Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bruins Remain Unbeaten, Edge Aggies

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

With the game on the line in a tough turf battle with Texas A&M,, the Bruins turned to what they do best to win games.  Play defense.

After the Aggies tied the game 54-54 with 6:29 remaining, the Bruin defense clamped down to key a 9-2 run as top-ranked UCLA beat Texas A&M, 65-62, in the 13th annual John R. Wooden Classic.

Josh Shipp scored a team-high 18 points and Darren Collison added 15 to pace the UCLA attack.  Arron Afflalo scored 13 points but was limited to just 28 minutes due to early foul trouble.  However, Afflalo gave his team a boost by scoring eight of his points over the final nine minutes of the contest.

In a battle between two physical and defensive-minded teams, although each managed to shoot over 49% from the field there were rarely any easy baskets or fast-breaks to be found with each team limiting the other to only 51 shots in the game.

"The intensity was going to remain high as long as the score was tight," Afflalo said. "Neither team got a chance to pull away."

The game was notched at 27-27 going into intermission before Darren Collison hit two consecutive three-pointers in the final 22 seconds to stake the Bruins to a 33-27 halftime lead.

"I did a poor job and didn't find my man," Aggies guard Acie Law said. "Those two three-pointers hurt us a lot with the game being so close at the end."

Acie Law scored 21 points to lead the Aggies while guarded most of the game by UCLA's Darren Collison. 

Arron Afflalo had started the game against Law and had forced him into two turnovers and a missed shot, but then Afflalo picked up two quick fouls and UCLA had to switch the smaller Collison onto Law.  However down the stretch, Afflalo was switched back onto Law and the UCLA junior responded by shutting him down during the Bruin's key late-game run.

Texas A&M came into the game as a mediocre rebounding squad with no player averaging more than 5.5 rebounds a game, but the Aggies managed to outrebound the Bruins 27-18 led by Joseph Jones who grabbed 13 rebounds.  After recording a career-high 16 rebounds in his last game, Lorenzo Mata only had 4 rebounds before fouling out late in the game.   

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute struggled throughout the contest recording just 4 points and 2 rebounds.  However during post-game comments, UCLA coach Ben Howland revealed Mbah a Moute was suffering from a pulled groin muscle which was still bothering him and had kept him out of practice all week. 

Nonetheless, the Aggies' strategy of playing Mbah a Moute's defender off him and forcing him to shoot from the outside was effective - its a defense Mbah a Moute will see more of until he shows that he can hit the mid-range jumper consistently.

Michael Roll gave the Bruins a boost off the bench in reserve by playing solid perimeter defense, scoring 5 points, and grabbing 3 rebounds in 15 minutes.  He also had a rare, for him, length of the court driving lay-up with three Aggie defenders hounding him.

The game may not have been as close at the end if the Bruins had hit their free throws.  UCLA continued their woes from the line hitting just 8 of 16 for 50%; however the culprit was not the usual suspect - Mata was 2 of 3 of the line.  Typically reliable free throw shooters Shipp, Afflalo, and Collison were a combined 6 of 12 from the stripe.  With Pac-10 play starting in a few weeks, free throw shooting needs to be a key area of improvement for the Bruins.

The Bruins forced the usually sure-handed Aggies' into 20 turnovers that led to 22 points.  UCLA recorded 10 steals with Josh Shipp getting four of them in perhaps his best all-around performance of the season.  Shipp also had two blocks.

"Our defense was really tough down the stretch," Howland said. "That's one of the most physical games I can remember."

With the victory UCLA remains undefeated at 8-0 while Texas A&M loses their second game in a row and now stand at 7-2.

UCLA is off until next Saturday when they face Oakland (MI) Golden Grizzlies at Pauley Pavilion.

(photo credit: AP)


Thursday, December 07, 2006

UCLA vs. Texas A&M - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

In the 13th rendition of the John R. Wooden Classic the top-ranked UCLA Bruins battle the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

UCLA is making their 10th appearance at the Wooden Classic and fourth in a row while it will be the Aggies' first.

Last year the Bruins defeated Nick Fazekas and the Nevada Wolfpack 67-56.  UCLA's Jordan Farmar scored 24 and Arron Afflalo chipped in 18 for the win.

