Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bruins Rally To Top Davidson In Wooden Classic

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored a game-high 21 points but it was the Bruin defense that finally awoke from a deep slumber that sparked them to a 75-63 comeback win over Davidson in the 14th annual Wooden Classic.

After starting the game with another anemic effort on the court, the Bruins were put back on their heels as an underrated Davidson team were on the verge of blowing them off the court at the Honda Center.

Similar to the game against Texas when the Bruins fell behind by 25 points in the first half, UCLA began this game with little intensity on both ends of the court and trailed by as much as 18 points in the first half.

The Bruins appeared tentative on offense, making uncharacteristic turnovers and not aggressively attacking in the half court.

While on the defensive end, UCLA lacked any level of intensity and were slow on their rotations as Davidson took advantage of a number of open looks, hitting six three-pointers to start the game.

The Wildcats also were scoring inside with solid interior passing as UCLA freshman Kevin Love got caught rotating too slow on his defensive switches and was getting beat back door by his man. Love was pulled just after four minutes into the contest in favor of senior Lorenzo Mata-Real for defensive purposes. Love also picked up two early fouls and spent the first half shuffling on and off the court.

Davidson had raced out to a commanding 32-14 advantage with just over six minutes remaining in the half, but then UCLA Coach Ben Howland decided to insert a smaller and quicker lineup onto the floor that included Alfred Aboya at center, which seemed to spark their defensive effort and all of a sudden the Wildcats were being pressured and no longer getting open looks on the perimeter.

On offense, the Bruins started attacking the basket and getting the ball inside to go on a 16-2 run to finish the half trailing by just 34-30. Of the sixteen points during the run, nine of the points were off made free-throws.

The Bruins maintained the intensity level coming out in the second half to finally take the lead 38-37 on a Russell Westbrook three-pointer. But Davidson hung tight with timely shooting and kept the game close until the final minutes of the contest

The game may have resulted differently if Davidson's leading scorer Stephen Curry had been able to have one of his signature big scoring games, but Westbrook clamped down on Curry, holding him to just 15 points on just 6-19 shooting. Curry entered the game averaging 26 points a game.

"He did a great job chasing me all game and made it tough for me to get easy shots," Curry said.

Westbrook finished with 14 points and 6 assists but it was his great defensive effort that sparked the Bruins.

Josh Shipp, who was held scoreless in the first half, finished the game with 15 points, while Love had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Once again, Love had minimal touches in the low blocks, getting all his points off just five field goal attempts in the game.

Point-guard Darren Collison still appears to be getting into playing shape scored 10 points but had just one assist in 36 minutes of play.

The Bruins shot a blistering 66.7% in the second-half while their defense stepped up to hold Davidson to just 40.7%. UCLA had a huge rebounding advantage over Davidson, 37-18.

The Bruins (8-1) don't play another game until next Saturday evening when they face Idaho St at Pauley Pavilion. Until then, UCLA Coach Ben Howland will need to figure out how to get his team to starting off more quickly.

(photo credit: AP)


Thursday, December 06, 2007

UCLA vs. Davidson - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA (7-1) plays in the 14th annual John R. Wooden Classic on Saturday, December 8, at the Honda Center in Anaheim.  The Bruins will face the Wildcats of Davidson (3-4).

It will be UCLA’s fifth consecutive appearance in the Wooden Classic (11th overall), with a record of 7-3 in prior contests.  Last year the team defeated Texas A&M, 65-62, in the tournament.

The Bruins are probably not a team anyone wants to face this week.  After losing their first game of the season to Texas and subsequent No.1 ranking, UCLA is looking to rebound strong against their next opponent.

Davidson makes their first appearance in the Wooden Classic. The Wildcats are returning 11 letter winners and all five starters from last year’s club that won its second straight Southern Conference Tournament. Davidson has appeared in the last two NCAA Tournaments. The team posted its third straight 20-win season last year, breaking a school record with 29 wins.

