Saturday, March 22, 2008

Love Carries Bruins To Sweet 16

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Say all you want about UCLA's play the past few weeks. One thing people can all agree upon?

They just know how to win!

Kevin Love scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help UCLA rally from a ten point second-half deficit to beat a tough Texas A&M team, 53-49, and advance to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament

After allowing 56% field goal shooting in the opening half, the UCLA defense clamped down in the second half as the Bruins slowly chipped away at the Aggies big lead.

Love's 10 foot fadeaway jumper with three minutes remaining tied the game at 45-45. Then with 1:37 left, Love got the ball again on the left side and hit a step back 12 foot shot to put the Bruins ahead 47-45.

Darren Collison scored on two tough lay-ups to keep the Bruins ahead. Then with 8 seconds remaining and the Bruins still up by just two, Texas A&M guard Donald Sloan drove down the lane but his shot was blocked by Josh Shipp who got the ball to Russell Westbrook for a thunderous dunk to end the game.

"That was vintage Darren Collison," Howland said. "Driving down the lane, going right, high off the glass, kissing it in. The second one was really a blessing because that thing kind of rolled in had for us. And, believe me, I'm very thankful."

Collison scored 21 points and almost single-handedly kept the Bruins in the contest with his key three-point shots. He finished 5 of 8 from beyond the arc.

"Once the time clock goes zero, zero, we'll stop playing," Collison said. "We've been through that all season. We knew what we had to do; we knew who was going to win, and all the coaches said we just had to do the right things to win the game."

UCLA struggled offensively, especially in the first half, against a very physical Texas A&M defense. Three Bruin starters, Josh Shipp, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Russell Westbrook shot a cominbed 4 of 18 for a mere 9 points. Collison and Love accounted for 40 of UCLA's 53 points or 75% of the team's offensive output.

But Howland praised the three starters for their other contributions in the game.

"It was Josh's defensive play at the end of the game," Howland said. "Russell gets a dunk. That's one of his three baskets. Josh made the play down the stretch, and he made a couple of rebounds. Luc did not play well today, and you could tell from a week off, from not playing, especially in a game, it hurts you. But he steps up and makes big rebounds down the stretch."

Moreover, UCLA Coach Ben Howland shortened his bench considerably in this game with reserves Alfred Aboya, James Keefe, and Lorenzo Mata-Real combining for just 20 minutes of action. The bench provided just 4 points and 1 rebound.

While Texas A&M's defense held the Bruins down in the first half, its offense was effective in breaking down the Bruin defense off the dribble drive. Aggies guard Donald Sloan repeatedly got into the paint for easy scores, he finished with 12 points.

In the second half, the Bruins stopped doubling and trapping the Aggies and went straight up against them, and it proved successful as they held the Aggies to just 30.8% shooting in the half.

Kevin Love had a career-high 7 blocks in the game which helped to key the Bruins' defensive turnaround in the second half.

"That was reminiscent of a lot of games we seem to be in lately, where we're having to make dramatic comebacks in the last few minutes," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "But the one thing that I love about our team is that they know in their heart they're always going to win the game. They're going to find a way."

UCLA advances to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year under Coach Ben Howland. They will play the winner of the game between No.12 seed Western Kentucky and No.13 seed University of San Diego.

The West Region Sweet 16 games will be played in Phoenix, Arizona.

(photo credit: AP)


UCLA vs. Texas A&M Post-Game Press Conference Notes


March 22, 2008

Darren Collison
Ben Howland
Kevin Love


THE MODERATOR: We'll lead off with a statement from Coach Howland and then open it up to questions for the student athletes, then questions for Coach Howland.

COACH HOWLAND: Well, that was reminiscent of a lot of games we seem to be in lately, where we're having to make dramatic comebacks in the last few minutes, but the one thing I love about our team is that they know in their heart they're always going to win the game. They're going to find a way.

And we did not play well the first 35 minutes. That had a lot to do with Texas A&M and how well they played. They are a very, very good team and very well coached. They took advantage on us in a lot of different areas. They shot a very high-percentage the first half.

I thought the first ten minutes our defense really tightened, but we did a much better job. Obviously there were huge shots down the stretch for us. Kevin's two little fall-aways were incredible shots. Speak of horse shots, those were like horse shot plays, unbelievable with that kind of, you know, stuff on the line there. Your season's on the line, and you can step up and make those plays, that's why he is a great player.

And Darren's two plays down the stretch, Darren really kept us in the game initially by all his threes. They were giving him threes. They were going underneath the ball screens and saying, that's how you're going beat us, so he did a great job of reading that. But I'm just really pleased we were able to sneak out of here with a win.

These are the kind of games you have to come out on top to be able to advance in this tournament. The seedings mean absolutely nothing in the NCAA tournament. So for anybody who doesn't understand that by now with all the different games that are going on and going every year, this is another class example.

A 1-9 seed, and the margin between these two teams that played today is very, very slight. Obviously the work we did in the regular season, and therefore playing close to home, was a big advantage for us as we made our comeback.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes?

Q. On the last Texas A&M shot there was a little confusion as to who blocked it and how it was blocked. Could you tell us the details of what happened underneath?

KEVIN LOVE: Well, you know, I saw him driving in there -- was it Sloan that was driving in there? I saw him fake it to the basket. There was only a few seconds left. I was going to try to step up and block it. I thought I had the right timing, but I think it was Josh who stepped up and blocked it. So many things were going down, and it was down to the wire that I didn't understand or see who blocked it, but after the game in the locker room we were talking and it was Josh, and he made a great play.

Q. Kevin, can you describe how physical the battle was down low with DeAndre and Jones?

KEVIN LOVE: Well, it was pretty physical. I would definitely say it's up there with Stanford, with the Lopez twins, and also Brockman and Wallace from Washington as well.

It was a very physical game. We expected that all along. Coach Howland was stressing that throughout the week. Since we beat Mississippi Valley State, he said it's going be probably the most physical game of the year, and it was right up there.

Q. Kevin, as Ben alluded to, you guys had worked all year with the idea of getting here for the first round. Having that crowd and having the noise level the way it was and the support that they gave you, how much -- how instrumental was that in putting you guys over the top? Would you have won this game if you had played it in another site?

KEVIN LOVE: I don't really know if we would have. You want to answer that one, Coach?


KEVIN LOVE: He said, yes, so I'm going to say yes too.

COACH HOWLAND: One thing that just popped out at me as I was looking at the stat sheet here that -- it's incredible that I didn't even know, because we just came right from the locker room out to here. There's a time constraint and everything. Eight blocked shots by Kevin today. He almost had a triple-double with rebounds, points and blocks.

Now he is not known as a shot blocker, per se, but that's pretty incredible. Eight blocked shots is big time.

Q. Speaking of the blocks, you had two underneath and then got the ball, got a foul and went over to the fans and kind of was pretty pumped up at that point. Did you feel like that right there was the moment that really got y'all's engines revving and got you going?

KEVIN LOVE: It's tough to say. I just wanted to get the crowd on our side. I wanted to get the momentum going for us. I felt like at that time the momentum was going our way. I just, you know, basketball's an emotional game, whether you like to show it or not. I was just very into it.

