Friday, November 09, 2007

Love's Double-Double Leads UCLA To Season Opener Win

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Kevin Love scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in his first regular season collegiate game to lead UCLA to a 69-48 victory over the Portland State Vikings in front of 9,854 at Pauley Pavilion.

The freshman sensation shot 6 of 8 from the field including a three-pointer from the corner. Not being able to stop him in the paint, the Vikings resorted to fouling Love, but he was just as proficient hitting 9 of 11 from the charity stripe.

"My teammates put me in the right position to score," Love said after the game.

His 22 points were the second-most by a UCLA freshman in his first game and his 13 rebounds topped Charles O'Bannon's record of 12 as a freshman in 1993.

It isn't that the Vikings are small and meek in the interior either, they guarded Love with 6'11 Scott Morrison and 6'8, 255lb J.R. Moore who both combined for eight fouls, but Love was too skilled and determined.

The one thing, among many, you notice about Love are his soft hands. Not only will he catch passes thrown to him into the post, he will also catch bad passes and convert them into easy baskets.

Love also threw one of his patented length of the floor outlet passes to Russell Westbrook who caught the perfectly thrown ball down court for a thunderous dunk that had the Pauley Pavilion crowd on its feet - including former Bruin wide receiver Freddie Mitchell who was at the game and who caught many similar passes at the Rose Bowl.

Josh Shipp successfully returned to action after missing the exhibition game against Chico State with a sprained right thumb. Shipp, who has become the heir apparent of the double screens Arron Afflalo used to get last year, added 18 points on 7 of 9 shooting including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. .

The Bruins needed Shipp's sharpshooting in the second half when the Vikings pulled within 13 and the Bruins began to look weary. Shipp hit two consecutive three-pointers to prop the lead back to 19 and the Bruins never looked back.

Shipp also had a stellar game on the defensive end, holding Portland State's top returning scorer Dupree Lucas scoreless.

"Josh did a very good job defensively," Howland said. "Lucas is a good player and he had zero points. I'm excited to see Josh take on that challenge."

Even though the Bruins recorded a 21 point victory, most of it should be attributed to a defense which forced 21 turnovers including 8 steals.

While the defense was stellar, the offense sputtered at time and should have scored more than 69 points against an overmatched team such as Portland State.

One reason for the offensive woes was the uninspired play at the point by Russell Wesbrook. Although he scored 10 points and had 5 assists, he also committed 6 turnovers.

Viking's 5'6 pesky guard Jeremiah Dominguez gave Westbrook problems all game including a clean pick at halfcourt for an easy lay-up just before halftime. Afterwards, it appeared Westbrook's became more tentative in his play and the Bruins offense never really got going again.

Junior starting point guard Darren Collison is expected to return sometime next week with Westbrook returning to back-up duties at the one, and perhaps starting at the two guard which is his more natural position at this stage of his career.

Also, UCLA only outrebounded the Portland State by four, a stat that disappointed UCLA Coach Ben Howland. "I was disappointed we didn't outboard this team by a few more."

"He (Love) was very good rebounding the ball defensively, to the point where a lot of our guys were taking off early, expecting him to get every rebound," Howland said. "That's not going to happen."

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute did not have a good game against Portland State, shooting just 1 of 6 from the field including committing 3 turnovers. Although the most startling stat is the 1 rebound he managed in 29 minutes of play.

At this point of the season, Mbah a Moute looks very uncomfortable on the wing, his outside shot is still inconsistent and his ballhandling needs improvement. It would not be surprising to find Mbah a Moute spending more time at the four spot the rest of the season, especially after Collison returns to the line-up.

UCLA extended its home winning streak to 21 games.

The Bruins play in the CBE Classic next week with two games to be played at Pauley Pavilion on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday the Bruins face Youngstown State and then face the winner of the other preliminary game on Tuesday. The winner then goes to Kansas City for the CBE semifinals and finals game on November 19th and 20th.

