Saturday, March 08, 2008

Lightning Strikes Twice At Pauley, Shipp Happens

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score | Mata-Real at Senior Day

Josh Shipp's prayer shot from behind the backboard with one second remaining was answered as UCLA rallied to defeat the California Golden Bears, 81-80, in a Pac-10 conference regular season finale.

Down 80-79 with six seconds left in the game, the ball was inbounded to Shipp in the right corner. Tightly guarded, he took the ball baseline and then had to force a 12 foot shot from behind the backboard. The ball sailed slightly high over the corner of the backboard and swished through the net for the game winner.

Based upon NCAA rules, a shot with the basketball crossing over the backboard is ruled out of bounds, however, the referees ruled the shot was too close to call and thereby allowed the basket. In addition, per the rules, such a shot is now reviewable by officials at the game.

Regardless, the game should not have come down to the final deciding possession.

Except for a 2-0 lead at 2:21 minutes into the game, UCLA never had another lead until the winning heave by Shipp.

The day started off on a high note as UCLA fans, teammates, and coaching staff honored departing senior Lorenzo Mata-Real in an emotional ceremony on Senior Day at Pauley Pavilion.

Unfortunately the team wasn't able to carry over the high emotions into the game, as they started off flat to start. California outscored UCLA 21-8 in the first ten minutes of the game to grab its biggest lead at 11.

Offensively, the Bruins were missing open looks from the perimeter while their point-blank shots were rolling off the rim.

But it was on the defensive end where UCLA was exposed. With Cal's DeVon Hardin not suited up for the game, the Bears went with a small line-up with 6'9 Ryan Anderson at center, 6'8 Jamal Boykin at power forward, then and spread the floor in their halfcourt offense.

The wide spacing on the floor helped to negate UCLA's aggressive double-teams and the Bears capitalized with multiple lay-ups off backdoor cuts or open shots from the baseline.

Boykin was the prime benefactor of the open space, he finished the game 8 of 12 for 18 points. He came into the contest averaging just 7.2 points.

The Bruins cut the lead to two off a three-point jumper from Josh Shipp, but then Ryan Anderson scored the final five points of the half to lead the Bears into halftime with a 37-30 advantage. Cal shot 50% in the first half.

Most of the second half was similar to the first with the Bears spreading the floor and the UCLA defense uncharacteristically not able to get any stops. The lead ballooned again to eleven after the opening minutes of the second half.

It wasn't until just under ten minutes remaining in the game did UCLA begin mounting its comeback from...the free throw line as it got into a bonus situation early. The Bruins hit their final 13 of 14 from the foul line to cut into Cal's big lead.

The Bruins knocked it down to two points with 2:37 remaining on two Kevin Love free thrwos. but Cal, a solid free throw shooting team themselves, pushed the lead back to four on foul shots by guard Jerome Randle.

With 31 seconds remaining in the game, the late-game theatrics started. Love took a pass beyond the three=point arc in front of the UCLA bench, and while closely guarded, he ball faked and then took and sunk a three-point jumpshot with 20 seconds left.

California quickly got the ball into Ryan Anderson along the sideline corner but he was quickly doubled by Westbrook and Shipp who knocked the ball out of Anderson's hands.

In the ensuing scramble, Anderson reached out for the ball but knocked it out of bounds with 14 seconds left in the game. Cal Coach Ben Braun argued Anderson was fouled on the play but replays clearly showed there was no foul on the play and that Anderson did indeed touch the ball as it went out of bounds.

The ball was inbounded and Collison took it to the basket but the shot was blocked with the ball going into the hands of Jamal Boykins who happened to be standing out of bounds.

And then the miracle shot.

Shipp, who has been strugglging with his offense the past few games, was the unlikely recepient of a pass to win the game, but indeed he received the ball with six seconds remaining and took the shot that won the game for the Bruins.

Cal inbounded the ball quickly up court but Shipp was there to deflect the ball into the stands. After a lengthy review, the referees decided .7 seconds still remained on the clock. Cal's Patrick Christopher took a desperation 30 footer that sailed short as the buzzer went off.

Shipp finished with 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting including 2 of 8 on three-pointers. He was mobbed by his teammates after his winning shot.

Freshman Kevin Love, playing in perhaps his last game in Pauley Pavilion, led all scorers with 22 points and had 6 rebounds. Westbrook scored 18 points and Darren Collison added 13 points.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had his second consecutive double-double going for 12 points and 10 rebounds.

UCLA shot a sizzling 87% (20-23) from the foul line - a big side-story to the game.

Cal's spread offense, like Texas and USC, was effective against UCLA's aggressive trapping defense. The Bears shot 65% in the second half and 56% field goal shooting for the game. No doubt NCAA tourney teams will be watching tape to find what has been used effectively against the Bruin defense and try to exploit it during postseason play.

But for now, its celebration time and an opportunity to tune-up further for the NCAA tournament with the upcoming Pac-10 conference tournament.