I think I flexed so much, my muscles kind of hurt after this, and also I stuck my tounge out so much that, you know, it was pretty crazy.

Q. They outscored you 26-6 in the paint in the first half. What adjustments, what changes did y'all make in the second half?

KEVIN LOVE: They were just more physical than us in the first half. You know, they played a very, very good game, and they're physical inside. They got a lot of players, four or five players 6'9" or taller. That's a team -- I think they're 25-7, and they kind of underachieved for the year, but they're a very, very good team.

Like Coach Howland said, for being the nine seed all the way down to us, a one seed, there wasn't much of a difference in our teams. They are very, very talented and very well coached.

Q. You guys were down ten points early in the second half to a team that was playing well. Did you at any time think, my God we could blow it here? And at what point did you think, okay, we got it?

DARREN COLLISON: It was still a ball game to be played. Once that buzzer goes zero, zero, the time clock goes zero, zero that's when we'll stop playing. We've been through that all season. Ever since I've been here we've been through adversity, especially in the tournament. So there's not quitting.

We had some games coming into the tournament where we've been down; We just stayed focused. We knew what we had to do; we knew who was going to win, and all the coaches said we just had to do the right things to win the game.

Q. You scored 40 of your team's 53 points between the two of you. Did you feel like you had to shoulder the load more than normal?

DARREN COLLISON: The plays are designed for us. We had to create -- whether it was me on the ball screens creating for myself or my teammates, or whether it was Kevin getting it down low and getting an easy shot down low. The plays are designed for us; can't be any better way, and we just took advantage of it.

Q. And sort of a follow-up to that, Kevin. Is there a point in the game where you sort of said, I'm the main thing that's working today, and I sort of have to take the team on my back and try to win this game? I know you are not trying to score every point, but the way things were going, did you ever sort of feel you might have to come through to win the game?

KEVIN LOVE: I felt like I had to get on the offensive boards, defensive glass as much as I could. Rather than that I was just finding the openings. The same thing with Darren as well. We did score 40 out of the team's 53 points, but it's team game. I'm never trying to be bigger than the team. I just found openings. The fall-away two buckets at the end felt good for me. Darren found the seam in the lane and hit big shots. So those last four shots are very, very big shots.

Q. Darren, you've played in Final Fours, you played against Gonzaga and Oakland. Can you rank this game as far as game pressure in the last five minutes or so and also the atmosphere?

DARREN COLLISON: I think it's been the same every second round game since I've been here. My first year we played against Alabama; it was pretty much like this, and Indiana last year. Like Coach says, the seedings right now, it doesn't matter who we play. Every team is going to give it their best shot. Today against Texas A&M, that's a very good team, it just shows everybody who plays is capable and tough.

Q. Kevin, speaking of your last minute shots there, what your coach called horse shots, describe what goes through your mind as you lean back for a shot like that?

KEVIN LOVE: I'm just looking at the back of the rim just trying to put it through the basket. You kind of dream about shots like that. You know, advancing to the next round, hitting big shots for your team. I just wanted to help us put us over the top any way that I possibly could.

It happened to be scoring. Other times it's passing, rebounding, taking charges. But, you know, what's going through my mind on those, I'm just, you know, praying that I make them and, you know, it goes through the basket.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions for the student athletes? Thank you, gentlemen. Good luck in the next round.

Questions for Coach Howland?

Q. Could you talk about the difference in the paint between the two halves?

COACH HOWLAND: Well, I thought a lot of their points in the first half were actually off of ball screens, where Sloan was getting into the paint and creating shots for himself and for others. I thought that DeAndre Jordan came in and hurt us around the basket. He is big and long, and it's a really, really good Aggie team.

We knew that last year with our tough experience against them here a year ago, and I think they're better than they were a year ago; at least, against us they were for sure, because we're a better team, and they were handling us for a lot of that game.

Second half, especially the last ten minutes, we did a better job of hedging and staying with our hedge in the middle of the floor, and that's a little adjustment we made, to tell Kevin stay there and hold it longer, because he was just dancing around them.

Then when he got in the paint, we were matched up. Lorenzo got matched up and fell down. Kevin got beat a couple times with Sloan coming at him, so we probably should have read it, should have doubled it, but maybe we'll have to look at that in the future.

Q. They were saying you lost your voice, so obviously it was pretty loud out there. Going back to my earlier question about the atmosphere here and the support you got from this crowd and, you know, it probably did help push you over the top, that's something you guys have used all year as motivation.
Is that something that can reinforce it in the future, if you tell your guys, hey, this is what we're playing for, and this is the result, this is what can happen?

COACH HOWLAND: You want to come talk to our team, Jim? (Laughing). We meet again on Tuesday. That's pretty good. I'm impressed.

Q. I've been coaching from press row for years, so you know how that goes?

COACH HOWLAND: What we talked about after the game was that, you know -- and the same thing's been true, we're getting everybody's best game. It doesn't matter if we're at home or on the road. We've actually played better on the road than we have at home. And, you know, when the backs are more against the wall, and it's us against the world mentality, every game in this tournament is hard.

And that's why this is the greatest sporting event in all of American sports is because anybody can beat anybody. There's the little guy, the big guy, I mean the San Diego win over UCONN yesterday was incredible. The Western Kentucky win, unbelievable. That's why this thing's so great when you just look at following all the scores.

I mean, Belmont comes this close to upsetting a great Duke team. We knew it would be a dogfight. Every game is tough, and we understand that.

Q. Coach, everyone's talked about Kevin's two shots, but could you discuss Darren's two baskets at the end of his drives, and was that planned so he would maybe get fouled and get to the line?

COACH HOWLAND: Actually that was vintage Darren Collison. Driving down the lane, going right, high off the glass, kissing it in. The second one was really a blessing because that thing kind of rolled in had for us. And, believe me, I'm very thankful.

Q. Can you just talk about how frustrating it is when two of your people who you depend on scoring just had off nights, Shipp and Westbrook? They had very difficult times scoring in the first half, and even to a large extent the second half. How do you deal with that?

COACH HOWLAND: Well, you know, you are always going to have games where certain players may have an off night, but when you have a good defensive team, and they both played great defense, you stay in games and you find a way.

And really talking about it, it was Josh's defensive play up to -- at the end of the game, Russell gets a dunk. That's one of his three baskets. Josh made the play down the stretch, and he made a couple of rebounds. Luc did not play well today, and you could tell from a week off, from not playing, especially in a game, it hurts you.

But he steps up and makes big rebounds down the stretch. Russell made big plays down the stretch. So some people only see things from an offensive standpoint; whereas, I see the complete game. And at the end of the day these guys helped us win.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions for Coach? Thank you, Coach. Good luck in the next round.


On To The Sweet 16!

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score | AP Recap

UCLA 53 - Texas A&M 49


Friday, March 21, 2008

UCLA vs. Texas A&M - Tourney Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

After easily disposing of its opening round opponent, top-seed UCLA gets its first test of the tournament when it faces No.9 seed Texas A&M on Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

UCLA (32-3) downed Mississippi Valley State, 70-29, on Thursday to advance to the second-round. Freshman Kevin Love scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds as the Bruins held the Delta Devils to an anemic 19.7% field goal shooting.

