Saturday, March 15, 2008

Collison Leads Bruins To Pac-10 Tournament Crown

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

With UCLA's front line hurting, the backcourt stepped up its game.

Point-guard Darren Collison scored 28 points and Russell Westbrook grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to lead the Bruins to a 67-64 win and Pac-10 Tournament championship. 

The victory should help to cement a No.1 seed for UCLA (31-3) in the West Region at the upcoming NCAA tournament.  Seedings and brackets will be announced on Sunday.

Already missing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who sat out with a sprained ankle, freshman center Kevin Love experienced back spasms in the opening minutes of the game, causing him to miss much of the first half and limited his movement.  Stanford capitalized by jumping out to an early 19-11 lead.

After a UCLA timeout the Bruins began to step it up on defense, seemingly getting to every loose and tipped ball and raced to the half on a 22-13 run to tie the game 32-32.

In the second half, Stanford moved out to a four point lead after a dunk by Brook Lopez, but then the Bruins went on a 27-13 run to open up a ten point lead, 61-51, with just over two minutes remaining.  Collison took control during this span with a variety of drives to the basket leaving Stanford's Mitch Johnson in the dust while alluding Stanford's Lopez twins for deft defying lay-ups and tear-drop shots. 

The Bruins also ran a high pick and roll for Collison which Stanford was unable to defend. Cardinal coach Trent Johnson was forced to move to a zone defense later in the half to try to control Collison's dribble penetration . He finished 12-22 from the field. 

"I felt real confident," Collison said. "They had a hard time stopping the pick-and-roll. That was a big key for us, so we kept going to it."

Stanford made one final move and managed to cut the lead to one point with seven seconds remaining in the game, but Collison sank two free throws to extend the lead back to three.  Anthony Goods' halfcourt shot with time running out fall short, and the Bruins finished the season as both Pac-10 conference regular season and tournament champions.

Collison was named MVP of the Pac-10 Tournament.  Over three tourney games, the junior point-guard averaged 20 points to lead the Bruins.

Sophomore James Keefe stepped up big for the team, scoring 8 points and grabbing 3 rebounds.  He did a good job defensively against Robin Lopez, blocking one of the 7-footer's shots during the Bruins' key second half run.

Josh Shipp also helped on the boards with 9 rebounds.  Despite being out-sized on the floor by Stanford's massive front line, UCLA outrebounded Stanford 39-34.  In addition, the Bruins grabbed 18 offensive rebounds.

Kevin Love seemed to move better in the second half and finished with 12 points and 6 rebounds.

UCLA completed a three-game sweep of a very tough Stanford team this year.  The Cardinal will likely lose Brook Lopez to the NBA draft this season.  He finished with a team-high 15 points and 6 rebounds.

The Bruins shot just 38% from the field and a season-worst 39.1% (9-23) from the free-throw line.  But UCLA's advantage on the boards, especially on the offensive end, and the fact the Bruins committed just four turnovers were the deciding factors in the game. 

Stanford (26-7) finished shooting 47.9% from the field.

Now the Bruins will rest up and wait for tomorrow's tournament bracket announcements.

BBR Notes:  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was wearing a walking boot and on crutches at the game.  Its uncertain when he will return although its unlikely he will be available, or needed, for UCLA's opening round game on Thursday.

(photo credit: AP)


Friday, March 14, 2008

UCLA vs. Stanford - Pac-10 Tourney Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Top seed UCLA (30-3) ends the Pac-10 season the way it started when it faces No.2 seed Stanford (26-6) in the Pac-10 Tournament championship game.  The Bruins played the Cardinal in the first game of the Pac-10 conference season back on January 3.

Stanford earned its chance to play in the championship game by beating Washington State Friday night, 75-68.  Sophomore Brook Lopez scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and Lawrence Hill added 14 off the bench.  The game was close throughout but Stanford made its free throws down the stretch and the Lopez twin brother were just too much to overcome.  Robin Lopez finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds.

UCLA swept Stanford during conference play including a controversial overtime decision at Pauley Pavilion last Thursday.   With time running out in regulation and the Bruins down by two, Darren Collison drove to the basket and was fouled by Stanford's Lawrence Hill. 

Many criticized the call, feeling there was no foul committed on the play.  Collison went on to make both free throws to send the game into overtime where UCLA dominated outscoring Stanford 14-4 to win the game, 77-67.

The Bruins will be playing without forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute who suffered a severe sprained ankle in the first half of the USC contest.  X-rays taken were negative. With the NCAA tournament starting in a week, the Bruins hope to have him back by the first game.

Mbah a Moute will be sorely missed against Stanford's big front line.  He recorded a double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds last Thursday against them.  His defense, especially off the double in the low post will be missed.  Alfred Aboya will likely get the start at power forward spot with James Keefe backing him up.  Keefe played a spirited game against USC and was a big contributor in the win - the Bruins will need the same effort.  Lorenzo Mata-Real should also see major minutes on the floor.

Stanford dominated for most of the game at Pauley last Thursday.  The Lopez twins controlled the paint, changing a number of shot attempts by the Bruins who ventured in.  UCLA stepped up its defensive pressure in the second half to rally and set up Collison's late game free throws.

UCLA will need to bring the same defensive pressure, especially on the perimeter, to prevent Stanford from setting up offensively and to make it hard for the guards to make a pass into the post.  While Stanford is big inside, the Bruins have a decided advantage at the guard spots with both Collison and Westbrook.

Freshman Kevin Love held his own against the Lopez twins in the last game, recording 17 points and 10 rebounds, but he will need either Aboya, Keefe, or Mata-Real to step up big without Mbah a Moute next to him on the baseline.