With the win against the Bears, the Bruins (28-3, 16-2) have likely secured a West region assignment in the NCAA tournament as either a No.1 or No.2 seed.

(photo credit: AP)


Friday, March 07, 2008

UCLA vs. California - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Pac-10 conference champion UCLA (27-3, 15-2) plays its last regular season game on Saturday when it hosts the California Golden Bears (15-13, 6-11) at Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins clinched the conference regular season championship on Thursday with a 77-67 comeback win over Stanford. Darren Collison scored 24 points including two free throws at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. In the extra five-minute period, the Bruins outscored the Cardinal 14-4.

While some suggest the Bruins should use this game to rest up for the tournament, more likely, UCLA will be looking to solidify their chances of gaining a No.1 or No.2 seed in the West region with a victory over the Bears in this last regular season match-up.

Cal has won at least one game against UCLA each of the last nine seasons. Last year, the Bears dropped both regular-season games but then upset the Bruins, 76-69, in overtime in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals.

UCLA beat Cal in the team's first meeting in early January at Haas Pavilion. Freshman Kevin Love dominated scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the Bruins' 70-58 win.

On Thursday night USC beat beat California 93-89 at the Galen Center. Patrick Christopher led Cal with 24 points before fouling out with 17.8 seconds remaining. Ryan Anderson had 22 points and 12 rebounds.

The Bears have played better on the road than at home. They finished conference play 2-7 at Haas but are 4-4 in road league games, picking up victories over Washington State, Washington, Oregon State and Arizona State.

With key returning starters and All-American candidate Ryan Anderson leading the team, Cal was expected to challenge for the Pac-10 title this season, instead it has been disappointing season for the players, coaches and its fans in Berkeley.

The Bears are in ninth place in the conference with a 6-11 record with only winless Oregon State behind them. There are new rumblings that perhaps Head Coach Ben Braun's job is in jeopardy after the season ends.

Now averaging 77.4 points per game, Cal leads the conference in scoring, a rate that also ranks 34th-best in the country. However the problems for the team have been on the defensive end where the Bears are allowing a conference-worst 78.1 points per game Opponents are shooting over 46% against the porous Bears defense.

Cal primarily plays a man-to-man defense and mixes it at times with a zone. Against UCLA, it wouldn't be surprising to find the Bears playing more zone than usual considering the Bruins' recent problems with their perimeter shooting.

Earlier in the season, Cal did a good job of slowing up the UCLA transition game by regularly sending back three defenders to clog up the running lanes. With big DeVon Hardin and Pac-10 standout Ryan Anderson hitting the offensive boards hard, we'll likely see the same strategy employed.

First team All-Pac 10 forward Ryan Anderson (6'10,240,So) is averaging 21.5 points, second in the Pac-10, and 10.0 rebounds per game. He scored a career-high 36 points against Nevada earlier in the season.

Anderson can score by posting up inside utilizing his size and solid footwork and can also score from outside. Anderson is shooting 49.3% from the field while hitting on a deadly 41.8% on three-pointers.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will get the initial look at Anderson. Mbah a Moute needs to use his speed and physicality against Anderson who is perhaps one of the toughest defensive assignments in the conference.

DeVon Hardin (6'11,250,Sr) is the Bears' man in the middle. He considered declaring for the NBA after last season but after missing most of the past two years to injuries, he decided to improve his stock value by playing one more season in Berkeley. 

However Hardin has been inconsistent at best this year.  His numbers have diminished as the season has progressed.  Hardin is averaging 9.6 points on 56.4% shooting, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocked shots per game.

Love dominated Hardin in the first match-up recording a double-double against him.  Hardin still tends to be foul-prone and especially bites easily on pump-fakes, something Love does very well against bigger opponents.

Starting at a forward spot is Jamal Boykin (6'8,235,So). He's averaging 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game but he is capable of bigger numbers. Against Long Beach State earlier in the season, Boykin had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

At a guard spot is Patrick Christopher (6'5, 215, So), the team's second leading scorer at 15.8 points per game on 46.2% shooting.  He's a solid shooter out to the three-point point and also an effective slasher to the basket.  Christopher is shooting 35.8% from beyond the arc.

At point-guard, the Bears have lightening quick 5'10 sophomore Jerome Randle. He is averaging 13.7 points and 3.9 assists, however, he also has problems taking care of the ball.  Earlier in the season versus Missouri, he turned the ball over 10 times in 36 minutes. Coach Braun feels part of the problem is that Randle tries to make a big play each time he has the ball.

Nikola Knezevic (6'2,185,So) had been starting at a guard spot but now comes off the bench along with Eric Vierneisel (6'7,210,Sr). Freshman Harper Kamp (6'8,245), a post man off the bench, is averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds. He's providing the Bears solid minutes, 13.4, in his first season at the collegiate level. The Bruin coaching staff briefly recruited him last year.