The Bruins (7-0) are coming off a series of victories over three Big West conference opponents in which the average margin of victory was 26 points .  At times the Bruins played down to the level of their over-matched opponents until late in the game when they would put together a run to finally pull away.

A contest against a tough ranked opponent, like the Aggies, comes at the right time for the Bruins who need to be tested before they start Pac-10 conference play at the end of December.

Texas A&M's will be completing a tough string of three games on Saturday.  Last week the Aggies (7-1) defeated Pacific 74-62 to remain undefeated but then fall to LSU on Tuesday, 64-52, in a rematch of a NCAA tournament second-round game last season.

Still despite the loss to LSU, Texas A&M is off to its best start in school history.

The Aggies are a blue-collar and rugged squad.  Their solid brand of team defense leads the NCAA in both scoring defense and FG% defense allowing just under 49 points a game and holding opponents to 30.7% shooting. 

In many ways Head Coach Billy Gillespie's Texas A&M Aggies are very similar to UCLA defensively.  They play tough defense for the entire 40 minutes and wear down less disciplined opponents down by games end

On offense the Aggies are averaging 68 points per game on an impressive 53.9% shooting.  They are not a big three-point shooting team, although they do have players who can hit from the perimeter when called upon.  The Aggies have a balanced inside and out game and effectively move the ball around to find an open shot, they lead the NCAA in assists with 22.9 a game.

Texas A&M is led by two preseason All Big 12 first-team candidates in point-guard Acie Law and forward-center and Joseph Jones.

Acie Law (Sr, 6'3, 195) started the year as one of the best returning point-guards in the nation.  Last season he averaged 16.1 points a game and hit a number of clutch winners down the stretch for the team, however, Law has been inconsistent offensively and has struggled the last two games scoring just nine points over the stretch.

But when Law is at his best, he can hit from the perimeter and dribble penetrate to create shots for teammates.  He is also a solid defender and the vocal leader on the team.  If Law regains his offensive touch and confidence, the Aggies can be tough to handle.

UCLA's Arron Afflalo will get the start against Law and try to extend Law's offensive slump, although Darren Collison will likely have his opportunity against Law as well especially when Afflalo is out of the game.

Joseph Jones (Jr, 6'9, 250) provides a strong presence down low for Texas A&M.  He has recently been bothered by tendinitis in the knees but is still the team leader in scoring at 14.8 points and shoots at a 63% clip.  He will provide Luc Richard Mbah a Moute a stiff challenge on the blocks.

On the other hand, defensively, Jones may have difficulty with the quicker Mbah a Moute especially if the Cameroon native decides to take him off the dribble from the wing or high-post. Jones has had problems with foul trouble - he has already fouled out of three games this season.

In addition, considering his bulk and size, Jones is not a great rebounder averaging only 5.0 caroms a game and will be challenged to keep the always active Mbah a Moute off the boards.

At center the Aggies start Lithuanian Antanas Kavaliauskas (Sr, 6'10, 250).  He is averaging 12.8 points a game and shooting 63.8% from the field.  Kavaliauskas has a good shooting touch and a solid short to mid-range game. Although neither Kavaliauskas or Jones are great shot-blockers, their size gives teams problems in the paint. 

UCLA's Lorenzo Mata has been recently playing the best stretch of basketball in his young collegiate career.  Excluding the Long Beach St. game in which he played sick, he has averaged a double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds a game, in his last four games.

At the off-guard the Aggies start Dominique Kirk (Jr, 6'3, 180) who is a solid defender and good three-point shooter (37%). He has a blue-collar work ethic and makes his teammates better on both ends of the court with his hustle.

At the small forward the Aggies will likely start Josh Carter (So, 6'7, 195) against UCLA's Josh Shipp.  Carter is averaging 11.0 a game and shooting 42% from beyond the arc. 

At the start of the season, the Aggies had planned to start Marlon Pompey (Sr, 6'8, 225) at the SF spot but he has been hurt although he did come off the bench to play 14 minutes against LSU. 