After having one of their best shooting games against California on Wednesday, the Bruins returned on Thursday against USC with one of their worst.  UCLA shot just 39.2% from the field and a miserable 16.7% on three-pointers.  The Bruins can ill afford to shoot as bad against Stanford.

Its unlikely the outcome of the championship game will have any impact UCLA's seeding with the NCAA tournament selection committee.  At this point, the Bruins will likely receive the No.1 seed in the West from the committee.

Stanford Roster and Statistics

*Brook LopezF18.98.51.4
*Anthony GoodsG10.52.01.7
*Robin LopezC10.05.50.6
*Lawrence HillF8.85.01.1
*Mitch JohnsonG6.84.34.7
Taj FingerF5.94.30.5
Fred WashingtonF4.64.02.3
Landry FieldsG3.92.11.0
Kenny BrownG3.81.30.6
Drew ShillerG3.50.90.7
Peter ProwittC1.51.00.4
Josh OwensF1.41.60.3

Game Information
Pac-10 Tournament Championship Game
No.1 seed UCLA vs No.2 seed Stanford
Time: 3:00PM PT
Place: Staples Center
Radio: AM 570

(photo credit: Stanford Athletics)


Bruins Advance To Pac-10 Final But Lose Mbah a Moute

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Freshman Kevin Love scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead UCLA to a 57-54 win over USC and advance to the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament.  However, the victory celebration was tempered by a first half injury to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Mbah a Moute, who was already playing on a tender ankle, leaped in the air and landed awkwardly on a Trojan player's shoe crumpling to the ground in pain.  He had to be helped off the court by teammates.  Preliminary x-rays showed no break and only a sprain, however, it is likely Mbah a Moute will miss tomorrow's championship game. Without Mbah a Moute, the Bruins are missing one of their best defenders and rebounders.

However, UCLA got very good contribution off the bench from sophomore 6'8 forward James Keefe.  Although he did not score a point, he grabbed four rebounds and played excellent defense on USC's DaVon Jefferson.  Jefferson scored 12 points in the first half but was held scoreless in the final half by Keefe's sticky and active defense.  Keefe played a season-high 23 minutes.

The Trojans have given the Bruins trouble in both their games this season, and outplayed UCLA for most of the first half in this contest.  The Trojans spread the floor and picked the Bruin defense apart, getting easy baskets off back cuts and curls.  After two three-point shots from Keith Wilkinson, yes - Keith Wilknson, the Trojans opened their biggest lead of the half, 30-22, and seemed to be in control of the game.

After baskets were traded, Darren Collison hit a two-point jumper as time expired in the half to cut the lead to six, 34-28, and injecting some life into the Bruins' offense.

In the second half, the Bruins stepped up the defensive pressure and made a concerted effort to get the ball into Kevin Love.  Baskets by Collison and Russell Westbrook off a steal and missed shot pulled UCLA to within two points, and then Kevin Love's slam dunk off a missed shot tied the game at 34-34.

It was just the start of Love's scoring as the 6'9 center scored his team's next 11 points as UCLA went on a 15-2 run, 43-36, capped off by a three-point shot by Love.  The Bruins never relinquished the lead.

USC made one last run at the Bruins, led by O.J Mayo's seven consecutive points to pull within 3 points.  But Mayo's desperation three-point shot with two seconds remaining missed left and the Bruins exited the court on their way to the tournament championship game.

Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook added 13 points apiece.  Westbrook added 3 assists.  UCLA shot just 39.2% from the field and made only 3 of 18 of its three-pointers for 16.7%.

The Bruins (30-3) will play the winner of the Stanford versus Washington State contest on Saturday afternoon.

(photo credit: AP)


Thursday, March 13, 2008

UCLA vs. USC - Pac-10 Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Amid questions about whether they deserved their win over California last Saturday, UCLA came out yesterday afternoon against the Bears with a mission, leaving no doubt who was the better team.  The Bruins hit a season-best 14 of 25 three-pointers to easily dispose of the Bears, 88-66, to move on to the semifinals against the Trojans of USC on Friday.

Darren Collison scored 19 points and Josh Shipp added 18.  Perhaps the most important piece from yesterday's game was Shipp breaking out of his shooing funk.  The red-shirt junior wing was 6 of 10 from the field and 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.  He was once again shooting with confidence and a bit of a swagger.  If UCLA is to go deep into the tourney, they'll need Shipp hitting consistently from the perimeter to open up the inside and to balance the offense.

Their Friday evening opponent at Staples, the USC Trojans, beat the Arizona State Sun Devils, 59-55, in their second round match-up.  Freshman O.J. Mayo scored a game-high 23 points and handed out 6 assists while the Trojan team dominated the glass outrebounding the Sun Devils, 32-19.

USC's Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson each had 11 points and nine rebounds.  The Trojan defense stiffened at the end, holding the Sun Devils without a field goal the remaining 9:35 of the game.

The game ended on a controversial play, and once again it centered around a questionable call by a Pac-10 official.

With 17 seconds remaining in the contest and Arizona State trailing by just two points, 57-55, James Harden drove and missed a lay-up, but teammate Jeff Pendergraph was there for the putback slam.  However, the official called a foul on Pendergraph for going over the back of Davon Jefferson for the rebound  Replays show it was perhaps a non-call at best.

The foul call was crucial.   Davon Jefferson converted his two free throw attempts for the final score of the game.

UCLA and USC split their Pac-10 series this season with each team winning on the visitor's floor.  In the first game at Pauley Pavilion, Jefferson poured in 25 points to upset the Bruins, 72-63.  In the game,  both Lorenzo Mata-Real and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute only played in the first half due to concussions they suffered during the contest.