UCLA is a double-digit favorite to win this game and has all the momentum going into Saturday afternoon's contest as well as the home court.  However, Cal has dangerous weapons in Anderson and multiple players who can get hot from outside.  The Bruins are witnesses, and victims (last year's Pac-10 tourney) , to what can happen when the Bears put it all together in a game. 

Tomorrow if the Bruins are still feeling the postgame euphoria from the conference title clinching win against Stanford and don't put forth their best effort, the result may be a closer game than some might expect.

Game Date: Mar. 8
Time: 12:30 PM PT
Place: Pauley Pavilion
Radio: AM 570

(photo credit Cal Athletics)


Thursday, March 06, 2008

UCLA Climbs Mountain For Overtime Win Over Stanford

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Trailing by 12 points at the half and double-digits most of the way, UCLA rallied to take the game into overtime and then broke away from Stanford for an emotional 77-67 victory before a raucous crowd of 12,671.

UCLA (27-3, 15-2) won its third consecutive regular-season title under Coach Ben Howland and put itself in solid position to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Tied at 63 after regulation, UCLA dominated during the overtime period. The first Bruin basket happened when Luc Ricahrd Mbah a Moute dunked off Collison’s pass to put UCLA up 65-63, its first lead since starting the game 2-0. From there, the Bruins took control during the overtime, outscoring the Cardinal 14-4.

Darren Collison tipped in his own missed lay-up for a go-ahead basket in overtime. He finished with a game-high 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting. For most of the time, it was Collison's play that kept UCLA in the game.

Stanford raced out to a 12-2 lead at the start of the game and extended it to 28-14 on seven straight points.

UCLA was held to a season-low 18 points in the first half, shooting just 32% from the floor. The Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, blocked or altered a number of Bruin shot attempts in the paint. At the same time, the Bruin players were misfiring from outside.

Josh Shipp continued his shooting slump, finishing just 1 of 9 from the field and 1 of 6 on three-pointers for 7 points.

During halftime Bruin players and coaches reminded themselves and others that the game was still within reach and it was simply a matter of UCLA playing its game on both ends of the court.

However, Stanford started the second as dominant as they were in the first. Robin Lopez’s basket pushed Stanford’s lead back to 14 early in the second half.

Led by Kevin Love and Darren Collison, UCLA went on a 25-13 to cut the lead to 45-43 with over nine remaining in the contest. But Stanford answered the challenge with an 11-2 run that kept the team ahead 56-45.

UCLA ran off eight straight points to close within three points with 3:17 remaining in regulation. Reserve forward Taj Finger scored four straight for Stanford, including a shot that luckily banked in for a 60-55 lead.

Russell Westbrook got fouled in the scramble for Lopez’s miss and made one of two free throws to tie the game at 61. Westbrook's first free-throw took a high Don Nelson-like bounce off the rim before falling through the net.

Stanford's Lawrence Hill then hit a shot with 7.5 seconds left for a 63-61 lead, and then with 2.5 seconds remaining, Collison drove hard to the basket and was fouled on the play by Lawrence Hill. Collison, a 82% FT shooter, made both shots to force the game into overtime.

Freshman Kevin Love recorded his 19th double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while battling both Lopez twins throughout the game.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute struggled defensively against the big Stanford front line in the first half but came out in the second with renewed vigor. The junior forward finished with his own double-double, 10 points and a team-high 11 rebounds. Mbah a Moute's strong inside play, especially defensively, was one of the keys to the Bruins comeback.

Sophomore Russell Westbrook struggled offensively at the start, but helped to spark the second half rally by going to the basket and challenging the Cardinal trees underneath. He finished with 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting on a number of acrobatic shots. Towards the end of overtime period, Darren Collison found Westbrook on the break for a rousing dunk that put an exclamation point on the Bruin comeback victory.

Coach Howland shortened the player rotation dramatically, only playing seven players in the game including two reserves, Alfred Aboya and Lorenzo Mata-Real. Both players combined to play just 17 minutes of action.

UCLA now awaits a challenge from the California Bears on Saturday afternoon on Senior Day at Pauley Pavilion. The Bears lost a decision to USC on Thursday night, 93-89 in overtime.

(photo credit: AP)


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

UCLA vs. Stanford - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

No.2/3 UCLA takes on No.7 Stanford Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion in a battle for first-place in the Pac-10 conference race.

Stanford (24-4, 13-3) sits one full game behind the Bruins (26-3, 14-2) in the standings. A win by the Cardinal would put them in a virtual tie for first place.

After head-to-head competition, the next tiebreaker is each team's record against the team occupying the next highest position in the final regular-season standings. If Stanford beats UCLA then the two teams will have split their series. Since both teams swept Washington State, the second place team, then the next tie breaker would likely be their series against USC which is expected to finish third. The Bruins are 1-1 against the Trojans while Stanford currently holds a 1-0 record against USC with a game on Saturday still to be played.