The Wildcats are coming off a tough loss against Charlotte on Wednesday, 75-68.  Although Davidson out-boarded Charlotte 47-33, the team shot horridly hitting on just 36.7% from the field and an anemic 10-34 (29.4%) on three-pointers in the loss.

In two earlier marquee games this season, Davidson battled North Carolina and Duke each down to the wire before losing to the Tar Heels by just four points and to the Blue Devils by six.

Davidson is averaging 84.3 points a game on 44.4% shooting.  They shoot a lot from beyond the arc, 45% of their shot attempts are three-pointers, but the Wildcats have not shot them for a high percentage this season (33%).

Using primarily a three-guard alignment, they take good care of the ball averaging just 12.2 turnovers a game and are fourth in Division I in assists with 20.3 a game.

On defense, the Wildcats will switch between man and zone defense.  Considering how the Bruins struggled against Texas's zone last week, UCLA should expect to see a lot of zone defense from Davidson, or at least until the Bruins can demonstrate they can attack and score consistently against one.

Davidson is led by preseason All-American sophomore guard Stephen Curry (6'0, 180), son of former NBA player Dell Curry.  He has been hampered all year by a torn ligament in his left wrist which will require offseason surgery.

Curry is averaging 26.0 points, 5th highest in the nation, on 49.2% shooting including 44.5% from beyond the arc.  He takes many shots which initially seem ill-advised only to have most of them sail through the basket. An excellent foul shooter, like his father, Stephen Curry shoots 90.9% from the line.

UCLA's Russell Westbrook will get the initial assignment against Curry.  Westbrook is a much improved defender this season, he held Texas's A.J. Abrams to just six points last Sunday. 

On offense, Westbrook will look to improve his shooting numbers on Saturday.  Against Texas the sophomore guard scored just six points on six shot attempts.  The Bruins need Westbrook to attack the zone of the dribble and to be effective from the outside.  Against the Longhorns, he was just 1-3 from three-point distance.

At another guard spot, the Wildcats start senior playmaker Jason Richards (6'2, 190).  He is averaging 11.6 points and an impressive 9.4 assists a game.  While he has been effective in setting up opponents, Richards has struggled with his own shot, shooting just 40% from the field and 28.2% from three-point distance. In the loss to Charlotte, Richards went 0-6 on three-pointers.

Junior guard Darren Collison will draw the assignment against Richards and will need to focus on keeping him out the paint and from setting the table for his teammates.

The third starting guard is Max Paulhus Gosselin (6'6, 195, Jr), a tough and active player who doesn't make a lot of mistakes and does a lot of the dirty work for the team.  He is averaging just 2.6 points a contest. Josh Shipp will match-up against Gosselin.

Upfront Davidson has two 6'8 experienced starters in Thomas Sander (6'8, 220, Sr) and Boris Meno (6'8, 220, Sr).  Sander is averaging 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds a game while Meno averages 8.9 points and 8.4 rebounds.  Combined with the zone defense, Davidson seems to have the experienced big men who can give UCLA's freshman center Kevin Love some trouble underneath.

All week at practices, UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has been stressing the need for his players to pass the ball into the post to Love, and for Love to move around in the zone to areas such as the high post and perimeter to make plays for the Bruins.  Love has only a combined ten field goal attempts in his last two games.

Off the bench the Wildcats have three-point specialist Bryant  Barr (6'4,185, Jr) and Andrew Lovedale (6'8, 215, Jr) who gives them more size along the front line.

While Davidson will be a tough challenge for UCLA, the Bruins should be able to pull away in this game.  However, it will be particularly interesting to watch how the Bruins attack the zone defense and how much intensity they start the game with against Davidson.

Place: Honda Center
Time: 2:30PM PT
TV: KCAL, WGN (nationally)
Radio: AM 570

BBR Notes: The last time these two teams took to the court was in 1975 when UCLA beat Davidson 91-64 at Paley Pavilion, the same season Coach Wooden retired.

Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson said Thursday night he would extend his leave of absence through the end of this season, citing undisclosed family matters that require his attention.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Howland Updates On Team's Practice

By Bruin Basketball Report

Today's practice marked the second straight day and just the second time this year that UCLA has been able to practice with all 11 scholarship players.

James Keefe concluded his second day of full contact during practice and feels great. UCLA head coach Ben Howland said, "It is obvious that James has done a lot of conditioning while he has been out with the shoulder surgery because he looked to be in great shape today. He looked very good for someone that hasn't practiced or played for four months."

According to Howland, Michael Roll has had two good practices after his short playing stint against Texas. He said that he has really improved his conditioning over the last two days because the team has done a lot of up and down play as well as conditioning.

He also stated that Darren Collison had also improved his conditioning in the last two practices because there has been better competition in practice with a full group of healthy players.

(courtesy of UCLA Athletics)


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Keefe Cleared To Practice, Bruins Look To Get The Ball To Love

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland announced at his weekly media conference that sophomore forward James Keefe has been cleared to practice with the team.

Today will be the first practice we've had all eleven of our scholarship players available together," Howland said. 

Keefe, who had surgery on his shoulder after injuring it during a pick-up game over the summer, gives the Bruins additional depth along the frontline.  He had bulked up over the summer with weight training and had been impressive in workouts before the injury.  It will take at least a few weeks before he catches up with his teammates in terms of game conditioning.

Towards the end of the game against Texas, Howland used Lorenzo Mata-Real in place of Kevin Love at center due to Mata-Real's experience and better defensive presence.

"Kevin was a great teammate even when he was out of the game.  He was cheering his teammates," Howland said. "He has a great attitude and is about the team winning first. That's what I love best about Kevin."

Howland acknowledged his team needs to do a better job against zone defenses and getting the ball inside to Love.

"We have to do a better job getting Kevin the ball," Howland said. "He had eleven touches in the game which is terrible considering on Saturday seven of the eleven times he got the ball we scored."

The UCLA Head Coach understands getting the ball to Love in the post opens up opportunities for the entire offense.

"Part of it is that Kevin is by far the best passing big man we've had in my five years here," Howland said.  "We were never great in getting the ball inside and getting it back out and making plays for others.  It's a night and day deal compared to guys we've had int he past.  It's my responsibility, and it will be emphasized this week in practice.

More specifically, Howland wants to emphasize at practice in getting Love more touches at either the high post, short corner, or even at three-point line where he is a definite threat with his shooting and passing abilities.

Over time and with practice Howland feels the Bruin offense should become very effective against zone defenses.

"We're going to be a real good zone team primarily because we have two outstanding passers in the starting lineup with Kevin and Luc (Mbah a Moute)," Howland remarked. "We've got to utilize their ability to pass the ball."

Although Mike Roll only played five minutes against Texas, Howland feels Roll's return will only help the team's offense.

"Mike Roll is our best post feeder," Howland said. "We also need him back because he stretches the zone since he shoots the ball so well. He does a lot of different things for the team." 

UCLA's next game is against Davidson on December 8th in the Wooden Classic at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

(photo by Bruin Basketball Report)


Monday, December 03, 2007

UCLA Falls To No.7 and No.8 In Weekly Polls

By Bruin Basketball Report

After losing to Texas on Sunday at home, 63-61, and falling from the ranks of undefeated teams, UCLA dropped to No.7 in the AP writer's poll and to No.8 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll this weak.

North Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas hold the top three spots in the rankings.  After beating UCLA, Texas vaulted from No.8 to No.4 in the AP and No.5 in the Coaches polls.

Four Pac-10 teams are in the Coaches top 25; Washington St. #6, Oregon No.18, and Arizona No.24.  While in the AP poll there are five Pac-10 teams; Washington St. #8, Oregon #19, Arizona #22, and USC #24.