(photo credit: AP/David Lewis)


Thursday, November 08, 2007

UCLA vs. Portland State - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

The UCLA Bruins open the 2007-08 regular season at Pauley Pavilion tonight with a contest against the Portland State Vikings of the Big Sky Conference.

The Vikings, led by third-year head coach Ken Bone, return three starters and six lettermen from last year's 19-13 squad. Portland State finished fourth in the Big Sky with a 9-7 record last season, and advanced to the Big Sky Tournament semifinals before losing to eventual champion Weber State, 77-74.

Key returning players include a trio of seniors who are expected to help the Vikings challenge for the Big Sky title this season. Portland State has quick and talented players on the perimeter who may give the Bruin defenders problems especially if the Vikings decide to spread the floor with their smaller but quicker three-guard alignment.

Point guard Jeremiah Dominguez (5'6, 150, Jr), a transfer from University of Portland, is a very quick and pesky-type player who can shoot, pass and handle the ball. In the Vikings exhibition game, Dominquez recorded 6 assists and 5 steals.

UCLA's Russell Westbrook will be tested against the speedy Dominguez. With starting Darren Collison still out with a knee injury, he will shoulder most of the point-guard duties Friday night. Considering the Bruin's lack of depth in the backcourt and with facing a quick perimeter team, Westbrook needs to do his best to stay out of foul trouble.

Coincidentally, Dominguez played on the same AAU team as UCLA freshman Kevin Love and longtime summer circuit teammate Kyle Singler.

Dupree Lucas (6'1,170,Sr) , Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year, keys the Vikings offense. He transfered from Xavier University two years ago, and after sitting out a season, was a big addition to the team last year, leading the Vikings in scoring (13.2) and assists (3.9)

He is a quick and explosive player off the dribble who has the ability to create his own shot against most defenders and can hit from the outside.

Junior Josh Shipp should be ready to play Friday night after recuperating from a sprained thumb in his right hand. He will be severely tested by the speedy Lucas and will need to do his best to stay in front of Lucas to keep him from penetrating into the paint and creating offensive opportunities.

Portland State has a dynamic scorer from the wing in Deonte Huff (6'4,195,Sr). He is a very versatile player who has the ability get to the basket and finish strong and also has a solid post up game, He averaged 10.7 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 59% from the field last season. This year he has added a consistent shot from outside.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will likely match-up with Huff. This should be a good match-up to watch between two physical and quick players.

Big Sky shot-block leader Scott Morrison (6'11,250, Sr) is an experienced player who averaged 11.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks while averaging 57% from the field. An accomplished shot blocker, who played for the National Canadian Developmental Team in the World University games this summer, he should provide a good test for UCLA's Kevin Love in the post.

Starting at a forward spot is Tyrell Mara (6'6,235, So) a redshirt sophomore who suffered from a knee injury last season. He is a solid player who can shoot from the perimeter as well as play inside.

Alfred Aboya will start at the power forward spot again for the Bruins and will match up with Mara to start the game.

Off the bench, the Vikings bring in instant offense with 6'2 junior guard Andre Murray who played at nearby Cleveland high school. A good all around player who gives the team another option in their three-guard offense.

Portland State averaged 78.2 points a game last season including 86.5 points over their last six games. The Vikings raneked 22nd in the nation in scoring offense in 2006-07.

For those who like to do team-team comparisons, later in December the Vikings will face two other Pac-10 teams, Washington and Washington State in regional match-ups.

Even with their injuries, the Bruins have the better overall skills, size, and personnel to win this game going way, however, the Viking's quickness creates interesting mismatches on the perimeter which can cause UCLA some defensive problems. It will be interesting to watch how the Bruins respond to the challenge at such an early juncture in the season.

BBR Notes: The UCLA Athletic department is making the internet feed of the Portland State game available for free over the CSTV website. For more information, follow this link here.