UCLA swept through the desert last week beating both Arizona State and Arizona to remain atop the conference, while Stanford defeated both Washington schools in Maples Pavilion to keep the pressure on UCLA.

The Bruins own a 128-89 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1924-25. Since posting a six-game winning streak that spanned from 2002-2005, Stanford has dropped four of the last five meetings. It includes a 76-67 loss at Maples Pavilion back on January 3 in the Pac-10 opener that featured five three-pointers and 21 points from UCLA's Josh Shipp.

Stanford averages 71.0 points per game while shooting 45.4% from the field and 36.5% on three-pointers. Its a team built around twin 7-footers, Brook and Robin Lopez, who dominate inside play on both ends of the court.

Not surprisingly, the Cardinal has outrebound teams by almost a ten rebound margin and have blocked more than twice as many shots (5.2 per game) than its opponent.

In the first contest, the Bruins did a good job limiting both Lopez brothers on the offensive end. UCLA doubled down on Brook Lopez whenever he touched the ball within 15 feet of the basket. Brook, who was just returning from a academic suspension, scored just 13 points.

In addition, UCLA did a good job pressuring on the perimeter and making it difficult for Stanford's guards to pass the ball inside unfettered to their big men. Expect UCLA to apply the same defensive pressure in the post and on the perimeter to keep Stanford from establishing any offensive rhythm.

Brook Lopez (7'0, 260, So) seriously considered leaving for the NBA after his freshman year but decided to spend another year to refine his game in Palo Alto. However in a bizarre start to this season, he was ruled ineligible due to academic reasons, but Lopez has returned to form and is big trouble for any defense to handle.

Lopez leads Stanford in both scoring and rebounding with 19.3 points and 11.2 caroms per game. A very active and solid post player, he also possesses a good midrange jumper. Lopez will alternate between the low and high post on offense with his twin brother, Robin, throughout the game.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will get the initial assignment against Brook Lopez but he will get plenty of help from the five spot on the double in the post.

Don't be surprised if UCLA utilizes its own twin towers at times during this game. Coach Howland has indicated he's inclined to use both his centers, Kevin Love and Lorenzo Mata-Real at the same time on the floor against bigger front lines.

Brook's brother, Robin Lopez (7'0, 255, So), plays the game more with his back to the basket. He's averaging 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as well as 2.2 blocks.

Both Lopez brothers are prone to foul trouble and perhaps Love can use his guile and sound low-post skills to cause problems for them underneath. Brook and Robin fouled out of the game down the stretch in the first meeting.

At small forward Stanford starts Lawrence Hill (6'8,215,Jr). Hill has had problems duplicating his All-Pac-10 player performance of last season. He's averaging 9.1 points a game and 5.2 rebounds. Hill has struggled getting into the flow of the offense this season, he's shooting just 42.5% from the field.

Hill has been a good three-pointer in the past but he's struggled with consistency this past season, although he's shooting 38.4% from beyond the arc.

In the backcourt are Anthony Goods (6'3,205,Jr) and Mitch Johnson (6'1,190,Jr).

Goods is the team's best perimeter offensive player. He shoots well from outside and can take the ball effectively to the basket off the bounce.

The junior guard is averaging 11.2 points on just 37.6% field goal shooting, however, Goods also hits 35.8%% on three-pointers.

Mitch Johnson is a much improved point guard and is perhaps one of the keys to Stanford's successful season thus far. Johnson is averaging 6.7 points and 4.5 assists per game and takes good care of the ball.

UCLA will count on both Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison to apply intense pressure on the perimeter in order to make it difficult for Stanford to initiate their halfcourt offense inside.

Fred Washington (6'5,215,Sr), Taj Fingers (6'8,200,Sr), and Landry Fields (6'7,200,So) have given Stanford solid support off the bench. Both Fingers and Washington give the team energy and defensive presence in reserve and Fields can light it up from outside if he get's it going.

Stanford is a much improved team from the one UCLA defeated up at Palo Alto to start the season. Brook Lopez had just returned from his suspension and was still getting assimilated on the floor. Lopez is now playing his best ball of the season and has been mentioned prominently as a candidate for player of the year.

On the other hand, UCLA's Darren Collison was still adjusting after returning from his knee injury, and was playing without his knee brace for the first time when these two teams met in January.

Aside from defending aggressively on the perimeter and in the low post against Stanford, UCLA will need to do a better job hitting their open outside jumpers. In the first match-up, UCLA hit on 56.3% on their three-pointer, led by Josh Shipp's five treys. Shipp has been struggling with his outside shot of late and will look to shoot himself out of the slump.

If the Bruins are unable to spread Stanford's defense with their outside shooting, then they'll risk the defense collapsing around Kevin Love in the paint.

In addition to the Pac-10 conference race, this game will have major ramifications on the NCAA tournament seedings with the winner perhaps becoming the favorite for gaining either a No.1 or No.2 seed in the coveted West region.

