the 49ers lightly.

"I know a lot of players on those teams, so they definitely won't be taken lightly," said Afflalo. "These teams won't be intimidated by us because they know us.

Coach Howland's Bruins are known for their physical and dominating defense, however this year the Bruins have been dominating on both ends of the court.  Through four games this season, UCLA is averaging 82.8 points per game on 52.1% field goal shooting.  Last season the team averaged only 68.6 points per contest.  With speedy Darren Collison at the point and two scorers on the wings, in Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp, the Bruins have opened up the offense and have dedicated to running more often.   

UCLA will look to improve upon their subpar 60.8% free throw shooting in the early season which includes 1 of 8 shooting by Lorenzo Mata against Georgia Tech.

"I think a lot of his free-throw shooting, honestly, is a lack of conditioning," Howland said. "He's not in tip-top cardiovascular shape right now, and it's understandable when you haven't practiced much. So a lot of that was just fatigue, more than anything."

(photo credit: AP)


Success In The Teachings Of A Lifetime

By Andrew Hill

One of a four part tribute to UCLA Head Coach John Wooden

My senior year as a high school basketball player in Los Angeles far exceeded my hopes. I averaged over 27 points, 12 assists and five rebounds a game as our team went undefeated in league play. I was named to the All City team and was clearly one of the top players in Southern California. Dozens of colleges came after me during that winter of 1968, but they were all a blur when it became clear that a scholarship to UCLA was in the cards. Sitting at training table between Coach Wooden and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (still Lew Alcindor at this point) was so thrilling that I felt like I was living a dream.

I understand now that this dreamlike state set in motion by the recruiting process is probably at the root of much of the pain and disappointment that young ballplayers experience when their dreams of starring in college never come to pass.

(Go to to read rest of story)


UCLA Vaults to No.1 in AP, No.2 in Coaches Polls

By Bruin Basketball Report

For the first time since their 1994-95 NCAA championship season, the UCLA Bruins sit atop the Associated Press (AP) poll at No.1. 

It is UCLA's 129th poll with a No.1 ranking, nineteen more than the second-place Duke Blue Devils.  The Bruins received 36 of 72 first-place votes.

After sweeping through ranked opponents, Kentucky and Georgia Tech, to win the EA Sports Maui Invitational and combined losses by former No.1 Florida and No.2 North Carolina, UCLA vaulted from No.5 to the top ranking this week.   

AP voters also passed over Pittsburgh and Ohio State, both ranked higher than UCLA last week but who have played a less competitive schedule thus far in the season.  Pittsburgh and Ohio State are ranked No.2 and No.3, respectively, in the AP poll

In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll UCLA is ranked No.2 behind Ohio State this week.   The Bruins received 13 first-place votes while the Buckeyes received 11.   Ohio State faces a tough challenge this week facing North Carolina at home. 

"Our players will be excited," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I wish it was the last one as opposed to the early poll. We still have a lot to go through."

UCLA is also ranked No.1 in both RPI (Rating Percentage Index)  and SOS (Strength of Schedule) per Ken Pomeroy's in-season RPI analysis this week.  Both the RPI and SOS are used by the NCAA tournament committee to determine seedings for tournament play in March.

The Bruins are back at Pauley Pavilion this week and play host to Long Beach St. on Tuesday and UC Riverside on Saturday.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (11/27)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


O.J Mayo and Kevin Love may have different motives, but they're heading to the same city with hopes of reaching their goals. Right now, Mayo is giant fish in the small pond of Huntington, W.Va. In less than a year, Mayo will be in an ocean of people at Southern Cal. As one of the millions of people in L.A. waiting for their big break, he will be handed the ball and asked to put USC basketball on the map. Love said he picked UCLA because of the school's undeniable tradition and history of outstanding big men. The Lake Oswego, Ore., native has a skill set that will likely be featured the minute he steps foot in Westwood. Who will be the king of Los Angeles? Buckle up, that will be a fun back-and-forth rivalry to watch. Gator Bait 11/22


A few weeks ago, UCLA hired Clay McKnight, whose father, Gary, happens to be the coach at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif. You think having Clay, who has previously worked at Oregon State, Syracuse and USC, might give the Bruins a leg up in their pursuit of David and Travis Wear, 6-foot-10 sophomore twins at Mater Dei? Sports Illustrated 11/21

Those three teams could challenge for the Northern 4A title and the right to play for the NIAA 4A State title along with Galena, who returns two of Northern 4A's top players in Luke Babbitt and Eric Maupin. North Valleys, which returns Archie Kovich, is another team that figures to be reckoned with. Nevada Appeal 11/23

Taft kicks off the year Thursday night with a glitzy celebrity fundraiser headlined by the greatest basketball player in Los Angeles history - former Lakers' great Magic Johnson. The Magic Man, a long-time family friend of Taft star guard Larry Drew Jr., headlines a guest list that includes basketball stars Pooh Richardson, Mark Jackson, John Salley, Wayman Tisdale and former baseball great Eric Davis. Tickets, ranging from $10 general admission to $25 VIP, are available through the school. L.A. Daily News 11/25

One of just two area boys' basketball teams ever to finish undefeated with a 32-0 season two years ago, Campbell Hall of North Hollywood again will be hardto beat this season - byanyone. The defending Southern Section Div. IV-A finalist Vikings' top three scorers return - Jrue Holiday (21.0points per game), Justin Holiday (20.0) and Robert Ford (14.8) - joined by impact transfers Dallas Rutherford and Keegan Hornbuckle.  L.A. Daily News 11/25

Taking in the game from behind UW's bench was Justin Holiday, who signed with UW earlier this month, and his younger brother, Jrue....Jrue Holiday, a 6-3 guard, is a high-school junior and is considered one of the nation's top recruits for next fall. Justin Holiday said the brothers flew up Friday morning for an informal visit and were flying out today. He took his official visit in September. "We just wanted to see a game before our season starts next week," he said. The two play at Campbell Hall High. "I liked it. It was a competitive game, the crowd was good." As for what his brother Jrue thinks of UW? "We don't really talk about it that much," Justin Holiday said. "But he likes it. It's one of his top schools, I think."  Seattle Times 11/25

Brandon Jennings said he picked USC over Connecticut in part because he wanted to play in front of his family, which lives in Lakewood. He said he also felt he could make an immediate impact regardless of whether Mayo stays for a second season or declares for the NBA draft. "The only reason I didn't go to UConn is because they have point guards already," said Jennings, who said he wouldn't even bother with an official visit to the campus in Storrs, Conn. "Those guys being from the East Coast and already being there a couple of years, you know how that is. Coming in to SC, I'll play right away because they need some point guards."..."He told me I didn't play defense real well and needed to get stronger. For a guy to keep it real with me, it made me want to go there." L.A. Times 11/25

Brandon Jennings, a 6-2 junior point guard from Los Angeles, made an oral commitment to USC. UConn had appeared to be the front-runner for Jennings, the No.7 rated player and top-rated point guard in the 2008 class by Jennings is a close friend of former UConn point guard Marcus Williams. Kelly Williams, Marcus' father, is Jennings' AAU coach. Jennings is playing at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He can't sign until next November, but his commitment appears solid.  Hartford Courant 11/25

Verdell Jones, one of the state's top juniors, led Champaign Central with 25 points and six assists. The Maroons (1-1) will face Simeon on Friday. Chicago Sun-Times 11/26

(photo credits: Oregonian and Steve Helwagen/Bucknuts)