Time: 7:30PM PT
TV: none
Radio: AM 570

(photo credit: PSU)


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bruins in the NBA Report

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Jordan Farmar, Los Angeles Lakers: Farmar has continued his solid play from the preseason into the regular season.  He's averaging 10.3 points and 3.3 assists in almost 20 minutes a game.  Farmar is gaining the trust of Lakers Coach Phil Jackson who no longer hesitates putting Farmer into key spots during the game.  He only has committed two turnovers in his first three games of the season.

Arron Afflalo, Detroit Pistons: Afflalo has found a good match in the Detroit Pistons. The rookie guard has impressed teammates with his toughness and intensity which matches well with the blue-collar ethic of the team and city.  Afflalo started the first two games of the season filling in for Richard Hamilton, but with Hamilton returning and veteran reserve guard Flip Murray playing well, Afflalo may only see minutes if there are injuries to players in the rotation.  Still, Afflalo has made quite an impression in his short time in the league.

Matt Barnes, Golden St. Warriors: The Warriors have started the season very slowly and now will be without one of their team captains.  Barnes dislocated a finger on his shooting hand yesterday and will be sidelined for an undetermined time.  He was averaging 6.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 18 minutes of play.  The Warriors are already without Stephen Jackson, another team captain, who was suspended for the first seven games of the season.

Baron Davis, Golden St. Warriors:  Some think that Baron Davis is pressing too hard at the start of the season.  With the departure of backcourt mate Jason Richardson and the suspension of Stephen Jackson, the Warriors are missing a lot of their offensive fire power.  Although Davis is averaging 21.8 points a game, he is shooting a miserable 37.2% from the field including just 12% from three-point distance.

Trevor Ariza, Orlando Magic: Ariza struggled through much of the preseason with injuries and now he finds himself battling for playing time in new coach Jeff Van Gundy's rotation who is looking on settling on eight primary players to play in a game. Right now, Ariza is on the outside looking in - he played just 32 seconds, one minute if you round up, in the Magic's last game.

Dan Gadzuric, Milwaukee Bucks: Gadzuric has been playing solid back-up minutes at center for the Bucks.  He is averaging 3.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks in 13.4 minutes a game.

Ryan Hollins, Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats had shortly considered starting Hollins at center due to injuries at the position but decided they needed more experience and have gone to primarily Primoz Brezec and Emeka Okafor.  Hollins has averaged 8.5 minutes a game; however, he played 17 minutes against Philadelphia in a losing effort on Wednesday grabbing a career-high 7 rebounds.

Jason Kapono, Toronto Raptors: After winning the starting small forward spot in the Raptors line-up during preseason, there is now some concern about Kapono's defense and his ability to guard high-scoring shooting forwards. While he is averaging 8.5 points on 58.3% shooting and 62.5% from beyond the arc, his opposite numbers Richard Jefferson scored 27 points and Andre Igoudala had 23 points against Kapono in the first two games of the season.

Darrick Martin, Toronto Raptors: The 13 year veteran is starting the season on the Raptor's inactive list.

Earl Watson, Seattle Supersonics: Watson has not been shooting well and may be replaced in the starting line-up by Luke Ridnour if his shot doesn't improve. Watson is shooting just 25.9% from the field although he is averaging 6.8 assists a game.

(photo credit: NBA)


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Howland Satisfied With Team's Effort But Not Its Progress

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

With the first regular season game approaching on Friday against Portland State, UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland is very satisfied with the team's effort but is not happy with the team's progress to this point, considering the string of injuries the team has endured recently.

"We're behind due to injuries," Howland said. "We can't control it (the injuries), but the reality is I'm not happy about it."

Howland wants to insert another zone offense scheme and practice a few new inbound plays.

UCLA was only able to suit up 7 of their 11 scholarship players against Chico State on Monday. Michael Roll is scheduled to be out 3-5 weeks with a foot injury and Darren Collison is listed as highly doubtful for Friday's game due to a sprained knee, however Josh Shipp is expected to return to the line-up against Portland State.

"Josh is still getting treatment on his thumb and is doing cardio work-outs, Howland said. "We'll have him try shooting tomorrow, but he needs to practice to get his rhythm back before Friday."