(photo credit: Stanford Athletics)


Entire 2008 UCLA Frosh Class Named To USA Junior Select Team

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

USA Basketball announced the coaching staff and ten high school players selected for the 2008 USA Basketball Junior National Select Team that will compete in the 11th annual Nike Hoop Summit on April 12 in Portland, Ore.

Bruin basketball fans eagerly awaiting the arrival of the school's incoming freshmen class next November will have a special opportunity to see them in action together beforehand.

Of the ten elite high school players selected to the team, four are from UCLA's incoming blue-chip 2008 freshmen class: Jrue Holiday (Campbell Hall HS), Malcolm Lee (JW North HS), Drew Gordon (Archbishop Mitty HS), and Jerime Anderson (Canyon HS).

The coach and player selections were made by the USA Basketball Men's Junior Development Committee.

"Identifying a 10-man roster is always difficult," Don Showalter, chairman of the USA Basketball selection committee, said. "This is not an all-star game, and we expect the World Team to be very good. These kids are going to have to play some defense."

"This USA roster, though, is talented and balanced and will be tough to beat. We have a strong mix of skills and sizes, and we also have players that gained valuable experience at the 2007 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival. Those kids understand what we're looking for from a team standpoint, and they have a familiarity with international basketball."

The 2008 USA Basketball Junior National Select Team roster includes: Al-Farouq Aminu (Norcross HS); Jerime Anderson (Canyon HS); Ed Davis (Benedictine HS; Demar DeRozan (Compton HS); Tyreke Evans (American Christian); Drew Gordon (Archbishop Mitty HS); Jrue Holiday (Campbell Hall HS); Scotty Hopson (University Heights Academy); Malcolm Lee (JW. North HS); and Greg Monroe (Helen Cox HS).

The head coach of the 2008 USA Team will be Douglas Mitchell of North Central HS in Indianapolis.

The USA and World Select Team will face off on April 12 at 1:00 PM in Portland's Rose Garden, in a nationally televised game on Fox Sports Net.

(photo credit: USA Basketball)


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Howland Prefers A Good Screen Over A Dunk Shot

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Those familiar with UCLA Coach Ben Howland's coaching philosophy understand the man is all about teaching basketball fundamentals and smart play.

Subsequently, no one should be surprised that Howland, when asked what he thought about Russell Westbrook's dunk shot against Arizona, said, "He (Westbrook) dunks like that everyday and I don't think he's thinking about ESPN or Fox.  On those shows they do not show jump shots - just dunks. That is what is promoted by the media. I, on the other hand, would rather see the good screen."

Basketball geekdom is alive and well in Westwood, and Bruin fans are happy its centered here.

Although Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had just 9 points and 2 rebounds against Arizona, Howland was still pleased with his junior forward's other contributions on the floor.

"Luc was 5-5 from the foul line and played good defense as he always does," Howland said. "The turnovers were unfortunate. He is back in game shape. He has played in five games since he missed two weeks and I am confident he is back at full shape. He may still have some pain (in his ankle).

Howland stressed the importance of the two remaining regular season games against Stanford and California and his team's quest for a high seed in the NCAA tournament.

"Our primary goal is for us to win the Pac-10, to win it outright and that is what we are playing for on Thursday," Howland said.  "We have no control over the seedings. Obviously, we would like to stay out West for the first and second round - that is what we have said all along."

"I think we were a two-seed last year but we got to stay out West and we got to the Final Four so staying out West is very important to us. You play really good teams in the NCAA Tournament no matter where you are seeded: 1, 2, or 3. The parity in college basketball is so good now; I don't think there is much of a difference in playing a 7-10 winner or an 8-9. Having to travel East as opposed to Phoenix, Arizona is the big difference."

After returning from the team's road trip to Arizona, Coach Howland had a chance to visit with Coach John Wooden at the hospital.  Wooden is still hospitalized and recovering from broken bones he suffered after falling at his home.

"I think Coach Wooden is in a lot of pain. His family is there with him basically around the clock supporting him," Howland said.  "We talked for just a minute and I didn't want to be a bother. He was sleeping when I first got there. He kind of woke up just when I was leaving. He is really, really tough. He watched the Sunday game with Arizona on TV with his son Jim."

(photo credit: AP)


Monday, March 03, 2008

Bruins Climb to No.2 and No.3 in Polls

By Bruin Basketball Report

With a sweep in the desert of both Arizona schools, the Bruins leap-frogged Memphis in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches to No.2 and climbed to No.3 in the AP this week.

The team has not been ranked this high since the third week of the season when the Bruins were No.1 and No.2 in the Coaches and AP polls, respectively. The following week they suffered a loss at home to Texas.

UCLA is now ranked No.7 in the RPI and are No. 34 in terms of strength of schedule.

The Bruins have a chance to improve upon their position when they face No.7 ranked Stanford at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night. UCLA finishes the regular season Saturday against California on "Senior Day".