The Aggies (25-10) advanced to the second-round by defeating No.8 seed BYU, 67-62. Texas A&M junior Josh Carter led the Aggies with a career-high 26 points and making 6 of 10 three-pointers. Senior center Joseph Jones added 10 points and 12 rebounds.

UCLA and Texas A&M have faced two common opponents this season. The Aggies beat Washington at home, 77-63, and lost to Arizona, 78-67, in Tempe.

The teams are familiar with each other and the arena setting. The Bruins edged the Aggies, 65-62, last season in the Wooden Classic at the Honda Center.

Texas A&M has undergone some changes since last season, although much of its roster remains the same. Head Coach Billy Gillispie left the Aggies after last season to join Kentucky and Mark Turgeon from Wichita State was hired in his place. Acie Law, now in the NBA, was the team's captain and leading scorer.

The 2007-08 Texas A&M team misses the leadership and point-guard play of Law, however, its a team with more size and depth on the front line.

Similar to last season, the Aggies are a very physical team, like the Bruins, they bump cutters and hedge screens aggressively and play a tough man-to-man defense. In addition, they are an excellent rebounding club, out-rebounding teams by +7.2 margin per game.

UCLA's 6'9 freshman star Kevin Love should expect to get a lot of attention from the Aggies who sport four players taller than 6'9 in its regular rotation. Its expected they will expend all their fouls to battle Love underneath.

Center Joseph Jones (6'9, 255, Sr) has not had the type of senior season some expected of him. Inconsistent most of the season, he's averaging 10.4 points on 48.9% field goal shooting, both well off his career numbers. Jones is averaging just 5.3 rebounds in 24.3 minutes. However when his game is on and he's active, Jones can be difficult for an opponent to defend. He possesses a good short-range jumper and can finish strong around the basket.

Starting at power forward is another 6'9 big man, Bryan Davis (6'9, 250, So) who is averaging 8.7 points on 52.6% shooting and 5.0 rebounds. One of the team's top shot blockers at 1.1 per game in 22.7 minutes, Davis is a good help defender who will work to keep Kevin Love in check.

Off the bench, the Aggies bring in two even longer players in DeAndre Jordan (7'0, 260, Fr) and Chinemelu Elonu (6'10, 235, So).

Jordan, a high school phenom, was expected to be an impact player this season, however, he has fallen out of favor recently with Coach Turgeon, averaging just 5 minutes over the last three games. At 7'0 and wide wing-span, he can change shots in the paint. He's averaging 8.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks a game. Jordan and Kevin Love are good friends and often faced each other in AAU play.

UCLA's 6'8 forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute sat out his second straight game on Thursday due to a sprained left ankle. He has been working out at full speed in practice and will be in the starting line-up against the Aggies. The Bruins will certainly need his size, along with Lorenzo Mata-Real, Alfred Aboya, and James Keefe, to help Love manage play underneath.

Texas A&M's leading scorer Josh Carter (6'7, 200, Jr) is averaging 12.3 points and hits on 37.9% from beyond the arc. He's a streaky outside shooter who can carry his team offensively, as he did against BYU with 6 of 10 three-pointers. Carter can also slash and get into the paint to finish around the basket.

UCLA's Russell Westbrook will likely get the tough assignment of shadowing Carter. Despite giving up four inches in height, Westbrook has the physical skills to keep the ball out of Carter's hands and strength to prevent him from getting into the key. If Westbrook is unable to deal with Carter's size advantage then perhaps Coach Howland could use Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but his gimpy ankle may challenge him to keep up with Carter.

In the backcourt the Aggies sport two combo guards in Donald Sloan (6'3, 205, So) and Dominique Kirk (6'4, 185, Sr). Kirk averages 8.6 points and 3.5 assists. He is the team's top three-point percentage shooter at a solid 42.2%. Sloan averages 9.4 points and 3.5 assists. Both players take good care of the ball although not stellar playmakers. Darren Collison's pressure on the ball will be a key to UCLA's success tomorrow.

This will be a defensive slugfest similar to last year's Wooden classic. The Bruins need to check the Aggies best offensive skilled player, Josh Carter. Usually as Carter goes, so does the Aggies' offense.

It will be extremely physical underneath, and Kevin Love is expecting it.

"Coach Howland said last year was an all-out battle, all-out war against them," Love said. "So I'm just going to have to go in there, and even if I get fouled hard, whether it is a flagrant foul, I'm just going to have to keep my mind on the game and not feed into that stuff."

UCLA will need to bring its "A" game tomorrow from the start with tough defensive pressure on the perimeter and good rotations down low.

Texas A&M's defense-alone can keep the Aggies in contention all game long, and if it's offense comes together then they can become a very tough match-up for the Bruins tomorrow.

Game Snapshot
Second Round NCAA Tournament
UCLA vs Texas A&M
Time: 6:15 PM PT
Place: Honda Center, Anaheim CA
Radio: TBA

(photo credit: Aggies Athletics)


Coach John Wooden Returns Home From Rehab Center

By Bruin Basketball Report

Coach John Wooden went home from a rehabilitation center Friday, having regained his strength after the 97-year-old UCLA coaching great broke his left wrist and collarbone in a fall at home.

Wooden was hospitalized Feb. 29 and sent to the rehab center March 11. He had been doing daily exercises to strength his limbs.

His daughter, Nan Muehlhausen, through a UCLA spokesman, asked the public to continue respecting her father's privacy.

Wooden planned to watch on television when top-seeded UCLA plays Texas A&M on Friday night in a second-round NCAA


Press Conference Notes: Coach Howland and Players on Texas A&M


Ben Howland
Darren Collison
Kevin Love
Josh Shipp


THE MODERATOR: We'll open up the floor to questions.

Q. Just going back to last year's game, when you played these guys obviously you've added Kevin since then. They've lost Acie, they have a new coach, so it's not a really fair comparison in a sense, but what do you kind of expect this game to come down to, based on what you've seen?

DARREN COLLISON: I think they'll use it as a motivation for this year's game. It was a close game. Went down to the wire. Both teams could have easily won it. I thought we played really excellent down the stretch last year, as I remember. The difference now is we got Kevin, so think it's going to be a lot more easier. Doesn't mean we can't play hard. We are going to play hard.

It just comes down to us being physical with them. We got to be able to match their intensity. If we do that, we should be all right.

Q. Kevin, just obviously that is going to be a key to the game is they're going to -- they've said they're going shuttle a bunch of guys in to deal with you. You just expect to pretty much get pounded? Are you mentally, you know, thinking that way right now?

KEVIN LOVE: Yes. And Coach Howland actually talked about that with me, that they're going to send a few guys in, and they are going to pound on me. I think I counted it was four or five guys over 6'9", and those guys are physical inside.

And Coach Howland said last year was an all-out battle, all-out war against them. So I'm just going to have to go in there, and even if I get fouled hard, whether it is a flagrant foul, I'm just going to have to keep my mind on the game and not feed into that stuff.

Q. Kevin, DeAndre was talking a lot about y'all's relationship. Do you just talk about how you see him and what kind of friendship y'all have?

KEVIN LOVE: He is a great friend of mine. I've known him since about seventh or eighth grade; we've been playing against each other. We've been texting each other back and forth now. I just saw him before I came here. He is a great player. He's going to have a great run. I hope I get to play against him a little bit tomorrow.