With Collison out, Shipp will likely be the back-up point guard although Howland mentioned Mustafa Abdul-Hamid may also see some action on Friday.

With the flurry of injuries, both reserves Chace Stanback and Nikola Dragovic saw extra action on Monday against Chico State.

While Stanback had a solid line in the box score, contributing 10 points on 4 of 9 shooting and had five assists in 23 minutes, Coach Howland still sees much room for improvement.

"Chace took 3 or 4 bad shots, which he's going to learn those aren't good shots for the team," Howland said. "We may get away with him taking those bad shots in exhibition games but we won't against the upcoming teams we'll be facing."

"He's working hard to get better defensively," Howland said of his young freshman, "But he still has problems staying in front of the ball and at times getting beat on penetration."

Dragovic, a sophomore from Serbia, got his first start as a Bruin against Chico State. He scored 7 points and made some nice post entry passes into Kevin Love for easy basket opportunities. In addition, Dragovic took advantage of his size and length to deflect a number of passes and recorded two blocks in the game.

"Nikola is better than he was a year ago when he had no idea what was expected of him," Howland said. "He has some limitations athletically with his speed and quickness, but he is trying harder. As long as he is working to get better that's all you can ask."

(photo credit: AP)


Monday, November 05, 2007

Love, Westbrook Lead Bruins To Easy Exhibition Win

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Kevin Love recorded a game-high 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Russell Westbrook added 22 points to lead UCLA to an easy thumping of Chico State, 93-55.

The Bruins were without two starters, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp and another key player in Michael Roll while only suiting up seven scholarship players. But still, UCLA had no problems with the Wildcats.

In many ways, Azusa Pacific, an NAIA team that played the Bruins in the first exhibition game, was a tougher opponent than Division II Chico State. The Azusa Pacific Cougars had bigger and more skilled personnel and were better coached than the Wildcats.

The Bruins forced 26 turnovers and out-rebounded Chico State 46-25.

Love, who recorded his second double-double in as many games, had overwhelming mis-matches in the paint all game long against the diminutive Wildcats.

It will be interesting how well Love plays once the regular season begins against Division I teams. At this point, Love has shown soft hands, a softer shooting tough, and an innate ability to get good inside position and seal off an opponent for either an easy score or foul. Against Chico St., Love went to the free thrown line twelve times, making nine of the charity shots.

It was rough Love said. "It was like hack-a-Shaq out there for me."

Russell Westbrook made some spectacular dunks that had the Pauley Pavilion crowd of 6,463 gasping in awe. Westbrook finished with a solid shooting night, hitting on 9-12 from the field, and played strong defense.

"I thought he did a good job defensively," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "He had a lot of deflections. You could see what a difference a year makes."

As for running the offense, Westbrook still needs to improve on his decision-making as a point-guard. A number of times during the game, he sped up the Bruin offense when the ball needed to be pulled back out instead and a set play called. With Collison out for at least another week, Westbrook will have extra minutes over the next couple of games to gain more experience.

Coming off the bench, Lorenzo Mata also recorded a double-double, grabbing a team-high 13 rebounds and scoring 13 points on 6-11 shooting.

Sophomore Nikola Dragovic started in place of the injured Shipp and scored 7 points and showed some good effort on defense and on the boards. The sophomore from Serbia also made a couple of nice entry passes that impressed Coach Howland. Freshman Chace Stanback came off the bench to add 10 points.

With Darren Collison out of the line-up, walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid logged 16 minutes and scored on a deep three-point shot in the first half.

UCLA had a 57-25 halftime lead, with Love leading the Bruins with 17 points and six rebounds in just the first half.

"We had a good first half," Howland said. "We forced a lot of turnovers that gave us a really nice lead."

The Bruins will start the regular season this Friday, November 9th, against Portland State. Shipp may return, but Collison remains doubtful for the game.

BBR Notes: Darren Collison was named to the AP Preseason All-American Team. Also named were North Carolina junior forward Tyler Hansbrough, Georgetown senior center Roy Hibbert, Tennessee senior guard Chris Lofton and Michigan State senior guard Drew Neitzel.