The two teams met again later in February at the Galen Center with UCLA winning in a defensive contest, 56-46.  Kevin Love scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the victory.

In each game, the Trojans were effective in spreading the floor offensively and taking the Bruins off the dribble on the perimeter.  UCLA players were somewhat slow to rotate, giving Trojan players, especially Davon Jefferson's, open lanes to drive to the basket.  In the second game, UCLA did a decidedly better job rotating due to the presence of Mbah a Moute on defense.

The Bruins need to make sure they pressure the passer aggressively on the perimeter to prevent easy passes inside, as well as rotate quickly down low.  Teams this season have taken advantage of UCLA's defense when they haven't been as aggressive.

USC's triangle and two zone defense has bothered the Bruin offense.  The Trojan's defensive scheme is geared towards crowding Kevin Love in the paint while closely guarding Darren Collison and Josh Shipp on the perimeter, and leaving Mbah a Moute and Russell Westbrook to make the shots to beat them from the perimeter.

The Bruins did a better job in the second game penetrating and hitting the open shot.  No doubt they will see the same defense from Tim Floyd's Trojans again on Friday.

USC's Daniel Hackett, who was key to the Trojan's first victory, was
injured and did not play in the second match-up.  Since then, he has
returned to the line-up and has been an important part to the Trojans recent play, in particular providing them depth in the backcourt.  Hackett scored 6 points in 35 minutes against Arizona State

As usual against their crosstown rival, this will be a very tough game.  The Trojans are athletic on the perimeter and have 6'8 Taj Gibson down low who seems to always play his best against UCLA.  Nevertheless, if the Bruins come out as aggressive as they did against Cal on both the offensive and defensive ends, they have too much talent and coaching  to be denied a victory and trip to the championship game.

Game Information

No.1 seed UCLA vs No.4 seed USC
Time: 6:00PM PT
Place: Staples Center
Radio: AM 570

(photo credit: USC Athletics)


Bruins Crush Bears, Advance To Semifinals

By The Associated Press

Box Score

No controversy, no contest.

No. 3 UCLA buried California under a flurry of 3-pointers to start the second half on its way to an 88-66 victory in the Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals Thursday.

Darren Collison scored 19 points, Josh Shipp 18, and freshman Kevin Love had nine of his 11 in the second half after early foul trouble. UCLA (29-3) had its best 3-point shooting game of the season, hitting 14-of-25.

"It's playoff time now, you have to have a sense of urgency," Love said. "That's what great teams do, they never let up. One loss and you're out."

The top-seeded Bruins won their eighth in a row and advanced to Friday's semifinals against O.J. Mayo and Southern California, which beat Arizona State 59-55. The rivals split in the regular season, with each winning on the other's floor.

"Tomorrow's going to be another grudge match, the battle of the city," Love said. "We know we need to come out and play the same style, the same way. It's going to be tough."

Ryan Anderson scored 17 points and Patrick Christopher 12 to lead the ninth-seeded Golden Bears (16-15), who have lost eight of their last 10.

The Bears were looking to avenge last weekend's one-point loss at UCLA that ended on two controversial calls, both in the Bruins' favor. For their part, the Bruins were eager to dispel chatter that they didn't deserve to win after trailing nearly the entire game.

"We heard a little (talk), but we were more concerned with how we were going to play," Collison said. "It was more about us."

In that game, Shipp hit a rainbow jumper over the corner of the backboard with 1.5 seconds remaining, sending observers scurrying to the NCAA rule book to see whether the shot was legal.

That opportunity was created after it appeared Anderson was fouled when trapped in the left corner. The officials ruled the ball touched Anderson before going out of bounds although Cal argued it went off a UCLA player first.

"I don't think they appreciated hearing that two calls were the only reason they won a (Pac-10) championship," Cal coach Ben Braun said. "That's not fair."

This time, there were no questionable calls and UCLA erased its bitter memory from last year's tournament, when Cal upset the Bruins in overtime in their opening game.

UCLA opened on a 16-4 run before DeVon Hardin's dunk -- Cal's first field goal more than 7 1/2 minutes into the game -- launched a 13-3 spurt that got the Bears within two. Anderson added five points.

But the Bears were derailed by 13 turnovers -- 18 overall -- that were instigated by a UCLA defense that produced eight steals.

"UCLA is a team that feeds off transition and bad shots," Anderson said. "It was our shot selection that hurt us."

The Bruins grabbed the momentum right back and rode it to a 39-25 halftime lead.

"To have a 14-point lead at halftime was a nice cushion," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "They had to play a game yesterday and we were sitting there waiting for them. That definitely was to our advantage."

The Bears got by Washington 84-81 Wednesday in a game that ended after 8 p.m. while the Bruins were idle. Cal skipped a shootaround Thursday for extra rest.

"It was a factor, but I don't want to make excuses," Hardin said.

With Love playing just six minutes because of two fouls, Lorenzo Mata-Real produced the two biggest defensive plays of the half on huge blocks of Anderson and Christopher.

Love, the Pac-10 player and freshman of the year, returned to start the second half and made an immediate impact. He hit three consecutive 3-pointers and Shipp added another for a 51-33 lead.

"Darren found me on all three," Love said. "I was just looking for my shot and I got open for the `3' and happened to knock them down."

Love has scored in double figures in all 32 games this season. He had seven rebounds and four assists, leaving to a standing ovation led by his parents, brother and sister sitting behind the Bruins' bench.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

UCLA vs. California - Pac-10 Tourney Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

You want them?  You got them.

No.9 seed California rallied to defeat No. 8 seed Washington, 84-81, in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament at Staples Center to earn a Thursday afternoon grudge match against UCLA.