Carter is the better offensive player of the two while Pompey is more defense-oriented who energizes the team with his hustle and defense.  Pompey is also the team's best shot-blocker but his foot injury has slowed him this year.

The Aggies also bring two freshmen off the bench in Bryan Davis (6'9, 245) and Donald Sloan (6'2, 210).  Davis is averaging 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 11 minutes a game; while Sloan backs up both guard spots and is averaging 5.0 points and 2.3 assists in 18.5 minutes a game.

Freshman center 6'10 Chinemelu Elonu also gets time on the court especially if Joseph Jones gets into foul trouble.  Chinemelu has raw talent but is already a good shot-blocker.

While the Bruins are running more in transition and scoring more points (80.0) this season, UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland wants his team to improve their defense with a goal of allowing opponents less than 40% FG shooting. Currently the Bruins allow 42% field goal shooting per game.

Texas A&M provides UCLA with its first real challenge since the games at the Maui Invitational.  Look for the Bruins to step up to the challenge.

BBR Notes:  UCLA and Texas A&M is the first game of the Wooden Classic.  Later in the afternoon George Washington faces USC in the second game.

(photo credit: Aggies Athletics)


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Holiday May Not Be 'Big,' But He Is Still A Special Player

By Ramona Shelburne
L.A. Daily News

He paused to consider the question, glanced down at the worn, maple-lacquered bench in the corner of the gym, then shook his head like he was still trying to wrap his thoughts around something.

"No," he said earnestly. "I'm not big like O.J. (Mayo)."

Thirty minutes earlier, an assistant coach from the University of Texas had dropped by to watch him practice. Before he left the gym, the coach glanced across the court at Jrue Holiday, waited until his gaze was returned, then waved goodbye.

Next week, North Carolina coach Roy Williams is supposed to drop by the Campbell Hall of North Hollywood gym and do about the same thing.

"(UCLA coach) Ben Howland," Campbell Hall coach Terry Kelly said, "has his own parking space here."

But no, Holiday is not big like O.J. Mayo.

"He has no idea how good he is," Kelly said of Holiday. "He doesn't get it."

Maybe that's why the 6-foot-3 junior guard plays like he has got to prove himself on every play, why he turns from a quiet, polite, high school kid in well-pressed khaki pants and a polo shirt into an emotional, single-minded force on the court.

Jrue Holiday doesn't just dunk the basketball, he tries to tear the rim down. He doesn't just want to win, he needs to.

"When I go up for a dunk," he said, "I try and get up as high as I can and slam it in to make it dramatic. I want to get everybody hyped. I want to get my teammates hyped to get us into the game. I want to get the crowd hyped, because that helps us play better."

What about getting himself excited?

"I'm already hyped," he said, smiling.

He always has been like this. Bring up basketball and his eyes light up, like he's flashing back to something. Thinking back on those days growing up in Rancho Cucamonga, playing two-on-two in the backyard with his brothers Justin and Aaron, and little sister Lauren. They'd set up a huge trampoline under the basket and practice their dunks for hours on end.

But people don't just bring up basketball with Jrue (pronounced Drew) anymore. They send text messages every night to talk about college, post videos of him on YouTube and file a weekly update on what college he's thinking about this week.

They want to compare him to O.J. Mayo, the recently-signed USC recruit from Huntington, W.V., who has been signing autographs since the sixth grade, or Larry Drew Jr., his crosstown foil at Taft of Woodland Hills.

Last weekend, Holiday went on an unofficial visit to UCLA to watch the Bruins play UC Riverside. He didn't get far before the student section started chanting his name.

"People were asking for my autograph," he said. "It was weird. ... I'm just a regular person. How can my autograph be so important?"

Some people mistake this for shyness. Cynics might think it's an act.

But as you look him in the eye as he says this, there are no signs of pretense. Just that slight shake of the head, like he's still trying to understand it all himself.

Basketball has always been a simple thing for Jrue Holiday. Just him, the other guy, a ball and a hoop. Whoever wants it most wins.   

Kelly still remembers Jrue's first practice. He showed up as a scrawny, long-armed ninth-grader looking for a spot on a team filled with Division I prospects. Joe Ford was the team's leader. He had averaged more than 21 points a game the year before and led the Vikings to 27 wins. He was 6-foot-6 and the college recruiters were all over him.