Track weekly changes in UCLA rankings here.

ESPN/USA Today Poll

1. North Carolina (19) 27-2, 763
2. UCLA (6) 26-3, 718
3. Memphis (6) 28-1, 717
4. Tennessee 26-3, 695
5. Duke 25-3, 621
6. Kansas 26-3, 618
7. Stanford 24-4, 572
8. Wisconsin 24-4, 535
9. Texas 24-5, 533
10. Georgetown 24-4, 521
11. Xavier 25-4, 492
12. Butler 27-3, 393
13. Louisville 24-6, 368
14. Connecticut 23-6, 356
15. Purdue 23-6, 314
16. Vanderbilt 24-5, 305
17. Indiana 24-5, 297
18. Michigan State 23-6, 283
19. Notre Dame 22-6, 246
20. Marquette 21-7, 141
21. Drake 25-4, 116
22. Washington State 22-7, 102
23. Gonzaga 23-6, 99
24. Brigham Young 23-6, 94
25. Mississippi State 20-8, 44

Others Receiving Votes:
Clemson 43, Saint Mary's 29, Davidson 27, Pittsburgh 7, UNLV 6, USC 6, Baylor 5, Kentucky 4, South Alabama 3, Western Kentucky 1, Arizona State 1.

AP Top 25

1. North Carolina (38) 27-2, 1,745
2. Memphis (21) 28-1, 1,706
3. UCLA (12) 26-3, 1,664
4. Tennessee (1) 26-3, 1,625
5. Kansas 26-3, 1,459
6. Duke 25-3, 1,403
7. Stanford 24-4, 1,317
8. Xavier 25-4, 1,232
9. Texas 24-5, 1,227
10. Wisconsin 24-4, 1,199
11. Georgetown 24-4, 1,147
12. Louisville 24-6, 1,010
13. Connecticut 23-6, 848
14. Butler 27-3, 813
15. Purdue 23-6, 779
16. Vanderbilt 24-5, 658
17. Michigan State 23-6, 657
18. Indiana 24-5, 646
19. Notre Dame 22-6, 578
20. Drake 25-4, 346
21. Marquette 21-7, 334
22. Gonzaga 23-6, 323
23. Washington State 22-7, 245
24. Clemson 21-7, 124
25. Davidson 23-6, 74

Others Receiving Votes:
Brigham Young 63, Mississippi State 34, South Alabama 27, Pittsburgh 25, Saint Mary's 22, Kent State 19, Miami (FL) 13, Baylor 7, UAB 7, USC 7, Arizona State 4, Virginia Commonwealth 3, Western Kentucky 3, Texas A&M 3, Cornell 2, Robert Morris 1, Stephen F. Austin 1.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (3/3)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


Stop Jrue Holiday and you stop the Campbell Hall boys' basketball team. One problem: More often than not, Holiday is unstoppable. Such was the case in Tuesday's 81-47 victory over La Canada in a Southern Section Division III-AA semifinal game at Harvard-Westlake High. The UCLA-bound senior guard scored 14 of his 24 points in the first half and finished with 12 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals for the top-seeded Vikings, who advance to Saturday's title game against Price at the Honda Center in Anaheim. LA Times 2/26

After running its first two playoff foes out of the gym, the Crusaders ran into a team willing to play their urban-style game — both the balling and bravado. “We knew they’d come out and run with us and shoot 3s, and we were excited,” Reeves Nelson said. “It’s the playoffs now and everything is getting a little more intense.” No one could match Nelson’s intensity, as he scored a playoff-record 53 points to lead MC past Encina 122-100 in a Sac-Joaquin Section semifinal at Tokay High. Modesto Bee 2/27

With 2,473 career points, Campbell Hall's Jrue Holiday needs 34 more to eclipse Greg Goorjian as the area's No. 2 all-time scorer. He will get his chance in today's 9 a.m. Div. III-AA championship against Price of Los Angeles at Honda Center. Holiday has 10 consecutive double-doubles in points and rebounds. The UCLA-bound senior is averaging 25.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists. He also has five triple-doubles, the last Feb. 7 against Brentwood (30 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists). Goorjian scored 2,506 points for Crescenta Valley from 1976-78. The area leader is Mitchell Butler with 2,682 points for Oakwood from 1986-89. LA Daily News 2/29

With a combination of tight defense, smooth fundamentals and deadly outside shooting - plus a lot of Jrue Holiday thrown in - Campbell Hall High of North Hollywood's burgeoning basketball dynasty expanded in a big way Saturday. The Vikings (27-5) defeated eight-time section champion Price of Los Angeles in the Southern Section Div. III-A championship at Honda Center - and it wasn't even close, a 73-38 victory that could have been even more decisive had a running clock not been employed for the final six-plus minutes after Campbell Hall stretched the lead to 40 points....Holiday, the area's third-leading all-time scorer, finished with 20 points, including several awe-inspiring drives to the basket, as well as 12 rebounds and eight steals. LA Daily News 3/2