UCLA's next game is against Davidson in the Wooden Classic on December 8 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.  Davidson is led by high-scoring guard Stephen Curry.


Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (12/3)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


The Monarchs stretched their fourth quarter lead to 57-47 on a layup by Brown early in the period. “They’re really, really good and really, really big,” Canyon coach Nate Harrison said. “It just wears on you after awhile. We were playing well to stay in the game, but (getting) rebounds are big and they did a nice job.” Mater Dei outrebounded Canyon, 35-24, led by David Wear’s 10. Travis Wear pulled down nine. Canyon was led by guard Jerime Anderson’s 25 points and nine rebounds. Anderson and Braden Priest, who scored 13, earned all-tournament honors. The Monarchs went on a 12-3 run late in the second quarter to take a 38-28 lead into halftime. Canyon led twice in the second quarter, once at 21-19 and again at 25-24 on a 3-pointer from Chris Nelson. “Jerime is a great point guard,” McKnight of Anderson. “Great point guards keeps team close and they’re supporting cast did a pretty good job.”  OC Register 12/1

The 2008 Pangos Dream Classic will be held on Saturday January 19, 2008 at UCLA Pauley Pavilion (Los Angeles CA). This 14th annual high school basketball event (hosted by Dominguez HS) will showcase six of California's and the nation's top boys high school squads, including the nation's #1 junior Derrick Favors and Top 10 all-americans like seniors DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday and junior Jordan Hamilton2008 Pangos Dream Classic PR 12/1


As a 6-foot-10 junior post who can run the floor and shoot the three-pointer, Rocklin High School's Brendan Lane is a hot basketball commodity. He already has received seven scholarship offers, and more are likely to come his way by the time his senior season rolls around. But even this area's most prominent boys basketball recruit doesn't live or die by basketball. He has made time for other pursuits to fit in among all the recruiting calls and the offseason nationwide club basketball tournaments that included trips to New Orleans, Cincinnati and Houston. Lane also plays water polo for Rocklin and plans to compete in track and field in the spring SacBee 11/27

Daniel Orton might not play in Bishop McGuinness' season opener Tuesday night at Putnam City North. Orton hyper-extended his left knee in a scrimmage at Wichita Falls, Texas, earlier this month. The 6-9 junior will see a doctor today to test the strength of his knee and see if he is cleared to play. 11/26

The Reseda boys' basketball team led Fairfax of Los Angeles - the state's top-ranked squad, according to Cal-Hi Sports - by three points after one quarter and remained tied at 17-17 with 3:47 remaining in the first half Tuesday night, but the Lions rode a dominant effort by junior Renardo Sidney en route to a 75-41 victory in the opening round of the Pacific Shores tournament at Redondo Union High in Redondo Beach. Sidney, the top-ranked junior prospect in the country, finished with 31 points, 23 rebounds and several thunderous dunks against the Regents, who were led by Cory Davis' 18points.  LA Daily News 11/27

Modesto Christian junior forward Reeves Nelson and senior guard D.J. Seeley are on the preseason Sac-Joaquin Section team, as is Weston Ranch senior forward James Nunnally. Blanco and Merced guard Jarrett Sparks are honorable mention. Modesto Bee 11/29

A new season brings a new philosophy for the Mater Dei boys basketball, and after the first tournament of the season, things are looking good. Mater Dei, without the outside shooting of Taylor King, who has moved onto Duke, is now focusing on the inside. Saturday night, in the first place game of the Taco Company Invitational at Loara High against Canyon, David Wear scored 24 points, Andy Brown had 18 and Travis Wear scored 17 to lead the Monarchs (4-0) to a 76-56 victory. The Wears were selected as co-MVPs of the tournament. Brown and guard Blake Arnett also earned all-tournament honors. “Sometimes our guys want to pull the trigger and they need to throw the ball inside,” Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight said. “And our post needs to stay on the block, too, but it is early in the year. …It is just Dec. 1, we have a long way to go.”  OC Register 12/1