And when he decides to go to the NBA, whenever that is, I think he's going to be a lock for a top-five pick, just because he has the size, has the athleticism, and he is a great kid. So I wish the best for him, and we've been good friends for a long time.

Q. And I think its fair to say, he hasn't had the season that many projected him to have and stuff. I mean, how much have you talked to him this year? How frustrated was he at the way it all went for him?

KEVIN LOVE: Well, you know, if I was the coach -- I was talking to Coach Howland today, asking why he didn't recruit him. I know his mom pretty well. I know they wanted to stay close to home, but if I would have -- I would have had him in there. He is a great player. He is a great friend of mine as well, so I would have had him playing, definitely.

Q. Kevin, can you talk about, as close as you and DeAndre are, as good as your friendship is, how well you know each other's game as you play against each other tomorrow?

KEVIN LOVE: I think the last time we played against each other was probably the Round Ball Classic in Chicago my senior year. And, you know, he is the type of guy that, you know, you put up a shot, he is going to contest every single one.

He changes every shot, and what it comes down to when he gets picked in the NBA draft, he might be something like an Andrew Bynum. People might pick him as like a project, but he's got a lot of upside, and I think he can do a lot of great things.

Q. Darren, can you talk about their guards and what sort of problems they pose for you guys? And does it matter that they can shuttle guards in and out, because they're pretty deep that way.

DARREN COLLISON: Just like the inside game, their perimeter is just as good. They got a lot of good shooters. Coach was talking about one of their players that Russ is going to be guarding that we have to step up and contain. Me and Josh are going to be having a load on our hands. If we continue the pressure like we've been doing last couple games, we should be all right.

We can't let them get no easy shots. We can't leave nobody, and we just got to contain them throughout the whole game.

Q. You guys haven't had Luc the last couple games. Do you think just having him -- him having to sit out and watch from the sidelines, do you think he's going be bringing it extra hard tomorrow because he hasn't had the chance to play yet and really get in the mix?

DARREN COLLISON: I think Luc's fine. We seen him work earlier today. He looked fine. I don't think there's no holding back. I think Coach Howland is pretty cautious, being on the safe side, so he wouldn't get in the game yesterday. But he is fine. He is ready to go. And I think he's going to help us out a lot.

The last two conference games when we won the conference championship he's been a big part of that. If Luc can play with us, he can help Kevin on the boards and bring a lot more to our perimeter game as well.

Q. I know you don't play Stanford tomorrow, but they have a game also, and you've played them this year with some success. What is the key to playing against the Lopezes, and how do you get the best of them?

KEVIN LOVE: That's a tough question, to get the best of the Lopez twins. They're two trees in there. They're monsters. You have to try to send our whole team at them, pretty much, just to keep them off the boards and make their guards take tough shots and just allow them to try to rebound and limit Brook's touches, because he's going to be another top pick in the draft whenever he decides to go out.

You know, talentwise those two are very, very good players and, you know, when you think you have one up for a shot fake, you step through and the other one's right there waiting for you, so that's a tough question.

Q. Josh, can you talk -- Coach Turgeon was talking about how he thought maybe the first team to 50 points wins this game. Do you feel that way? And after yesterday's 29-point performance, does that sound like some crazy scoring?

JOSH SHIPP: For us, bottom line, we're trying to win games. We don't care what the score is. We're going to come out and play hard defense, and hopefully we can limit teams and not let them score a lot of points. Bottom line is we don't care what the score is as long as we're on top.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions?

Q. Kevin, I hate to be a broken record here, but you know just with your back, have you been trying to like sit down a little extra when you can and when you have been standing up today, are there any spasms or anything like that?

KEVIN LOVE: Not really. But I'm glad you're concerned. (Laughing).

Q. I gotta write with something.

KEVIN LOVE: I hear you. Everything's fine. I practiced on it today. It think the game yesterday was a good test for it. I know I only played 21 minutes; just getting into it and getting a good sweat going was very good for me and very good for my back as well.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions? All right. That will do it. Thank you, gentlemen. Good luck tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open things up with a statement from Coach Howland, then throw it open to questions. Coach, whenever you're ready.

COACH HOWLAND: I'm open for questions.

Q. Does it do any good to look at the film of last year's game with A&M, given all the changes?

COACH HOWLAND: It does from the standpoint, a lot of the personnel is the same. That was the most physical game we played, last season. I mean, no one played us more physical than Texas A&M. I see that in them again this year. So the good thing about it, we showed our players, look that's where they're playing against us a year ago, they can generally get the sense of how big and strong and tough they are and how well they shoot the ball.

Obviously, they're very impressive, and that was a great win over BYU. BYU is a very, very good team. So to beat BYU is obviously an outstanding win.

Q. Ben, can you talk about the way Lorenzo handled Love coming in here and having to give up his position after all this time and being a senior?

COACH HOWLAND: Yeah. Lorenzo's done a great job all year long. He as you know started on last year's Final Four team. I think he started every game, which was impressive in itself, because he's had a lot of injuries over his four-year career. But he's been great all year, very supportive of Kevin. He's helped him learn a lot of things that, you know, a senior would help a freshmen with on the floor, the little things, and been really a good friend to him, a good mentor, and also a great back-up.

They've played together some. As you know, we've played them about eight or ten minutes together in the championship game against Stanford in the conference tournament. But Lorenzo's just had a great attitude from day one. Really proud of him, not only as a player but as a person.

He is going graduate on time, will be the first person in his family to graduate from college; that's pretty special.

Q. Coach, you just mentioned Stanford. I know you don't play them tomorrow, but you've played them and played them well this year. What is the key to matching up against the Lopez brothers? How do you have success?

COACH HOWLAND: You don't match up with the Lopez brothers. There's nobody in college basketball that's matching up about these two big twins. And we were fortunate in that we played them the first game in the conference on the road and played very well that night. That was a big win for us.

I think they've improved dramatically as the season's progressed, especially when you consider Brook missed the first nine or ten games, in terms of their whole team being in sync. We were very fortunate to beat them in the second meeting at Pauley.

We had a free throw with a blessing from God that, you know, hit the back of the rim, the front of the rim and rolled in there by Russell Westbrook. So we had a lot of things go well for us in the last minute of that game. They played very well.

It was really a big win for us to beat them the third time in the conference tournament. I don't think you match up, I think you got to do it as a team. We double the post. That's what we did against them. If you try to play those two one-on-one, I don't think you can because they're just too skilled and too big.

Q. Ben, do you need more out of Josh Shipp?

COACH HOWLAND: Josh has helped us get to 32-3, so I think he is doing a pretty good job. And, you know, we would not be where we are now without Josh. I think Josh has played well and exhibit all year long.

Q. Just kind of wondering how much you're paying attention to what else is happening in your part of the bracket today. Any thoughts on all that?

COACH HOWLAND: Not really. I'm just focused on our next game. Really, I think any time you start to look ahead or -- I haven't watched another game since the tournament's begun. You know, I watch Sports Center at the end of each night and see who's won the games, just because it's hard for me to sleep. But I do understand that San Diego beat UCONN, I think, in overtime, I think, by one, which is a great win for Billy Grier. He is doing a great job in his first year as the head coach, and that's an outstanding win for the University of San Diego. I have great respect for Coach Calhoun and that program, so that's a big-time win.