Kelly lined the team up for its first scrimmage.

"We were on this end of the floor," Kelly said, looking up at the basket on the north end of the court. "And I told everyone to match up. No one wanted Joe. ... Jrue stood up and was like, `I'll take him.'

"That's when I knew he was special and that I'd never have to coddle him."

That year, Campbell Hall went 32-0 and won a state championship.

Four players signed with Division I colleges. But somehow the skinny freshman found his way into the mix, and averaged 10.1 points a game while leading the team with 363-pointers.

Last year, with Ford and the other guys having gone off to college, Kelly handed Jrue the reigns and asked him to run the team. He averaged 21.0 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.5 steals.

Campbell Hall ran its winning streak to 42 games before falling to Taft on Dec.29. The Vikings regrouped to finish 26-6 and make the state playoffs, but fell short of their magical 2005 season.

"I hate losing," Holiday said. "After we lost (to San Joaquin Memorial to finish the season), it was a real quiet bus ride home. I don't get mad or yell. But I hate losing. That's why, on the court, I'll do anything to win."

Holiday enters this season as the No. 2-rated shooting guard in the Class of 2008 by The No. 2-rated point guard is none other than Larry Drew Jr.

On Jan. 13, they'll go head-to-head in the San Fernando Valley Showcase.

Holiday can't wait.

"Larry and I are cool," he said. "I like playing against him. We play for the same team in the summer."

But there is one guy he has never gotten to play against: Mayo.

"I've seen him a few times, but never got to play against him," Holiday said. "I'd like to, though. I know I can run with him."

(reprinted with permission)


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bruins Shake Off Early Deficit For Win

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Lorenzo Mata hauled down a career-high 16 rebounds to lead top-ranked UCLA to a 78-54 victory over CS Fullerton at Pauley Pavilion.

The final margin of victory was not indicative of an exhausting, hard-fought game in which the outcome was not decided until the latter part of the second-half.

The Titans started the game with more intensity than the Bruins jumping to a 14-4 lead in the opening five minutes by pressuring the Bruins into six early turnovers and hurried shots.

But after a UCLA timeout, the Bruins calmed down and began taking better care of the ball.  They went on their own 14-2 run to regain the lead 18-16 midway through the first-half.

"We didn't think they were going to jump on us like that," junior guard Arron Afflalo said. "We just had to get some defensive stops. This team showed a lot of maturity and bounced back."

Afflalo led all scorers with 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting and 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.  He also hit a momentum-changing three-point shot to end the first-half putting UCLA up 39-33 at intermission.

Sophomore UCLA point-guard Darren Collison had problems with the Titan's pressure defense and committed a season-high five turnovers.  Collison had entered the game with a an excellent 2.7/1 assist-to-turnover ratio.  The Titans overplayed the Bruins on the wings but Collison did not adjust leading to passes either being tipped or stolen.

"It was just me making wrong decisions," Collison said.

Collison finished with 15 points and just 3 assists but played well on the defensive end recording six steals.

Coming into the game, the Bruins had been averaging only 11.5 turnovers, but under the duress of the Titan pressure defense and somewhat careless Bruin passing, UCLA ended up committing a season-high 21 turnovers with 14 of them occurring in the first-half.

Fortunately for the Bruins, the Titans were careless themselves committing 28 turnovers.

On offense the Titans were initially effective breaking down the Bruin perimeter defense off the dribble which led to easy layups or dishes to Scott Cutley underneath who scored all his 11 points in the first half.

In addition to attacking the Bruins off the bounce, the Titans attempted to go after Lorenzo Mata one-on-one inside with their quicker post players, but Mata responded with solid defense including three blocked shots.  In addition to his rebounding high totals, the junior center added 9 points on 4 of 9 shooting.

With another lackluster first-half team performance behind them, UCLA came out in the second-half with more intensity and playing solid defense. The Bruins went on a 9-2 run to start the half to go up by 13. However, the Titans had one more run left in them and cut the lead to just 6 points with eight minutes remaining.

By then the CS Fullerton starters were exhausted having played most of the game, and the Bruins finished the game outscoring the Titans 25-7.