Cal's Patrick Christopher scored a game-high 25 points and All-Pac-10 performer Ryan Anderson added 22 points and 16 rebounds as the Bears rallied from a 12 point deficit to beat the Huskies.  Washington played without injured star Jon Brockman.

Five days ago at Pauley Pavilion, Josh Shipp's miraculous and completely legal shot from behind the backboard with 2.5 seconds propelled UCLA to an 81-80 come from behind victory over California.

Controversy over Shipp's shot has raged for days both locally and nationally about whether the shot should have been allowed. 

Pac-10 coordinator of officials, Bill McCabe criticized the call shortly after the game and said the shot should not have counted since it passed over the plane of the backboard  However, Hank Nichol, the NCAA coordinator of officials, weighed in recently and said the shot was legal since the NCAA ruling prohibiting the ball from going over the backboard only pertained to "passes" and not "shots".

Seemingly the Cal Bears players have chosen to continue to believe they were cheated on the call and have been eagerly awaiting their opportunity to revenge their loss.

Perhaps the Bears should be careful what they wish for.

No.1 seed UCLA (28-3, 16-2) is riding a seven-game winning streak into the tournament.   After sweeping both Bay area schools last week, both victories have been subject to second-guessing of the officiating at the end of the games. Some of the UCLA players are very anxious to answer those critics.

"All that does give us a little extra incentive," Pac-10 Player of the Year Kevin Love said. "We're always looking out for something else to keep us motivated, especially now when it comes to crunch time. Anything we can get, anything that we can dig up and post around the locker room would be good for us."

In addition, the Bruins are still smarting from an early exit from the Pac-10 tournament last year when the same Cal Bears upset the No.1 seed Bruins in overtime costing UCLA a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

"Losing to Cal last year hurt us bad with the seedings," UCLA's Darren Collison said. "We got back to the Final Four, but the fact was we could have had a No. 1 seed and we got a No. 2 seed after losing to Cal."

Regardless of how the game ended in UCLA's favor on Saturday, the Cal Bears led the Bruins for over 37 minutes of the contest and put up 80 points against a UCLA defense which had allowed conference opponents just under 61 points per game.

California effectively spread the court against UCLA's halfcourt defense, negating the Bruins infamous help defense, and opened up backdoor scoring opportunities.  In addition, the Bears effectively used a  high pick and roll to create easy shots down low, especially when the Bruins were slow to rotate and cover.

UCLA's Head Coach Ben Howland acknowledged Cal's wrinkles on offense at Tuesday's press conference and said that the Bruins will be ready to counter.  Mostly, the Bruins need to pressure Cal's guards aggressively on the perimeter to prevent the Bears from getting into their offense easily, in addition UCLA defenders need to rotate more quickly down low than they did on Saturday.

Cal's DeVon Hardin did not suit up against UCLA on Saturday due to a sore hip but he did play against Washington, scoring 7 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. 

Hardin's presence on the floor will definitely change the complexion of the game.  In some ways, Cal was perhaps more effective spreading the floor against UCLA without Hardin on the court.  Their spread offense in part negated UCLA's advantage in the paint.  It will be interesting how Cal's Coach Ben Braun plays it on Thursday.

Both UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Russell Westbrook are playing on sore ankles but they are expected to start in Thursday's second-round match-up.

California Golden Bears Player Roster

*Ryan AndersonF21.59.91.3
*Patrick ChristopherG15.73.62.1
*Jerome RandleG11.92.53.9
DeVon HardinC9.67.70.7
*Jamal BoykinF7.74.11.3
*Eric VierneiselF5.32.62.1
Harper KampF4.72.61.0
Nikola KnezevicG2.81.32.2
Jordan WilkesC1.81.20.7
Nican RobinsonG1.10.40.5
David LissG0.80.21.0
Patrick ArmstrongG0.70.30.0
Eddie MillerG0.30.40.3
Thomas FangF0.00.00.0

(photo credit: UCB Athletics)


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

UCLA Looks To Improve On Last Pac-10 Tourney Appearance

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA will be the top seed for the Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament starting on Wednesday at Staples Center. The Bruins captured their third consecutive Pac-10 regular season crown and 30th league title overall last week.

The 2007-08 Pac-10 conference season has been arguably the most competitive in league history. For the first time in conference history, nine teams finished regular season play with a winning record.

The Bruins play their first game of the tournament on Thursday at 2:30PM against the winner of the No.8 seed Washington versus No.9 seed California match-up. The Huskies and Bears face off on Wednesday night at 6:00PM.

Not knowing whether its first opponent will be Washington or California, UCLA Coach Ben Howland said his team would be more focused on itself and team execution in practices this week, especially on offense.

"We just played Cal, there’s a good chance we could play Cal again," Howland said. "I think (Washington forward) Jon Brockman is on crutches. That obviously is a factor in that game but I still think Washington, with or without Brockman, will play extremely tough and that will be a very hard game to call."

Howland felt the Bears did a good job offensively against the Bruins on Saturday, a game which UCLA pulled out in the final seconds on Josh Shipp's miraculous shot.

"They (Cal) added a few little wrinkles that if we played them again we would be aware of," Howland said. "Overall, I thought our hedges were decent. They did a few things differently to try and attack that differently."

With the winning team of each game playing the very next day in the Pac-10 tournament, Howland stressed the importance of taking one game at a time.

"We’re just trying to win on Thursday," Howland said. "If we win on Thursday, we’ll have 24 hours before we play again on Friday. I’m not planning anything differently, hoping to get to Saturday. We’re trying to get to Friday from Thursday’s game."