(photo credit: AP)


Sunday, November 04, 2007

UCLA vs. Chico State - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

The Bruins virtually limp into their second and final exhibition game tonight at Pauley Pavilion when they face the Wildcats of Chico State.

UCLA experienced a bevy of injuries to players over the past few days. Darren Collison suffered a mild knee sprain during the Azusa Pacific game and may be out of action one to three weeks, while Josh Shipp hurt his right hand in the same game and is listed as questionable for Monday's contest. The worst injury prognosis belongs to junior Michael Roll who ruptured his plantar fascia ligament in his left foot during practice and is out action at least three to five weeks and perhaps longer.

With forward James Keefe already sitting out while recupperating from shoulder surgery, the Bruins may suit up just seven scholarship players against Chico State.

UCLA coach Ben Howland said Kevin Love, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Russell Westbrook, and Alfred Aboya will start the game tonight. If Shipp can not play, either Chace Stanback or Nikola Dragovic will start in his place. At practice over the weekend, Dragovic was primarily practicing with the first team.

Both players should benefit from the extra playing time. Dragovic and Stanback played 13 and 10 minutes, respectively, against Azusa Pacific and each should see plenty more against Chico State.

Walk-on point guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid will also likely see minutes in the rotation tonight against the Wildcats. The former St. Louis Country Day High star only played a total of 16 minutes last season during the regular season.  He is always a solid contributor in practice and it will be good to see him get some action in a game.

Chico State is a Division II team which plays in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) and are led by Head Coach Prescott Puck Smith who is in his 21st year at the helm.

Last year, UCLA played a very tough Humboldt State which went on to win the CCAA conference championship.  Chico State finished 11th place in the CCAA conference in 2006-07 with a 7-20 overall and 5-12 conference record. 

The Wildcats return only one starter and six letterman to the team this season.  Junior Justin Argenal (6'0, 175) is the team's leader and a solid backcourt man, averaging 9.1 points and 6.7 assists in 27 games.

Chico State averaged 69.5 points while giving up 75.1 points a game last season, in addition, they were outrebounded by an average of 4.8 rebounds a game by opponents.

Even without Roll, Collison, and possibly Shipp, UCLA should have a relatively easy time against Chico State.  The one thing the Bruins can not afford in this game are more injuries.

Time: 7:30PM PT
TV: none


Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (11/5)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


Tickets to the Tournament of Champions at Ocean View High (Dec. 10-15) and the "National" division of the Holiday Prep Classic at Torrey Pines High in Del Mar (Dec. 26-29) will serve as marvelous pre- and post-Christmas gifts for the hard-core basketball fans in your acquaintance. The 36th TOC (this will be the 20th consecutive year it's been held at Ocean View after spending its first 16 Decembers in Pomona) has a 20-team field that includes Compton, led by USC-bound Demar DeRozan, Campbell Hall, with UCLA-committed Jrue Holiday, Westchester, which is no worse than one of the three-best teams in the L.A. City and one of the top 10 clubs in California, Santa Margarita, J.W. North, led by another future Bruin in Malcolm Lee, Pasadena and Harvard-Westlake. Press-Telegram 10/29

Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.) 33-1 (18): State junior player of the year and UCLA commit Jrue Holiday leads a team with three returning starters. If Compton's DeMar DeRozan isn't the state's top prospect, then it has to be the smooth, 6-foot-3 Holiday, who averaged 22.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 3.9 steals per game last season. MO Sports 10/29

How would you compare your top PG prospects across the following four-year period? Javaris Crittenton (2006) vs. Derrick Rose (2007) vs. Jrue Holiday (2008) vs. John Wall (2009)? Which PG would you pick if you were starting a team from scratch? Does UCLA have a shot at Jeremy Tyler? ...But if I'm starting a team from scratch, I'm taking Holiday because of the complete nature of his game. He is the best defender and rebounder of the four. In fact, he is one of the best perimeter defenders that I've seen since I've been scouting. Offensively, he can make all the plays. He can score in any fashion and has a great feel for passing the ball as well. In starting a team, Holiday brings a stability and polish to the point guard position that would be tough to match. And yes, UCLA does have a shot at the No. 1 player in the 2010 class. In fact, the Bruins are the team to beat in the recruitment of Tyler. Rivals 11/1