"They wore us down with their strength and defense," CS Fullerton coach Bob Burton said.. "Our best players were falling down trying to penetrate. All of a sudden we couldn't score and then the turnovers came."

After allowing the Titans to shoot 43% in the first-half, the Bruins limited them to only 30% in the second.  Led by Mata, UCLA out-rebounded the under-sized Titans 40-31.

UCLA's Josh Shipp chipped in 16 points including 3 of 5 on three-pointers.  As a team, the Bruins finished 53.3% from beyond the arc.

Sophomore forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had perhaps his worst game since his freshman season.  Plagued by early foul trouble, Mbah a Moute never appeared to get on track finishing with just 2 point, 4 rebounds, and a career-high 5 turnovers in just 19 minutes.

Fellow Cameroon countryman Alfred Aboya played well in reserve of Mbah a Moute by scoring 8 points on 4 of 7 shooting.

"I thought Alfred gave us a boost when he came into the game," Howland said. "He played with a lot of intensity and energy."

Freshman James Keefe looked quite comfortable on the floor providing 10 minutes of solid defensive effort and added 4 points.

UCLA improved their record to 7-0 and will next face No.6 ranked Texas A&M at the Wooden Classic on Saturday.  Texas A&M lost Tuesday to No.11 ranked LSU in Baton Rouge, 64-52

BBR Notes:  UCLA Football Head Coach Karl Dorrell and members of the football team were present at halftime to ring the "Victory Bell" which they claimed after their win over USC on Saturday.  "We haven't seen the Victory Bell for a long time," Dorrell said.  "Our goal is to keep it for a long time."

(photo credit: Jack Rosenfeld)


Monday, December 04, 2006

UCLA vs. CS Fullerton - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA receives its third and final dose of Big West competition when the CS Fullerton Titans enter Pauley Pavilion for a Tuesday evening contest.

The top-ranked Bruins (6-0) had little trouble with Long Beach St. and UC Riverside from the Big West conference winning by a total margin of 63 points.  However, the Titans (5-1) are off to their best start since 1999 and have been awaiting this game since the start of the season.

Whereas the UC Riverside game was a lesson on how to run a stall offense, CS Fullerton is expected to apply pressure defense and an up-tempo running offense to leverage the team's speed and athleticism.

The Titans are undersized with no starter over 6'7 but they are extremely athletic with skilled players at every position.

CS Fullerton is averaging 90.0 points a game while shooting 47.7% from the field including 35.2% from three-point distance.  With their pressure defense they are forcing 7.5 steals a game, however, they turnover the ball often themselves averaging 17.0 a game.

After playing against UC Riverside at a snails pace, some UCLA players were looking forward to playing faster paced games later in the schedule.  With CS Fullerton the Bruins will get their wish.

"I've known most of those guys for awhile." UCLA guard Arron Afflalo said. "We are very familiar with each other.  They have a lot of aggressive players."

All-Big West point-guard Bobby Brown (Sr, 6'1 175) out of Westchester HS returned to the Titans after considering an early entrance into the NBA draft last season.  Brown is a dynamic scorer who is attempting to round out his game this season by applying himself on the defensive end and looking to be more of a play-maker on offense.

Brown missed the Titan's first three games of the season due to injury but has played well since his return scoring over 20 points in his last two games including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.  He is also averaging 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals.

Darren Collison and Bobby Brown promise to be the marquee match-up of the game as two of the quickest players in Division I clash, although considering the Titans use three guards in the backcourt we'll see Afflalo on Brown at times. 

UCLA Coach Ben Howland considers Collison to be one of the finest on-ball defenders he's ever coached, in addition, he credits his low turnovers total to the team's early success.   Collison will be pressured all game by the Titan defense, but he should be able to handle the full-court pressure as he did against Kentucky and Georgia Tech.

Ray Reed (Jr, 5'11, 165) is a shooter in a point-guard sized body. While Brown was injured Reed was leading the Titans in scoring.  He is averaging 14.8 points and 4.2 assists while shooting at a 46% clip from beyond the arc.  He's gutty and quick, a good fit for the team's pressuring defense.  This season Reed is averaging an astonishing 3.0 steals a game.