While Howland doesn't relish the idea of having to face a tough Pac-10 team three times in a season, he appreciates the importance of having a conference tournament at the end of the season.

"I like it and the publicity it receives," Howland said. "If you don’t have one, I think it hurts you as a league and I think it has hurt the Pac-10 in the past. I think it’s good for the conference and it makes money."

The Bruins were embarrassed last season in the Pac-10 tournament when they were upset in the second round by the eighth seed California Bears in an overtime game. This time around coaches and players all echoed the same mantra of the need to be prepared to play their best game from the opening tip-off of each game.

"Whoever we play is going to be very motivated to beat us," Howland said. "If we don’t show up ready to go, we’ll lose. That hasn’t changed since November. You have to be ready to play against everybody you’re competing against."

Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament Schedule

Wednesday, March 12

No. 8 Washington vs. No. 9 California, 6:00PM, FSN
No. 7 Arizona vs. No. 10 Oregon State, 8:30PM, FSN

Thursday, March 13

No. 4 USC vs. No. 5 Arizona State, 12:00N, FSN
No. 1 UCLA vs. winner of 8/9, 2:30PM, FSN
No. 3 Washington State vs. No. 6 Oregon, 6:00PM, FSN
No. 2 Stanford vs. winner of 7/10, 8:30PM, FSN

Friday, March 14

Semifinal #1, 6:00PM, FSN
Semifinal #2, 8:30PM, FSN

Saturday, March 15

Pacific Life Pac-10 Tournament Championship, 3:00PM, CBS


Wooden Released from Hospital To Rehab Center

By Bruin Basketball Report

John Wooden went from the hospital to a rehabilitation center Tuesday, nearly two weeks after the 97-year-old UCLA coaching great broke his left wrist and collarbone in a fall at home.

"Dad had one of his better days today," his son, Jim Wooden, said in a statement. "He will do exercises two to three times daily. As soon as his strength is back, we will get him home."

Wooden said his father wanted to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and the many get-well cards he has received.

He was hospitalized Feb. 29.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Bruins Dominate Pac-10 Player Honors

By Bruin Basketball Report

With UCLA wrapping up the Pac-10 regular season conference championship last week, attention turned yesterday to individual honors in the conference with Bruin players dominating in all categories.

Freshman center Kevin Love was selected Pac-10 Conference Player of the Year.  It is the seventh time a Bruin has captured the award. Arron Afflalo won the award last season, Ed O'Bannon in 1995, Kenny Fields in 1983, David Greenwood in 1978 and 1979 and Marques Johnson in 1977.

"I didn’t think they’d give it to a freshman," Love said. "There are a lot of great players in the league but I was very shocked. I knew I was in contention, but a lot of people don’t like UCLA, if you can believe that."

Love is only the second freshman in league history to win the award. The other freshman was California's Shareef Abdur-Rahim in 1996.

Not surprisingly, Love was also named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.  He is the third Bruin in the last four years to win the Freshman of the Year Award.  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute won it in 2006 and Jordan Farmar earned it in 2005. Other Bruins to capture the award include Jason Kapono (co-winner) in 2000, Baron Davis in 1998, Don MacLean in 1989 and Pooh Richardson (co-winner) in 1986.

"It means a lot, especially since we won the Pac-10," Love said. "If we would have lost it, then it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal to me. Since we won, I’ll take it."

Other UCLA players earning honors this season include:

Sophomore guard Russell Westbrook was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and named to the All-Defensive team.  Backcourt mate junior Darren Collison was also named to the All-Defensive team.

"I worked hard," Westbrook said. "I tried to lock up the other team’s best player, and I won the award."

Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute were All-Defensive honorable mention.

"I think defense is a part of this league now, more so than 10 years ago. To have an all-defensive team, I think, is great," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. Luc was honorable mention all-defensive team and I thought he should have been on the all-defensive team first team. I just think he’s taken for granted too much."

All Pac-10 conference teams were also named yesterday:

Kevin Love was named to the All-Pac-10 first team. Darren Collison was named second-team All-Pac-10, and Westbrook was named third-team All-Pac-10.

Juniors Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Josh Shipp earned All-Pac-10 honorable mentions.

"My only disappointment in this was that I thought Darren Collison definitely deserved to be on the first team," Howland said. "That was a little frustrating for me. When you look at his numbers, he’s No. 1 in free-throw percentage, No. 1 in steals, No. 2 in assists; he’s shooting 53% from 3 [-point range], which I think is second; he’s averaging 15.4 points a game, which is ninth; he’s on the all-defensive team so the coaches do recognize what a great defender he is. And when you win the league by three games and you’re the starting point guard, I really believe he deserved to be first team."

Complete List of All-Pac-10 Teams

First Team
Ryan Anderson, California, F, So
James Harden, Arizona St., G, Fr
Brook Lopez, Stanford, F, So
Kevin Love, UCLA, C, Fr
O.J. Mayo, USC, G, Fr

Second Team
Jerryd Bayless, Arizona, G, Fr
Jon Brockman, Washington, F, Jr
Darren Collison, UCLA, G, Jr
Maarty Leunen, Oregon, F, Sr
Kyle Weaver, Washington St., G, Sr

Third Team
Chase Budinger, Arizona, F, So
Taj Gibson, USC, F So
Derrick Low, Washington St., G, Sr
Jeff Pendergraph, Arizona St., F, Jr
Russell Westbrook, UCLA, G, So

Honorable Mention (also receiving votes): Aron Baynes (Washington St., Jr., C), Patrick Christopher (California, So., G/F), Anthony Goods (Stanford, Jr., G), Malik Hairston (Oregon, Sr., G), Jordan Hill (Arizona, So., F), Davon Jefferson (USC, Fr., F), Mitch Johnson (Stanford, Jr., G), Robin Lopez (Stanford, So., C), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA, Jr., F), Josh Shipp (UCLA, Jr. F).