Fairfax went on a 21-2 run to start the third quarter behind the play of Renardo Sidney, who scored the team's first 13 points and finished the quarter with 17. Sidney, voted the tournament's Most Valuable Player, led all scorers with 25 points and snatched a game-high 15 rebounds. Daily Breeze 12/3

Marion was outrebounded 33-16, but Lawrence North, which has nine players 6-7 or taller on its roster, got little else going. Of its 63 points, 30 came in the paint. Lawrence North's 6-9 Stephan Van Treese, the state's highest-ranked junior, had his second consecutive double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Mark Lantz scored 12, and 6-9 junior Jeff Robinson added 11. Indy Star 12/3

(photo credit: SacBee)


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bruin Second Half Rally Falls Short, Lose 63-61

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

With eight seconds remaining, Texas' D.J Augustine's jump shot was an airball but teammate Damion James was there to slam home the game winner as No.8 Texas upset No.1 UCLA, 63-61, before 12,048 at Pauley Pavilion.

Damion James finished the game with a double-double scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, and seemed to hit key shots in the second-half when the Longhorns needed a basket. Augustin added 19 points and 4 assists.

"I stumbled, but I knew Damion was down there," Augustin said. "I threw it up for him to rebound and put it up or finish it with a dunk and that's what he did."

UCLA fall to 7-1 and had their 25-game home winning streak snapped.

As expected, the Longhorns packed it tight inside with a zone defense, but the Bruins struggled scoring against it for most of the first-half. They went scoreless for seven minutes midway through and finished the half behind with a big deficit, 37-25.

The Bruins shot only 38% from the field in the half (10-26) and were outrebounded 19-13. In the meantime, the Longhorns shot 53% in the first half.

In the second stanza, UCLA's defense tightened and the offense finally started scoring consistently against the 2-3 Texas zone by flashing players to the high post and attacking the zone from there. The Bruins went on a 16-3 run and took its first lead in the game 41-40 when Josh Shipp hit on a three-pointer with just over twelve minutes remaining in the game

The the two teams traded baskets for most of the rest of the half until Lorenzo Mata-Real lay-up with 1:25 left in the game put the Bruins up 61-58.

But then Texas's forward/center Connor Atchley hit a long three-pointer straightaway to tie the game with 1:04 left.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was fouled with 0:29 seconds remaining but missed the front end of a one-and-one to set up the game winning slam by Jones.

"That's on me," Mbah a Moute said. "I haven't been to the line a lot. I've been making them in practice."

The Bruins had one more chance to win the game on its last possession but Mbah a Moute's three-point shot bounced long off the rim.

Mbah a Moute was the team's leading scorer with 14 points. He also grabbed 7 rebounds.

Four Bruins scored in double-figures. Darren Collison, in just his second game back from a knee injury, scored 12 points while Josh Shipp added 11.

Freshman Kevin Love struggled again getting touches against an aggressive zone defense. He finished with 11 points on just 4-6 shooting. Love, who averaged 10.6 rebounds coming into the contest, had just 5 rebounds.

"I need to seek the ball out more," he said. "I only played 24 minutes, but five rebounds on my part is unacceptable. I should at least have 10 rebounds every game."

In addition, Texas did a good job of neutralizing Love at the start of the game by isolating him on the perimeter with his opposite number, 6'10, 225lb Connor Atchley, who easily took Love off the dribble on a couple of drives to the basket. Atchley also beat Love down the court for easy transition baskets at the start of the game.

For the first time this season, UCLA was outrebounded by an opponent with Texas edging the Bruins on the board, 27-26.

In the game, the Bruins shot 44.2% from the field but just 28.6% (8-21) from three-point distance.

Michael Roll made his season debut for UCLA after rupturing the plantar fascia in his left foot during preseason practice. He played five minutes in the first half.

UCLA does not play again until December 8 when they travel to the Honda Center to face Davidson in the annual John R. Wooden Classic.

(photo credit: AP)