At the third starting guard spot is Frank Robinson (Jr, 6'4, 220) who is averaging 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds a game.  He is a dangerous perimeter threat averaging over 41% from three-point distance. 

Josh Shipp will need to make sure he closes out quickly on Robinson on the perimeter.  Three-point defense has been a weakness for the entire Bruin squad.  This season they are allowing 41% field goal percentage from three-point distance which is bad enough for last place in the Pac-10.

"We are not as good a defensive team this year." Howland said at his weekly press conference. "If we allow CS Fullerton to shoot over 40% from three then we have a chance of losing tomorrow."

Along the Titan front line is forward Scott Cutley, a burly 6'5 and 240 lb transfer from Kent St.  The junior leads the team in scoring (20.7) and is second in rebounding (8.0).  He is a blue-collar worker around the boards and is strong enough to push defenders around for scores.  In a recent Say No Classic summer game Cutley scored 49 points.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute saw plenty of Cutley during the summer league and will be tasked to slow him down on Tuesday.  Mbah a Moute has been solid this season recording his second double-double of the season against UC Riverside, however, he has been getting into early foul trouble this season in most cases by being too aggressive and going over the back of opponents.

At the other forward spot is Justin Burns (Sr, 6'7, 205) who is averaging 13.2 points and leads the team in rebounding with 9.0 a game.  A very athletic player who attempts to use his speed to compensate for his lack of size inside. 

UCLA's center Lorenzo Mata tied a career-high with four blocks against UC Riverside and has been improving his offense inside since his return from knee surgery.  He was 4 of 4 from the field scoring 10 points on Sunday.

Although CS Fullerton plays an up-tempo game the Titans rely on heavy minutes from their starters.  Bobby Brown and Scott Cutley each average 36 minutes a contest while Ray Reed and Justin Burns go 32 minutes a game.

Off the bench the Titans have some size to bring into the game with Chris Minardo (So, 6'10, 205), Jarrel Lake (Fr, 6'7, 230), and Ken Alexander (Jr, 6'6, 230).  In the backcourt they may struggle with depth issues since back-up guard Marcus Crenshaw (So, 5'10, 170) is questionable due to an ankle injury.  Crenshaw had been the first Titan off the bench and was averaging 12.7 points and 3.7 assists a game.

No doubt the game will be a high scoring affair.  UCLA will be able to run with CS Fullerton all game, but the question will be if the Bruins can get back to playing their solid brand of defense to keep this from being a close contest. 

BBR Notes: Former Washington St. guard Josh Akognon transferred to CS Fullerton this season and is sitting out the year per transfer rules.  Akognon lit up the Bruins for 25 points in a game last January.

UCLA Assistant Coach Donny Daniels played under former head coach Bobby Dye at CS Fullerton from 1974 to 1977.  Daniels later returned to his alma mater to become head coach from 2000 to 2003.

UCLA forward Josh Shipp was named Pac-10 Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week for November 27-December 3.  Teammate Darren Collison received the honor the previous week.

(photo credit: CS Fullerton Athletics)


UCLA Tops Both Polls This Week

By Bruin Basketball Report

After a week which included victories over two Big West opponents, the UCLA Bruins sit atop both the national AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls. 

UCLA received 25 of the 31 first-place votes in the Coaches poll while No.2 ranked Pittsburgh received 6 first-place votes.  Previous Coaches poll No.1, Ohio St., dropped from the top spot after a loss to North Carolina.

After a grueling set of games at the Maui Invitational, the Bruins came home last week to face two over-matched Big West teams.  The Bruins pulled away from Long Beach St., 88-58, for an easy victory on Tuesday and then sacked an injury-depleted UC Riverside team 61-38 on Sunday afternoon.

As a result of playing two lowly ranked teams last week, UCLA dropped to No.8 in RPI while their strength of schedule rating plummeted to No. 44.

Texas A&M, the Bruin's opponent at the Wooden Classic on Saturday, moved up to No.6 this week.  The Aggies defeated Pacific 74-62 last weekend and will face No.11 LSU tomorrow in Baton Rouge before arriving for the match-up in Anaheim.