All Pac-10 Freshman Team
Jerryd Bayless Arizona, G
James Harden Arizona St., G
Davon Jefferson USC, F
Kevin Love, UCLA, C
O.J. Mayo, USC, G

Honorable Mention (also receiving votes): Ty Abbott (ASU, G), Angelo Johnson (USC, G), Harper Kamp (CAL, F), Venoy Overton (WASH, G). PAC-10

All-Defensvie Team
Darren Collison, UCLA, G, Jr
Taj Gibson, USC, F, So
Robin Lopez, Stanford, C, So
Kyle Weaver, Washington St., G, Sr
Russell Westbrook, UCLA, G, So

Honorable Mention (also receiving votes): Jon Brockman (Washington, Jr., F), Robbie Cowgill (Washington St., Sr., F), Jordan Hill (Arizona, So., F), Brook Lopez (Stanford, So., F), Kevin Love (UCLA, Fr., C), O.J. Mayo (USC, Fr., G), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (UCLA, Jr., F), Jawann McClellan (Arizona, Sr., G), Fred Washington (Stanford, Sr., G).

Stanford Head Coach Trent Johnson was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

Coach of the Year, All-Conference, All-Freshman, and All-Defensive teams are voted on by the coaches. Coaches are not permitted to vote for themselves or their own players for the honors.

(photo credit: J Rosenfeld)


UCLA Holds At No.2 and No.3

By Bruin Basketball Report

After completing its conference regular season with two exciting wins at home against California and Stanford, UCLA remained at No.2 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No.3 in the AP this week.

UCLA moved up to No.6 in the RPI and are No. 22 in strength of schedule.

Track weekly changes in UCLA rankings here.

ESPN/USA Today Poll

1. North Carolina (23) 29-2, 766
2. UCLA (4) 28-3, 721
3. Memphis (3) 30-1, 720
4. Tennessee 28-3, 697
5. Kansas (1) 28-3, 650
6. Wisconsin 26-4, 582
7. Duke 26-4, 569
8. Texas 26-5, 565
9. Georgetown 25-4, 564
10. Butler 28-3, 452
11. Stanford 24-6, 444
12. Xavier 26-5, 408
13. Louisville 24-7, 383
14. Notre Dame 24-6, 344
15. Connecticut 24-7, 317
16. Purdue 24-7, 296
17. Vanderbilt 25-6, 272
18. Drake 28-4, 235
19. Michigan State 24-7, 188
20. Indiana 25-6, 175
21. Washington State 23-7, 165
22. Gonzaga 25-6, 153
23. Brigham Young 25-6, 127
24. Marquette 22-8, 91
25. Davidson 25-6, 60

Others Receiving Votes Clemson 33, Mississippi State 26, USC 24, Saint Mary's 17, South Alabama 10, Kentucky 10, Arizona State 6, Kent State 2, Western Kentucky 2, Pittsburgh 1.

AP Top 25

1. North Carolina (52) 29-2, 1,776
2. Memphis (13) 30-1, 1,693
3. UCLA (5) 28-3, 1,646
4. Tennessee (2) 28-3, 1,626
5. Kansas 28-3, 1,517
6. Texas 26-5, 1,360
7. Duke 26-4, 1,316
8. Wisconsin 26-4, 1,309
9. Georgetown 25-4, 1,300
10. Xavier 26-5, 1,043
11. Stanford 24-6, 1,036
12. Butler 28-3, 976
13. Louisville 24-7, 959
14. Notre Dame 24-6, 802
15. Connecticut 24-7, 767
16. Drake 28-4, 672
17. Purdue 24-7, 646
18. Vanderbilt 25-6, 565
19. Michigan State 24-7, 497
20. Gonzaga 25-6, 474
21. Washington State 23-7, 375
22. Indiana 25-6, 357
23. Davidson 25-6, 181
24. Brigham Young 25-6, 154
25. Marquette 22-8, 128

Others Receiving Votes Clemson 64, USC 57, South Alabama 43, Mississippi State 21, Kent State 11, Baylor 7, Pittsburgh 6, Oklahoma 4, Kentucky 3, Cornell 3, West Virginia 3, Western Kentucky 1, Kansas State 1, Saint Mary's 1


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (3/10)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


Among the many standouts, Modesto Christian's 6-foot-7 junior Reeves Nelson, for the second year in a row, often looks like a man against boys. The UCLA recruit is a multidimensional offensive force: The kid can handle, rebound, pass and shoot. At approximately 225-230 pounds, Nelson is a good athlete with skills. What he does not do is defend – not a lick, other than an occasional step into a passing lane or blocking a shot. However, that will change in a major way as long as Ben Howland remains UCLA's coach. Sac Bee 3/4

Those who didn't get there early didn't get in, as about 150 people were left standing outside - but they could still hear the hooting and hollering as Jrue Holiday put on a show in an 85-22 victory.
The 6-foot-4, UCLA-bound senior scored 26 points with 12 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and three steals, becoming only the second player in area history to surpass 2,600 career points.
In four seasons, Holiday has 2,605 points, trailing only Mitchell Butler, who scored 2,682 points for Oakwood of North Hollywood from 1986 to 1989. Daily News 3/4