This will be a unique season for a South Bay team in many respects. The Monarchs will be playing in two national-level events, and they will appear on national television at least once, and possibly twice. Simply, this has to be the most ambitious schedule ever undertaken by a Santa Clara County team. There are certainly a lot of expectations for Coach Brian Eagleson’s group, coming off an overtime loss in the state Division II championship, and with three committed Division I players returning, including UCLA recruit Drew Gordon. Mercury News 11/2

Eight California teams are featured in's Fab 50 preseason national boys' basketball poll, including Taft of Woodland Hills and Campbell Hall of North Hollywood. The Toreadors, who feature Larry Drew (North Carolina), Eugene Phelps (Long Beach State) and Justin Hawkins (UNLV), are No. 15 and Campbell Hall, led by UCLA-bound Jrue Holiday, is 49th. Daily News 11/3


South Oak Cliff (Dallas, Texas) senior center J’Mison Morgan committed to LSU on Friday. The 6-foot-10, 260-pounder is rated the nation’s No. 32 overall boys’ basketball recruit in the Class of 2008 by RISE. Morgan, who picked the Tigers over Kansas, UCLA, Alabama and Cincinnati, averaged 9.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 5.0 blocks per game last year to help lead South Oak Cliff to its third consecutive Class 4A state title. He blocked six shots in the 54-42 victory over Beaumont Ozen (Beaumont, Texas) in the state finals. Morgan has tremendous upside considering how skilled he is despite missing basketball most of his eighth- and ninth-grade years while having surgery to correct being knock-kneed. Now healthy, he has a chance to be a tremendous inside force in college. RISE 11/2

Fairfax High junior forward Renardo Sidney and Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln junior guard Lance Stephenson are scheduled to visit USC this weekend. LA Times 11/2

The Trojans are also in the hunt for the No. 1-ranked prospects from the class of 2009 and 2010, Renardo Sidney and Jeremy Tyler. Both came to USC's Galen Center, which opened last season, for midnight madness. If the Trojans stay this hot on the recruiting trail, soon there will be two powerhouse college basketball programs in Los Angeles. Rivals 11/3

(photo credit: SI)


Arizona Coach Lute Olson Takes Leave Of Absence

By Bruin Basketball Report

University of Arizona athletics director Jim Livengood announced today that head men's basketball coach Lute Olson has requested and been given a leave of absence due to a personal matter.

Assistant coach Kevin O'Neill will handle the coach's duties in his absence, Livengood said, for as yet an unspecified time period.

"Lute asked for a leave of absence after yesterday’s football game,” said Livengood. “Every intention is that he will be back. We will do whatever is in the best interested of Lute and Christine.”

"Today we will move forward,” Livengood continued. “Kevin O’Neill will take over our basketball program.”

"Our players will carry on business as usual,” said O’Neill. “It’s really important to respect Lute’s and Christine’s wishes that this remain a personal matter.”

The 2007-08 season will be Olson’s 25th at Arizona and his 35th as an NCAA Division I head coach. He has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success in that span amassing a career record of 780-280 (.736) and 589-187 (.759) at Arizona. During his 24-year tenure at Arizona, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1997), played in the national championship game (2001), participated in four Final Fours (1988, 1994, 1997, 2001), won 11 Pac-10 Conference titles, and been to the NCAA Tournament for 23 consecutive seasons, which is the longest active and second-longest streak in NCAA history.

"It's all about coaching and playing basketball for the time being, and respecting Coach Olson's wishes for privacy in the matter," O'Neill said. "We have plenty of work to do to uphold the legacy of excellence Lute's built into this program," he said.