A second Pac-10 team, the Washington Huskies (6-0), moved into the Top 10 in the Coaches poll at No.8 but are ranked No.13 in the AP. 

Arizona (5-1) comes in ranked at No.14 and No.15, respectively, in the AP and Coaches polls.  Undefeated Oregon (6-0) received increased votes in both polls and may move into the top tier with a defeat of Nebraska later this week.

The Bruins defend their unanimous No.1 ranking on Tuesday against CS Fullerton in Westwood and then travel to the Honda Center in Anaheim to face Texas A&M on Saturday.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (12/4)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


ESPN 150 basketball rankings: Kevin Love is a warrior in the paint. He thrives on physical contact and is fearless around the hoop, where he can power the ball to the rim, take a hit and finish with a three-point play. The past two summers Kevin played on the SoCal All-Stars team, where his inside game, rebounding, outlet passes and post presence made a very good team unbeatable last summer. Love's best attribute is that his intensity and passion for the game make everyone around him better. ESPN 11/28

To reach his lofty goals, Kevin Love embarked on a strenuous workout regimen that is now in its second full year. The results of those workouts, which were conducted by Lakers girls coach Jason Fawcett, have been noticeable in the team’s practices and during Monday’s jamboree. “He’s easily jumping a good five to six inches higher than he did last year … (Plus) he’s so strong,” Shoff said.“The scary part is he’s not even as good as he’s going to be in another two or three years,” the coach added. Lake Oswego Review 11/29

Fairfax 74, Serra 38: Kristopher Lawrie had 11 points for Serra (1-1). UCLA recruit Chace Stanback had 26 points for Fairfax (2-0), which will play Mayfair in a semifinal on Friday at 6:30 p.m Daily Breeze 11/30

Jerime Anderson, Anaheim Canyon: Led the Comanches, ranked No. 15 by The Times, with 25 points in a 67-50 victory over Esperanza in pool play of the Loara tournament. LA Times 12/2

With a scholarship to UCLA and a state title among his accomplishments, Kevin Love heard speculation that he might not take his senior season as seriously as he has past seasons. "That's not the case," Love said. "You can tell by my passion." And by his gaudy statistics, too. Love opened his final prep season with 38 points and 28 rebounds as defending state champion Lake Oswego beat Lincoln 60-48. The Oregonian 12/2

Jerime Anderson, Anaheim Canyon: Tournament MVP had 22 points as the Comanches defeated Servite, 58-50, for the Loara tournament title. LA Times 12/3


Edgar Garibay and Demar Derozan each had 18 points to lead the Tarbabes to victory at the Cerritos/Gahr Tip-Off Tournament. Press-Telegram 11/27

Artesia High, ranked No. 1 in California and No. 2 in the nation by Sports Illustrated, opened the Pacific Shores Tournament with a 74-29 rout of Brentwood. Junior Malik Story led the Pioneers (1-0) with 24 points and Renardo Sidney added 16 points. Lorenzo McCloud scored 10 points for Artesia, which won the state Division III title a year ago and finished the season ranked No. 5 in the nation by USA Today. Sidney also had nine rebounds and Travis Ene had six assists. Press-Telegram 11/28

Artesia 87, Inglewood 54: Arizona State signee James Harden scored 20 points and Renardo Sidney added 15 for the Pioneers (2-0) in a victory at the Pacific Shores Tournament. Press-Telegram 11/29

Los Alamitos 67, Bell 49: Senior forward Clint Amberry had 23 points and 10 rebounds and junior forward Corbin Moore scored 11 points to lead the Griffins (2-0) past the Eagles (1-2) in a second-round game at the Cerritos/Gahr Tip-off Tournament. Press-Telegram 11/29

Matt Simpkins, considered one of Northern California's top high school basketball recruits, has left Capital Christian and is enrolled at Berkeley High."We've been hearing rumors for the last three days that he was attending school in the Bay Area," Capital Christian athletic director Scott Sorgea said of Simpkins, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound center-forward. "His mom called today to confirm he's at Berkeley. SacBee 11/30