Q. A lot of the A&M players talked about because of last year's game they're not nervous or concerned about playing UCLA. I wonder how often do you see that anymore in non-conference play or in tournaments like this? How often any more do teams just fold when they see those four letters?

COACH HOWLAND: We don't, unfortunately, get that luxury. I wish someone would do that. What we see typically is a team have their best effort of the year to play their very best game because we're UCLA. And we see that night-in and night-out through our conference and everywhere you go. So that's really made this team a battle-hardened team, when you have everybody giving you their best effort.

Obviously in the NCAA tournament you wouldn't be here unless you are a really good team. Of course Texas A&M's played against a lot of really good programs both in their conference and outside. We know what's in store. It's going to be a very hard fought, tough game.

Q. Coach, you talked about similarities, but there are, you know, Acie Law's gone, Arron's gone, Kevin Love is here now. What kind of differences could that make in tomorrow's game?

COACH HOWLAND: Well, you just named two NBA guards, one from each team that's left and gone to the NBA. So those are both great players. Arron was our best player last year, and Acie Law was their best player. We've added Kevin Love; they've added DeAndre Jordan, who is a very good, fine big man. You look at their team, they've got a lot of players that were here a year ago. They're a year older and a year better.
So it's going to be -- we know how hard it's going to be. It's going to be very, very tough.

Q. How about schemewise when you look at them with the coaching change? What is different about the way Texas A&M plays?

COACH HOWLAND: You know, they're basically two very similar styles from Coach Gillispie to Coach Turgeon. Both man-to-man defense, primarily. [Cell phone rings].
Excuse me, our bus broke down, and so I had to figure out a way to get our team here. So we still got the guys here on time. Thank goodness.

They run motion they do play it inside out. They get it into their bigs. They're obviously a team that has very good shooters, notably Carter, who had six threes last night in their last game against BYU.

They're a very good offensive rebounding team as they were a year ago. So I think they're very similar from one year to the next in terms of the style of play.

Q. You mentioned how DeAndre Jordan is a fine, big man. His production hasn't been quite what people thought it would be this year. What concerns you about him?

COACH HOWLAND: Just the fact that one-on-one he's so big and so long; he scores on you when he gets you angled. He is a good shot blocker. I mean, he is seven feet tall. He poses a lot of problems in terms of changing shots and blocking shots and scoring around the basket.

Q. Coach, where did the bus break down? What went wrong and did you have to get a new one?

COACH HOWLAND: You know, I had to bring three of our players who were due to be here on the podium early. I brought Kevin, Darren and Josh. The bus wouldn't start. It went dead. I'm not sure what's wrong with it, so we had to get four, like, vans from the hotel. We weren't at the hotel; we were at our actual practice. We practiced at a local high school.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions? Okay. Thank you, Coach. Good luck tomorrow.

(photo credit: AP)


Press Conference Notes 1st Round: Ben Howland and Players


Ben Howland
Kevin Love
Lorenzo Mata-Real
Russell Westbrook


THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up with a statement from Coach Howland, then open it up for questions for the student-athletes.

Coach Howland, the floor is yours.

COACH HOWLAND: We really played good defense tonight, obviously. Real pleased with the defense. We had 13 blocked shots; that's a lot of blocked shots. I think when you look at that right now, James had 4, Kevin had 4, Lorenzo had a couple. But more than anything, I'm just pleased with the way that they shot from the field. Shows that we played really hard.

I thought that our players who came off the bench did a good job and gave us good minutes. Questions.

Q. Kevin, tell us about your adventure there at the start of the second half, getting that ball down so the game could go on.

KEVIN LOVE: The guy shot it, and it actually got stuck up there. That actually happened yesterday in the shoot-around. I don't know if you guys could be around even to see that, but we had to knock the ball out of there. The ref just told me he couldn't do it, and I knocked it out. And he told me afterwards I showed him up. I said, you know what, I had to get the ball down somehow.

Q. Kevin, didn't seem like the back was bothering you very much.

KEVIN LOVE: No. I actually got treatment ever since the game was done on Saturday against Stanford. And since then, just been working on it. For the first 30 to 45 minutes, I'd be standing up, and my back would start spasming a little bit more, but I just got some treatment. And also, you know, did a lot of sleeping and a lot of stuff like that, just to rest my back.

But today, it was fine. Had to get a little more loose than usual, but just played through it, and only had to play 21 minutes today. Hope Friday that will help me in the long run.

Q. Just follow up on the back. Are you going to continue this treatment for the foreseeable future?

KEVIN LOVE: Just as a preventative measure. That's probably it. As of right now, it feels fine. Feels 95, 100% I'm just going to keep it going from here on out.

Q. Lorenzo, can you take this one. Did you guys feel a little bit like you were playing your younger brothers or kind of the boys in the school yard against the little kids with all those blocks?

LORENZO MATA-REAL: No. I mean, we just come out and played hard no matter who we're playing. We don't take nobody lightly. No matter who we're playing, we just come out and play the way we do all the time. Our defense dictates what we do. And I feel like, I mean, we played great defense today.

Q. Kevin, what do you guys know about Texas A&M Saturday?

KEVIN LOVE: Coach Howland mentioned they're a very physical team. They have a good friend of mine, DeAndre Jordan, on their team, who is seven foot. He's got a real long wingspan. Their whole team's long. I think he mentioned nobody on their team is below 6'3", so we're going to have to come out and offensive rebound.

Those are things we gave up a lot today in the first half. I think through the first four or five minutes, we had already given up four or six offensive rebounds. We're going have to get on the boards with them because it's going to be a real physical battle.

Q. Kevin, back in November, you talked about getting to this point in the season. What was it like in your first NCAA appearance?

KEVIN LOVE: It was a lot of fun. My teammates and coaches made it fun for me, as well. We had mentioned a bunch of times throughout the week that a 16 seed has never beat a 1 seed, and we didn't want to be the first one.

So we had to come out and jump on them as much as possible. I felt like we did that. Coach Howland also mentioned in the post-game talk that not a team since 1949 hasn't scored that many points, 29 points, so we did a great job on the defensive end.


Q. You were the Defensive Player of the Year in the PAC-10 this year, Russell. And seemed like you had a lot of help out there today. I think you guys had a season-high in blocks with 13. Could you just comment on the team performance defensively.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK: We came out great on defense. We held them to the season low, or whatever, 29 points. It think we did a great job of helping, you know, doubling the post and rotating the defensive end.

Q. Kevin, did you guys almost feel bad for them a little bit toward the end of the game?

KEVIN LOVE: No mercy. That's all I can really say. No mercy out there. We didn't feel too bad for them.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions?
All right. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Good luck on Saturday.

COACH HOWLAND: In reference to that, Stanford Speech came up with me with about seven minutes to go, and he said, "Coach, I hope you guys win the whole thing," and that was really classy of him to do that in the middle of the game.