Junior forward Reeves Nelson opened the game with dunks on consecutive possessions on his way to a game-high 33 points. Senior swingman D.J. Seeley finished with 27 points — including a 15-point outburst in the second quarter.
"Nelson and Seeley, they're just physical specimens," Chieftains coach Paul Alioto said. "We knew coming in they had more talent. We were hoping our 13 guys could stop their two, but it didn't happen. They just wore us out." Monterey Herald 3/5

Drew Gordon
made a surprise entrance for Mitty in its 71-51 victory over visiting Shasta. He scored 12 points in eight minutes during his first game back since breaking his left foot Jan. 18.
The Monarchs advance to the NorCal semifinals in Division II where they will play host to Hayward on Thursday. Mercury News 3/4

It's never easy going up against Campbell Hall of North Hollywood star Jrue Holiday, and nobody has to convince teammate Dallas Rutherford. The two go head-to-head every day, and Rutherford is a much better player for it.
"I take it as a challenge," Rutherford said. "It's made a big difference guarding him in practice every day."
It's not easy for Holiday, either.
"He works me," Holiday said. "Dallas can score. He can pretty much score on anybody, and he's been doing it all year." Daily News 3/5

Mitty, with the return of 6-foot-9 UCLA-bound forward Drew Gordon, outsized the Farmers in the post. Gordon finished with 15 points in limited action, but his partner, 6-6 guard Collin Chiverton, finished with 25 points. Inside Bay Area 3/6

Modesto Christian 87, Kennedy 72: The Eagles' Jonathon Williams scored a team-high 41 points, but the host Crusaders countered with 43 from DJ Seeley and 27 from Reeves Nelson in this semifinal.
Modesto Christian jumped out to a 22-8 lead in the first quarter behind Seeley and Nelson, who scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, in the opening period.
"We started out in a zone trying to get Reeves (Nelson) off the block and we started to tripling him and that's when the other kid Seeley started to shoot over the top of our guards," Kennedy coach Michael Booker said. "Then we tried to double on (Seeley) and then Nelson starts going off." Contra Costa Times 3/6

To get his product out, Keating goes global. His Web site ( is replete with a blog and sales pitch to attend Santa Clara. His recruiting tactics keep pace with today's youth. Keating sends instant messages on his Blackberry. At UCLA, he got Kevin Love and Malcolm Lee to commit through online instant messaging. SF Chronicle 3/6

Collin Chiverton had 26 points and nine rebounds to lead Archbishop Mitty of San Jose past Fairfield 76-56 and win the boys Division II Northern California championship Saturday at Arco Arena.
The Monarchs (32-1) also got 20 points and nine rebounds from Drew Gordon, who blocked five shots. Chiverton will play for St. Mary's in the fall, and Gordon, who has battled a stress fracture this season, will go to UCLA.  The Monarchs will face the Southern California champion in the Division II boys title game Friday at Arco Arena. Mercury News 3/6

Brew's tenacious second-half play silenced D.J. Seeley, allowing the Panthers to pull away for an 82-70 win over Modesto Christian and the Northern California Division IV championship....Seeley finished with 18 points, including four treys, while 6-7 junior Reeves Nelson scored 27. Nelson also tied the NorCal D-IV championship-game record with 12 field goals and 17 rebounds.
While MC (29-5) might have had the two best players on the court, St. Mary's (32-1) had the better team. Modesto Bee 3/9

The highlight of the night - maybe even the season - came with about four minutes to go in the game. Dallas Ruther- ford had the ball in the open court. Jrue Holiday trailed the break. Rutherford spotted him for a perfect alley-oop pass.
Holiday could have thrown it down and given the 2,000 or so fans who had made the drive to Mater Dei High to watch Campbell Hall of North Hollywood demolish San Joaquin Memorial 76-45 in the Southern California Regional Div.IV championship one more monster dunk.
Instead, he turned in mid-air, flipped the ball back over his head and into the arms of James Johnson, who slammed it home.
That's the play those in attendance Saturday night will remember. The play they will tell people about when others ask if Holiday, Campbell Hall's all-everything UCLA-bound guard, is really that good.
It was the most impressive, sure. The most athletic, definitely.
But the play that showed why Holiday is a name people should remember, the reason he should be able to play basketball for as long as he chooses to, happened a lot earlier in the night.
Holiday had missed a layup, a tough runner with his left hand. He tried to follow the shot, but couldn't grab the rebound. So he hustled downcourt, got into his defensive stance, clapped his hands loudly, three times, and stared into the eyes of his opponent.
The kid looked terrified.
"I always said, 'If Jrue makes a mistake, God help the kid he's guarding." Daily News 3/9

Archbishop Mitty got out of the blocks quickly against Fairfield on Saturday night at Arco Arena, as Collin Chiverton drained a three-pointer to ignite an early run featuring inside baskets from Enoch Andoh and John Adams.
A few minutes later, Coach Brian Eagleson brought in Drew Gordon and the Monarchs hit full stride.
The 6-foot-9 senior was his usual athletic self, working the ball inside for dunks and wreaking havoc on defense as Mitty rolled to a 76-56 victory in the Division II NorCal boys basketball final.
Mitty (32-1) will get a rematch of last year's Division II state final when it faces defending champion Mater Dei (34-1) at 8 p.m. Friday at Arco Arena.
Immediately after entering the game with five minutes left in the first quarter, Gordon blocked a shot. Seconds later, he thrilled the crowd with an emphatic one-handed slam on a putback.
It was his best game since returning last week from a broken foot that sidelined him for nearly all of the regular season. Gordon played 22 minutes and scored 20 points, with two dunks, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots.
"What a lift that is having Drew come off the bench," Eagleson said. "With each day back he is getting in better shape and becoming stronger." Mercury News 3/9