Galena's Luke Babbitt, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound junior center, and Drew Gordon, Mitty's 6-9, 237-pound junior power forward, will compete against each other under the watchful eyes of more than 40 college scouts and the 1,800 fans expected to attend the game at the AMHS gym, beginning at 8 p.m. Nevada Appeal 11/30

Artesia 70, Redondo 63: Senior James Harden scored 29 points and sophomore Renardo Sidney grabbed 16 rebounds for the Pioneers (3-0) in the semifinal game of the Pacific Shores Tournament. Sidney also scored 18 points for Artesia. Press-Telegram 12/1

The Campbell Hall of North Hollywood boys basketball team showed why it s one of the best in the area Saturday night in an 81-63 victory against Hawthorne in the finals of the Campbell Hall Tournament. Jrue Holiday scored 32 points for the Vikings, and his brother Justin added 20 in winning the title, the program s fifth in a row dating to the tournament s 2001 inception. LA Daily News 12/2

Artesia tightened up its defense in the second and third quarters and pulled out a 74-57 victory at Redondo High to win the tournament crown. Senior forward James Harden scored a game-high 27 points for Artesia (4-0) and was selected MVP of the tournament. Sophomore Renardo Sidney added 22 points and was selected to the all-tournament team along with teammate Malik Story.  Press-Telegram 12/2


UCLA Rolls Over UC Riverside in Sleeper

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Perhaps it was a celebratory hangover from the big football victory or that it was played on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon in Westwood, in a sluggish and non-descript game, UCLA easily defeated UC Riverside, 61-38, before a phantom crowd of 8,397.

It didn't help either that the over-matched Highlander's game plan was to take the air out of the ball and use the entire shot block on each possession and that the Bruins appeared content with allowing them to dictate the slow pace.

Arron Afflalo led all scorers with 13 points on 6 of 13 from the field while sophomore Luc Richard Mbah a Moute recorded his second double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds dominating the less physical Highlanders underneath.

UCLA improved their record to 6-0, the best start for a Bruin team since the 1995 championship season.

The Bruins shot 55.3% from the field and outrebounded the Highlanders by a whopping 37-18 on the boards.  Junior center Lorenzo Mata had a solid game controlling the interior recording 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, and also added 10 points.

The UCLA defense held UC Riverside to a paltry 30% field goal shooting for the game - although it was more likely a result of an over-matched UC Riverside team rather than stellar defense. No Highlander scored in double-digits, Henrik Thomsen was the team's leading scorer with eight points. 

One might wonder why UCLA would be playing such an over-matched team for their sixth game of the regular season?  To be fair, the match-up looked much tougher on paper when the game was scheduled before the summer.  Since then UC Riverside has suffered devastating losses and setbacks to the team. 

Forward Mark Hall was tragically killed in an automobile accident in September and two starting forwards have been lost to season-ending injuries.  On top of the player losses, Head Coach David Spencer went on an undetermined medical leave earlier this month.

Yet UC Riverside was able to stay close to UCLA for more than half the game on Sunday. 

Although UC Riverside's slowdown offense contributed to the low scoring, it was also due to UCLA's lack of intensity and lackluster play for most of the game.  While the Bruins held the Highlanders to a season-low 16 first-half points, UCLA only scored 26 points on a rather non-distinctive 44% shooting.

Coming out of halftime the crowd expected UCLA to go on one of its patented second-half blitzes but instead the team committed three consecutive turnovers allowing UC Riverside to cut the lead to 26-20.  However after a time-out "chat" with UCLA Coach Ben Howland, the Bruins went on a 12-2 run to put the game out of reach for good.

The highlight of the game occurred towards the end of regulation when freshman Russell Westbrook drove baseline and slammed home a rousing dunk sparking the most (only) emotion from the crowd all game.

There were two points of concern for the Bruins from the game - continued poor shooting from the line (50%) and luke-warm three-point shooting (16.7%).  UCLA's primary scorers from the wings, Afflalo and Josh Shipp, shot a combined 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.

UCLA faces its final Big West opponent, mercifully, on Tuesday when CS Fullerton visits Pauley.  The Titans, led by star guard Bobby Brown, are expected to provide the Bruins a much better challenge.

(photo credit: Jack Rosenfeld)