So they have a bunch of really good kids. They work very hard. A school that is 3,000 people, and those kids are all really good kids. I don't know if you saw one of their kids after the game was crying his eyes out. I mean, it's their last game as a senior. So I would never make light of, or make fun of someone in that way. I think that's, you know, being rude.

Q. Can you talk about the, I don't know if you want to call it emergence, but make something positive out of a possible negative, the emergence, what it seems, of James Keefe. Again, it seems solid minutes there. Do you think you may have gotten some benefit from the Luc injury and forcing James to have more minutes now?

COACH HOWLAND: Well, it gave him an opportunity, obviously, to play more minutes with Luc's injury, starting with the SC game, as well as the championship game against Stanford. Again, he came out and played very well. I think he is gaining a lot of confidence.

Remember, he came into this season off a shoulder surgery, so he didn't even get to start practicing with contact, I don't think, until sometime in the middle of November or maybe even December. I can't remember. But he wasn't even able to be cleared for playing until sometime in mid-December. I think originally, we talked about him playing against Idaho State, and I'm just really thankful that we didn't red-shirt him. Obviously he's been a huge difference-maker, and he's coming on right now. I'm really happy for James. He had seven rebounds and four blocks today.

So I thought we did a lot of good things rebounding-wise, though. Alfred had six rebounds in his minutes. James had seven. Kevin had nine in 21 minutes. So all three of those guys did a very, very good job attacking the glass. And Lorenzo had nine rebounds. So it was spread around pretty good.

Q. But when you are back at full strength, which I guess you're hoping for Saturday. Or at least the next week, assuming you win --

COACH HOWLAND: In reference to your question, I think is that Luc will start on Saturday, for sure. I initially had planned on doing that. And then as I thought about it, I felt comfortable that we would be able to probably get this one without him. I didn't, after giving it more thought. And I think we had a meeting here yesterday. I honestly had planned to start him today until late last night when I had given it a lot of thought.
But, you know, in reference to James, I think his play has earned him more minutes and more potential to play as we move forward into Saturday's game. And we're going to need him.

These guys from Texas A&M, that was the most physical game we played in the last year here in the Wooden, where Jones is just a big, strong kid inside. Davis is huge. They have a kid with an African name that comes off the bench now who is an animal. They're just so strong and athletic.

Obviously, DeAndre Jordan that Kevin alluded to, they have as big a front line, as athletic a front line as there are in the country. Then their wings are 6'5" and 6'6." They really shot, especially Carter. So we have our hands full and we're going to need all.

Q. To get that steal when you were already up 30 --

COACH HOWLAND: I thought it was a great play. What I always preach to our guys is, when you don't get on the floor, and you see it happen all the time when you follow this game, when you don't dive on the floor, that's when you get your knees taken out and you end up with an ACL, by diving on the floor. He actually avoided any kind of injury potential, but that was great. He dove. We got the ball. Then there was a great finish at the other end where I think there was a pass for a layup. And that was really, really nice teamwork and good hustle started by Darren's hustle.

THE MODERATOR: Any further questions? All right. Thank you very much, coach.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bruins Get Light Work Out In First Round Tourney Win

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Top-seed UCLA (32-3) began its trek through the NCAA tournament with a lopsided 70-29 win over a terribly overmatched Mississippi Valley State team.

UCLA held Mississippi Valley State to the lowest point in the tournament since 1946, when Baylor scored 29 in a loss to Oklahoma State. The Delta Devils (17-16) also set a tournament record for fewest points in a first-round game, breaking the mark of 32 by Wisconsin in 1999.

The game result was never in question.

Freshman Kevin Love scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in just the first-half, outscoring the Delta Devils, who managed just 16 points, in the opening half by himself.

Love dominated the action inside, bullying himself into the paint at will. He shot 8 of 15 from the field and also grabbed 9 rebounds to help the Bruins to a resounding 50-29 rebound advantage over Mississippi Valley State.

UCLA dominated on defense holding the Delta Devils to just 19.7% field goal shooting, in addition, the Bruins had a season-high 13 blocked shots. Love and sophomore James Keefe each had 4 blocks.

Keefe started at forward in place of injured junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Mbah a Moute was available and warmed-up with the team, however, UCLA Coach Ben Howland decided to hold him out for the game, one in which Mbah a Moute was definitely not needed.

The sophomore forward, Keefe, had a solid game. In addition to his defense, he grabbed 7 rebounds and scored 4 points including a soaring slam dunk off a turnover.

Howland stated afterwards that Mbah a Moute will likely start the next game for UCLA.

No Bruin played over 26 minutes with Coach Howland emptying his bench midway through the second half. Every UCLA player scored in the game except for DeAndre Robinson.

The UCLA scoring was spread across the entire team, other than Kevin Love, no other Bruin scored in double figures. Russell Westbrook had 9 points and a game-high 7 assists. Off the bench, Lorenzo Mata-Real added 9 points and 9 rebounds.

UCLA shot 47.4% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. Love was 3 of 6 on three-pointers. While it was enjoyable to watch Love hit regularly from long-distance, its not the type of shot one hopes Love will make a habit of taking too many against upcoming opponents - his place is in the low blocks.

The victory sets up a a second-round match-up on Saturday against No.9 seed Texas A&M (25-10), a 67-62 winner over No.8 seed BYU. Coincidentally, UCLA played Texas A&M last year in the Wooden Classic held at the Honda Center.

(photo credit: AP)


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

UCLA vs. Mississippi Valley State - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Top-seed UCLA (31-3) opens NCAA tournament action against No.16 seed Mississippi Valley State (MVS) in a West regional first-round contest in Anaheim.

The Bruins won the Pac-10 tournament championship last week defeating Stanford 67-64. Darren Collison scored 28 points to help UCLA to a three-game series sweep over Stanford.

In the championship game, UCLA center Kevin Love strained his back which limited his action during play. Love has practiced the past couple of days and although the back is still sore he is expected to play on Thursday without any limitations.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute sat out the championship game against Stanford. He re-injured his left ankle in the semifinal game against USC. UCLA Coach Ben Howland said Wednesday afternoon that he thought Mbah a Moute's ankle had recovered enough and stated he might start against MVU. If Mbah a Moute does play on Thursday, one would expect it would be in a limited role.

The Delta Devils (17-15) hail out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The 3,767-student school in Itta Bena, Miss., is best known as the alma mater of Jerry Rice, the NFL's career leading receiver. They earned an NCAA tournament bid after defeating Jackson State, 59-58 to win the SWAC conference tournament and automatic NCAA postseason bid.

UCLA and MVS have had one common opponent this season in Washington State. The Delta Devils were pummeled by the Cougars at Pullman, 71-26. One MVU player, Carl Lucas, scored 18 of his team's 26 points. Moreover, Washington State starters only played half the game with no starter logging more than 22 minutes.

After losing 11 of its first 13 games of the season, MVS settled down and won 15 of its last 19 contests including its last nine games of the season.

MVS is a patient team in the offensive halfcourt and will fastbreak when an opportunity arises. The Delta Devils are shooting just 40.6% from the field and 34.6% on three-pointers while averaging 62.7 points per game. In conference play, their interior size game them an advantage in the paint, however don't expect Delta Devils to do the same against UCLA, MVS will be out-sized and out-talented in the interior against the Bruins.