Reeves Nelson, the 6-foot-7-inch junior who has verbally committed to UCLA, scored 30 to set a section record for points in a postseason tournament. His 121 points surpassed the mark of 118, set by legendary Bill Cartwright in 1974. This is the third Division IV title in that span. Two titles came in D-I -- before the section forbid teams from moving up to play larger schools -- and five were in D-V, for the smallest schools. Modesto Bee 3/2


Indianapolis big man Stephan Van Treese says he is waiting to see who Indiana hires before further contemplating his interest with the Big Ten program. Rivals 2/26

Colony, which won the Southern Section in 2006, now advances to meet Bishop Montgomery, a 71-63 winner over Eisenhower, in Saturday's final at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Tyler Lamb led Colony (22-9) with 17 points and Bobby Wagner added nine SB Sun 2/26.

And still growing. He’s been told that he can expect to add a couple more inches. “Maybe around 7-foot, hopefully 7-1,” he said. With a post game just starting to emerge, he did his best to describe the current state of his game. “I’m a big man, but I don’t like to strictly just post up,” explained Anthony Stover. “I like to bring it out some times and hit the short range jump shot and my favorite thing to do is defense. I go after every shot to block it. I average about nine blocked shots a game.” His stats speak for themselves. “I’m averaging around 12 points, 12 boards and nine blocks a game, almost a triple double.” he added. Sports Washington 2/26

Top-ranked and two-time defending state champ McGuinness rolled to another Class 4A region C title over the weekend. The Irish defeated Blanchard 82-47 and Cache 77-38. McGuinness faces Woodward Friday at Chickasha at 8 p.m. Ryan Randolph added 14, while Daniel Orton and Joel Cranmer finished with 13 apiece. OKC Friday 2/26

Going inside proved almost impossible for the Falcons as 6-foot-11 Cavers sophomore Jeremy Tyler had 14 rebounds and eight points in controlling the boards. His senior brother, James, proved a thorn in Torrey Pines' side by pitching in 16 points, giving the Cavers balanced scoring. “We could have been ranked higher, we probably should have been No. 2,” said Jeremy Tyler, the No. 1 10th-grader in the nation according to Union Tribune 2/27

The 6-foot-11 junior, who just helped Christ School (34-2) capture its second straight NCISAA 3-A championship, said Wednesday that he has committed to North Carolina’s biggest rival – Duke. "I'm a Duke fan now," Mason Plumlee said. "I'm excited that I'll get to be a part of such a great rivalry. Citizen Times 2/27

His lanky 6-foot-9 frame and the light 5-o’clock shadow darkening Milton Jennings’ dimpled chin are not the only signs of the Pinewood Prep star’s growth. Once a standout by default because of his size, Jennings has developed into a junior power forward billed as the best prospect to come out of the state in several years. The State 2/8

Although plagued by some foul problems of his own, Rocklin's 6-10 junior center Brendan Lane played well in his 25 minutes. He scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds, had four blocks and two of the Thunder's 12 steals. "We really stepped it up," Lane said. "We knew if we got on them and pressured them it would force the tempo in our favor." Sac Bee 2/29

Milton Jennings scored 10 of his game-high 28 points in the second quarter when he hit two 3-pointers and helped turn a 14-11 first-quarter lead into a 37-27 advantage. By the middle of the third quarter, the Panthers felt comfortable enough to turn its offense into a high-octane, run-and-gun, alley-oop show. Post Courier 2/29

The Tigers started 6-foot-8 Greg Smith and 6-6 Phillip Ward inside, a pair of high-leaping, athletic players. "I never played against anyone that big before," said Jenson, Centennial's 6-5 junior forward who led the Hawks with 15 points and nine rebounds. Smith finished with 16 points and eight rebounds and Ward had 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Tigers finished with a 46-27 rebounding advantage and shot 54 percent from the floor (29-of-54). Bakersfield Californian 2/29

Having guided Compton Dominguez to 10 Southern Section championships and six state titles in boys' basketball, Coach Russell Otis doesn't let his players get away with anything. So it came as no surprise Tuesday night when he benched 6-foot-7 Jordan Hamilton, averaging 29 points a game, in the second quarter of a semifinal playoff game after Hamilton threw up a wild, off-balance shot. "None of them are scared of me," Otis said. "They just know I'm not going to tolerate nonsense." The message got through to Hamilton, who finished with 20 points and was on his best behavior in the second half of Dominguez's 58-52 victory over Santa Margarita. LA Times 2/29

Colony's 6-4 sophomore, Tyler Lamb, who averaged 19 points per game during the regular season, plays every position on the court. The maturation of the youngster next to 6-8 senior center Michael Bostic and junior point guard Gene Saulsberry fueled Colony to an undefeated run through the Mt. Baldy League. SB Sun 2/29