Fairfax High School's Renardo Sidney, largely considered to be the top junior center prospect in the country, had 21 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks in the third-seeded Lions' 66-54 win over sixth-seeded Etiwanda on Tuesday. If only his numbers said half as much as the pictures.
The agile 6-foot-10, 260-pound junior was effective from 20 feet all the way in during his 10-for-16 shooting performance.
"He's the best player Etiwanda has played in 12 years," Eagles coach Dave Kleckner said. "You can't front him because they'll lob over the top. You can't play behind him because he'll back you down. He can shoot the 3 but if you come out and defend it, he'll put it on the floor. He's got soft hands and great touch. I can't even think of anyone to compare him to."  SB Sun 3/4

Renaissance Academy (25-3) will play in Thursday's Southern California
regional semifinals.
A put-back basket by Anthony Stover gave the Wildcats a 47-42 advantage
with 3:34 to play in the fourth quarter, but Bryce Jones' layup cut the
lead to 47-46 with 1½ minutes to play....
Justin Cook led the Wildcats with 14 points, and Stover had 12 points,
13 rebounds and six blocks. Pasadena Star News 3/4

And finally, there were a few potential recruits at Monday night's game with Pitt, but perhaps the most significant guy on West Virginia's radar was in Hartford Saturday when the Mountaineers lost to Connecticut. Ater Majok, a 6-foot-10 forward, was making a visit to UConn, but he has West Virginia on his radar, too, along with Kentucky, UCLA, Maryland and Kansas. Charleston Gazette 3/5

Menlo-Atherton saw its season end in a 65-60 loss to host Rocklin on Tuesday night in the opening round of the CIF NorCal Division II playoffs. The Bears (21-11) were seeded No. 7 while Rocklin was No. 2.
Brendan Lane, a 6-10 center who has drawn interest from Stanford, led the Thunder with 22 points. The Bears weren't intimidated by Lane, however, and held a 38-33 halftime lead as Lane had just seven points. Lane, however, produced nine of his 15 second-half points in the fourth quarter to help shoot down the Bears' hopes. Palo Alto Online 3/5

Forward Ater Majok, one of the top unsigned players in the Class of 2008, is being recruited heavily by UConn. The 6-foot-9, 215-pound power forward is scheduled to attend UConn's game against Cincinnati Saturday, but got a sneak preview of the Huskies Thursday night.
Majok, a native of the Sudan who currently attends high school in Australia, attended Thursday's game at the Dunkin' Donuts Center as a guest of the Friars. Providence, perhaps like UConn, is also interested in Majok's 6-foot-7, 17-year-old cousin, Majok Majok.
Both young men are in the United States to visit various colleges. The duo attended Wednesday night's Syracuse-Seton Hall game.
The elder Majok is considering UConn, Baylor,
Maryland, Kansas and West Virginia, among others. He attends American International School in Carlingford, Australia. Conn Post 3/6

With the win, Renaissance Academy (26-3) advanced to the regional final against Price on Saturday at Mater Dei High.
Renaissance forced the Eagles (25-6) into numerous turnover early, while 6-foot-10 junior center Anthony Stover clogged the middle with perfection.
Stover, collected 12 blocks to go along with 13 points and seven rebounds.
"Every time someone shoots, I'm going to go after it because that's pretty-much what I do," Stover said. "This was the first time in a while that we got up and down the floor and played Renaissance basketball, and I was happy to see it. Daily News 3/6

Fairfield a 62-59 win over Rocklin in a Northern California Division II basketball semifinal. Fairfield jumped to a 21-14 lead early in the second quarter, but Rocklin, which was led by Brendan Lane's 19 points, scored the final seven points of the period to lead 32-28.
Lake, however, was the one constant Rocklin could not counter. He scored a game-high 29 points, and Fairfield made four three-pointers during the third quarter. Sac Bee 3/7

Top-ranked Bishop McGuinness defeated eighth-ranked Southeast 80-63 in the class 4A state championship game Saturday afternoon at Jim Norick State Fair Arena.
This is the third consecutive title for the Irish (26-4). In addition, McGuinness has now won basketball and football championships in back to back seasons.
All five starters for the Irish finished in double figures. Ryan Randolph finished with a team high 19 points.
Daniel Orton and Jeffrey Merritt both scored 14 points for McGuinness.
Orton, a 6-10 junior center, also had 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots before fouling out with 4:16 left. Tulsa World  3/8

The Dons couldn't pull away but never seemed in danger of losing control of things as they knocked off the Riverside Martin Luther King Wolves, 83-74, in the CIF Southern California Regional Division I final.
The victory improved Coach Russell Otis' team's record to 32-2 and earned the Dons a spot in next Saturday night's state title game in the Arco Arena in Sacramento....
Forward Jordan Hamilton scored 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Dons, who won the CIF Southern Section I-AA title a week ago Saturday night in the Honda Center by handing Mater Dei its first loss of the season. Press Telegram 3/9

Renaissance Academy of LaCanada's Anthony Stover, who is averaging 7.4 blocked shots per game heading into the CIFState Div. V basketball championship next weekend at Arco Arena in Sacramento, has a secret weapon (besides being 6-foot-10, which helps a lot): He jumps rope for 15 minutes before every game.
"It seems to help my timing a lot," Stover said.
In Saturday's 55-52 victory over Price of Los Angeles in the Southern California Regional championship at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Stover was limited to two points (and one blocked shot) in just 14minutes because of foul trouble. Daily News 3/9

The Longhorns had two high school recruits visiting: Renardo Sidney, a junior from Los Angeles, and Wesley Witherspoon, a senior from the Atlanta area. ranks Sidney as the top junior in the country. Statesman 3/9

(photo credit: Modesto Bee)