On the defensive end, MVS plays primarily a man-to-man defense. They allowed 65.8 points on 44.2% shooting. Opponents have outrebounded the Delta Devils by a +1.7 margin.

MVS has a veteran line-up of upperclassmen including three seniors and two juniors.

The team's leading scorer is Carl Lucas (6'5, 210, Sr) who is averaging 12.7 points per game on 44.3% shooting. He is the team's best three-point threat averaging 41.5% from beyond the arc. Lucas was named most valuable player in the SWAC tournament.

Center Larry Cox (6'10, 225, Sr) gives MVS a serious low-post threat. The senior is averaging 12.4 points on 51% shooting. Cox leads the team in rebounding with 8.0 per game.

UCLA has way too much going for it in this opening round game. Not only do the Bruins have an overwhelming talent and statistical advantage over MVS at every spot on the floor, it also has some serious history on its side.

No. 1 seeds are 92-0 against No. 16 seeds in the NCAA tournament.

The winner of this game will play the winner of No.8 BYU versus No.9 Texas A&M. The second round game will be played on Saturday.

Game Snapshot

First Round NCAA Tournament
UCLA vs Mississipi Valley State
Time: approx. 6:50PM PT
Place: Honda Center, Anaheim CA
Radio: AM 1150

(photo credit: MVS Athletics)


Holiday Named Gatorade National Player of the Year

By Bruin Basketball Report

Everybody wants a piece of Campbell Hall (North Hollywood, Calif.) Jrue Holiday. An opponent once told him, “Hey Jrue, I hate you. Can I have your wristband?” Holiday, of course, obliged.

“He gave it to him,” said Campbell Hall sophomore Aaron Curry. “That's how nice he is.”

Holiday is an accommodating guy. He signs every autograph, doles out wristbands and gives away just about every award he's ever received to some lucky kid.

So when Holiday was officially named 2007-08 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year during a ceremony in North Hollywood, Calif., on Wednesday, was there any chance he'd part ways with what is arguably the nation's most prestigious honor in high school sports?

“Most definitely not,” said a soft-spoken and smiling Holiday.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior combo guard led his team to a 113-12 record during his four-year varsity career, carrying the Vikings to a second consecutive California Interscholastic Federation Division IV state championship as a senior - the program's third crown in four years.

A two-time Gatorade California Boys Basketball Player of the Year, Holiday averaged 25.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 2.4 blocks per game this season. He recorded 23 double-doubles and five triple-doubles in 36 games for Campbell Hall (31-5).

The kid was a quadruple-double waiting to happen. In a midseason showdown against South Atlanta (Atlanta, Ga.) and Derrick Favors, the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2009, Holiday exploded for 35 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists and nine steals.

He packed the stat sheet again in the Southern California Regional Division IV title game, scoring 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting and collecting 11 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals in a 76-45 victory against San Joaquin Memorial. Holiday then scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds despite battling foul trouble in the 83-61 state championship win over Saint Mary's.

“The one thing all the great players have, whether it's LeBron (James) or Michael (Jordan), is that they rise to the occasion,” said Dana Pump, co-founder of the California-based sports-consulting and club basketball firm Double Pump Basketball. “Jrue does that. He is a special, special player.”

Holiday is an invitee to both the 2008 McDonald's All-American Game and the Jordan Classic. An EA Sports second team All-American selection and PARADE third team All-American as a junior, Holiday was also selected to play in last summer's USA Basketball Youth Development Festival.

“In my opinion, the most talented overall player among the elite players in the country is Holiday,” said USA Basketball Junior Development Committee Chair Don Showalter. “I love the kid. I think he's a great teammate. He makes everybody else better. He's very cacheable, he reacts so well to feedback, and his teammates just absolutely love him - and that's an important thing to note when you're talking about this level of talent.”

Holiday has maintained a B average in the classroom. A member of the school's gospel choir and the percussion section leader in Campbell Hall's orchestra, he also teaches basketball fundamentals to youth players in association with the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer charity and raises funds to benefit cancer research through the Concern Foundation.

In addition to donating his time at Campbell Hall as a tour guide on Perspective Student Days and as team manager for the varsity girls' tennis squad, Holiday has also traveled to Japan as a youth ambassador on behalf of the Shepherd of the Hills Christian Church.

“It has been an honor to have Jrue Holiday play at Campbell Hall,” said Vikings head coach Terry Kelly. “Hopefully, I've helped him become a better player, but I know he has helped me become a better person.”

Rated the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2008 by RISE, Holiday has signed with UCLA. He joins 2008 Pac-10 Freshman and Player of the Year Kevin Love (2006-07) and two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis (1996-97) as UCLA recruits to be named Gatorade National Boys Basketball Players of the Year.

Saying that Jrue Holiday was born to play basketball is actually a bit of an understatement. The son of former Arizona State standouts Shawn and Toya Holiday and younger brother of Washington freshman Justin Holiday, Jrue will become the fourth college basketball player in his immediate family.

“It was rough,” Holiday said of the one-on-one matchups with his older brother. “We'd fight all the time on the court. Off the court, I'm not really that physical. I played against my mom. She liked to post me up a lot. And I play against my dad. I just beat him last summer, but he came back and beat me, though. He's my favorite player. That's where I get my competitiveness from.”

The alma mater of actresses Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Campbell Hall has its share of stars wandering the hallways. Holiday earned his status on the basketball court from day one. He averaged 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a freshman, helping the Vikings to a perfect 32-0 record and the Division IV title.

A year later, his numbers ballooned to 22 points, 8.9 boards and 5.4 assists per contest as Campbell Hall reached the state quarterfinals. As a junior, the Vikings reclaimed the state title thanks to Holiday's 24.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and six assists per game.

Holiday is only the second player in Greater Los Angeles history to surpass 2,600 career points, finishing with 2,666 (trailing Mitchell Butler, who netted 2,682 points for Oakwood from 1986-89). Holiday passed eight-time NBA All-Star Jason Kidd to conclude his career as the state's 14th all-time leading scorer.

Holiday becomes the second boys' basketball player from California to receive national Gatorade honors, joining Davis. Selected from more than 556,000 high school boys' basketball players nationwide, Holiday is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special afternoon ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.

Three of the last four national winners - two-time honorees Greg Oden (2004-05 and 2005-06) and LeBron James (2001-02 and 2002-03) as well as Dwight Howard (2003-04) - were selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. The other? Love, who earned Pac-10 Freshman and Player of the Year honors for UCLA this year.

“It's an honor to hear that it's possible for me to be the No. 1 draft pick in the NBA,” said Holiday, who turns 18 on June 12. “Anything can happen. As long as I keep my head clear and hit the books, then God will take me to whatever heights I'm going to. I never really talked about being an NBA player or a college player. I just really like playing basketball.

“People would go out and play in the summer to try to earn scholarships,” added Holiday. “I really didn't care about it. I would just go out and play every game and leave it all out on the floor, and I guess I had the talent to get into a great college like UCLA.”

Quiet? Yes. Unassuming? Clearly. After all, it wasn't that long ago that the 17-year-old Southern California standout was one of those kids who grew up watching his heroes play basketball.