Cavers faithful created a sea of blue at Cox Arena Friday night as third-seeded San Diego upset top-seeded El Camino in overtime 74-68 for the San Diego Section Division I boys basketball championship.San Diego sophomore Jeremy Tyler finished with 23 points. His brother, senior guard James Tyler, had 19, including six in the fourth quarter and four in overtime. Union Tribune 2/29

The Knights held Bostic to nine points in the 60-45 victory. No Colony player reached double digits, including Tyler Lamb, who had nine points on three-for-19 shooting. Cobbs, who played travel ball against Lamb in elementary school, is looking forward to reminding Lamb of his performance. LA Times 3/2

Only time will tell what will become of Renardo Sidney. With any luck, his future will be full of brightness: lined with more fame and fortune than most of us could handle or hope for. But there are still years to go between then and now. Between the junior year for a teen who is arguably America's best high school basketball player, and the NBA, where potential stardom awaits. First he must finish high school. Then he must head to college for at least one year. Anything could happen. Injuries, maybe. Burnout, possibly. Ego gone haywire, well, I doubt we'll see Sidney's Southern, hard-nosed father let that happen. LA Times 3/2

Displaying dazzle, determination and supreme confidence, Drew sliced his way for 24 points and six assists to help the top-seeded Toreadors defeat Los Angeles Fairfax, 65-55....Taft (25-3) used balanced scoring and an effective man-to-man defense designed to contain Fairfax's 6-foot-10 junior center Renardo Sidney. Sidney finished with 23 points, including six dunks, but he failed to make an impact when Taft started to pull away late in the third quarter. LA times 3/2

(photo credit: AP and The State)


Kevin Love Carries UCLA To Victory Over Arizona

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Kevin Love scored 24 points and hauled down 15 rebounds to help No.4 ranked UCLA hold on to a narrow 68-66 victory over Arizona in Tucson. It marked Love's 18th double-double performance of the season. Point-guard Darren Collison added 16 points in the win.

UCLA (26-3, 14-2) now heads into a Pac-10 showdown against Stanford (24-4 13-3) Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion with first-place in the conference and a potential No.1 seed in the West on the line.

The Bruins jumped out in front quickly against Arizona in this game, Kevin Love's lay-up off an assist by Russell Westbrook put them up, 13-6, after just five minutes of action.

They extended it to their biggest lead of 11 points shortly thereafter, but UCLA simply couldn't administer the knockout punch as it had at Pauley Pavilion against Arizona, as the McKale Center crowd, donned in Wildcat red, helped to prod its team back into the game.

Arizona sophomore Chase Budinger sparked the Wildcat rally, scoring 12 of his team's last 16 points of the half to cut the lead to just two points, 41-39, going into the locker room.

Both teams had problems stopping each other in the first half, the Bruins shot 59.3% while the Wildcats finished with 51.9%.

In the second half, Arizona freshman sensation Jerryd Bayless finally shook off the defensive vice applied by Russell Westbrook, to give the Wildcats their first lead since the game's opening basket, 42-41.

With Arizona up by four points and the momentum flowing throughout the arena, the Bruins turned to their freshman center for an answer.

UCLA repeatedly found Love in the paint as the 6'9 freshman overpowered his Arizona defenders to score 13 points over the game's final seven minutes. Love made 7 consecutive free throws and was 3 of 3 from the field including a three-point play to put the Bruins ahead for good.

The Wildcats had one final chance to win the game in the waning seconds after Westbrook and Love, fighting for a rebound, knocked the ball out of bounds under the basket with the Bruins holding a 68-66 lead. But Jerryd Bayless' off-balance three-point shot missed short and the Bruins escaped with a sweep of their series with Arizona.

UCLA has now won seven straight games against Arizona (17-12, 7-9). With their sixth loss in seven games, the Wildcats are in some danger of missing the tournament this year.

After temporarily breaking out of a shooting slump with a 4 of 8 three-point performance against Arizona State, Josh Shipp struggled offensively in this game. Shipp hit his first and only three-point shot in the opening minute but then missed his remaining four attempts.

More troubling for the team, Shipp disappeared offensively down the stretch when the Bruins needed an outside shot with Arizona packing it tight inside to guard Love. On a few instances, Shipp passed up an open shot seemingly lacking the confidence to attempt the shot himself.

With two regular season games and the Pac-10 tournament remaining before the NCAA postseason, Shipp will need to find his shot and flow in the offense if the Bruins are to go far in the tourney.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland shortened the bench considerably in the game with three reserves playing just a total of 21 minutes. All Bruin starters played at least 33 minutes with Westbrook and Collison logging 38 and 39 minutes, respectively.

The Bruins finished the game shooting 48.9% from the field but only on 7 assists.

UCLA hosts Stanford and California at Pauley Pavilion next week in the last two games of the Pac-10 regular season.

(photo credit: AP)