“Off the court, he might be quiet and mild,” said UCLA assistant coach Donnie Daniels. “On the court, he's an absolute killer.”

The Gatorade Player of the Year awards program recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court. The award distinguishes Holiday as the nation's best high school boys' basketball player in 2007-08.

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls' volleyball, boys' and girls' cross country, boys' and girls' basketball, boys' and girls' soccer, baseball, softball, and boys' and girls' track & field, awarding one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by RISE, which works with top sports-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination informatio


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Kevin Love on Cover of Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated


Brief Update On Injuries To Love and Mbah a Moute

By Bruin Basketball Report

During this afternoon's media teleconference, UCLA Coach Ben Howland gave a very brief injury update on the status of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kevin Love.

Mbah a Moute did not practice today due to a final, however, the junior forward was shooting around after practice. Howland had not personally seen Mbah a Moute today and could not provide any further detail on the ankle injury.

The team did not practice Sunday or Monday.

As for freshman center Kevin Love, his back was still sore during practice but it did not limit his play today.

Both players continue to receive treatment for their injuries.

Howland said he was very pleased with reserve forward James Keefe's play last week, especially against USC. He was in particular impressed with his defense against DaVon Jefferson in the second half.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Love Named To USBWA All-America First-Team

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA's Kevin Love has been named to the United States Basketball Writers Association's (USBWA) All-America First Team.  In leading UCLA to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, he has scored in double figures in every game and is sixth in the league in scoring (17.1) and second in rebounds (10.6).

The 6'9 freshman center gives UCLA a back-to-back USBWA All-America selection, following Arron Afflalo last season.

Rounding out the USBWA First Team are: Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina, Michael Beasley of Kansas State, D.J. Augustin of Texas, and Chris Douglas-Roberts of Memphis.  Beasley was named USBWA Freshman of the Year last week.

All five First Team selections are the finalist for the 2007-08 Oscar Robertson Trophy, awarded by the USBWA to the national player of the year.

In other national player awards, both UCLA's Kevin Love and Darren Collison are also finalists for the 2007-08 John R. Wooden Award.

BBR Notes: Coach Howland will update the media Tuesday afternoon on the injury and playing status of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kevin Love.  Due to school finals, the team did not practice Sunday or Monday.

UCLA finished No.2 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll.  The team received five first-place votes.  North Carolina was ranked No.1 and received 23 first-place votes.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (3/17)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


"I love playing against guys who are my size and bigger," said the 6-9 Drew Gordon, who scored 20 points with nine rebounds and eight blocks in Mitty's NorCal final win over Fairfield. "It's challenging. It's different players, but still the same team. That loss is burned in my memory; it's not going anywhere for a while." Mercury News 3/12

"I'm not just a ballplayer, and I wouldn't want people to think that," Reeves Nelson said. For starters, Nelson is the compelling sum of some eclectic parts. His bedroom walls attest to it, holding posters of Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley and the '70s rock giant Queen. His iPod includes Christian reggae, oldies and rap, and the literature he enjoys is all over the map. "He is really protective of just being a regular guy," said his mother, Sheila Nelson, a Modesto Christian employee. "He is, but at the same time, he's not. You learn to wait in line to say hello to him after games because so many people want to take his picture or sign an autograph." He's cool with attention, though, and takes it in stride. Invited by representatives of LeBron James to attend a Cleveland Cavaliers game against the Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena earlier this season, Nelson instead watched his friends compete in a football playoff game. Modesto Bee 3/15

Jrue Holiday usually shies away from the spotlight, but the Campbell Hall of North Hollywood standout said Tuesday he wants to finish as the Valley's all-time leading scorer. Holiday's 2,647 points heading into Friday's Div. IV state championship against St.Mary's of Albany is 35 shy Mitchell Butler's San Fernando Valley-area record of 2,682 (Oakwood of North Hollywood, 1986-89). "I'm going to try to score 36more points, as well as win the game," Holiday said. Daily News 3/12

Standing at the entrance to the gymnasium at North Hollywood Campbell Hall and wearing a Disneyland hat with the name "Grumpy" emblazoned on its front, a smiling and playful Jrue Holiday hardly fit the profile of an All-American high school basketball player who, in a couple of years, could be playing with or against Kobe Bryant. He was joking around with a girl, then hanging out with a seventh grader. "Honestly, he thinks he's normal," girls' tennis Coach Steve Kuechel said. "He's not normal. He's one of the most incredible athletes I've seen in 27 years." LA Times 3/14

With All-American guard Jrue Holiday stuck on the bench because of foul trouble Friday, freshman point guard Austin McBroom showed why North Hollywood Campbell Hall fans are confident its boys' basketball team's winning ways aren't about to end after Holiday moves on to UCLA next season. "You saw a passing of the torch today," Coach Terry Kelly said after 5-foot-10 McBroom scored a career-high 30 points to help the Vikings defeat Albany St. Mary's, 83-61, and win the state Division IV championship at Arco Arena. McBroom ignited a 9-0 run at the end of the second quarter with his drives to the basket. Campbell Hall (31-5) turned a 14-point halftime lead into a 29-point advantage at the end of the third quarter on the way to winning its third state title in the last four years. "The way Austin stepped up was unbelievable," said Holiday, who finished with 19 points, giving him 2,666 points in his career. LA Times 3/14

The subplot during Campbell Hall of North Hollywood's state-championship victory Friday was Jrue Holiday's pursuit of the Valley career record in scoring. Holiday needed 36 points to knock off Mitchell Butler, who scored 2,682 points for Oakwood of North Hollywood from 1986 to 1989. But Holiday played limited minutes because of foul trouble and managed just 19 points in an 83-61 victory over St. Mary's of Albany at Arco Arena. He's No. 2 all-time in scoring but No. 1 in winning, as this was Holiday's third state championship - a feat never accomplished by a local player. "It's cool. We won our third state title, so I'm cool about it," Holiday said. "Stuff happens for a reason." Holiday was more upset about missing time than missing the record. "I was mad at myself, but I had full confidence in my teammates," Holiday said. Campbell Hall is 113-12 in the Holiday era, with three state titles, three Southern Section titles and an undefeated home record. Daily News 3/14

I do not know Drew Gordon's mom or dad. I've probably visited with their son a grand total of 15 minutes. But for a kid who has had his butt kissed by college recruiters for four years, has been flown all over the country in the summer with his club team, has been romanced by NBA stars on behalf of their shoe companies, he seems reasonably grounded. For instance, the other day, I asked Gordon about the most enjoyable things he will remember from his time as a Mitty basketball player. He said that his most fun memories would be the flag football games in the sand on team retreats at the beach. And singing obnoxious little-kid songs on the team bus - like "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" - until the coaches get sick of it and tell them to shut up. More seriously, Gordon said, he had learned resilience and how to deal with adversity. He said the incident at Riordan - where the Monarchs lost in overtime, their only defeat of the season - has helped drive him. But in response to a follow-up question, Gordon then listed the most important stuff he will take away from the past four years. "Respect the ones who respect you," he said. "Play for the love of the game. Be loyal to your teammates, because in the end, they're going to be some of the closest friends you have and they're not going to fade away and always have your back." Mercury News 3/14

This was the end for the Archbishop Mitty boys basketball team. The season. The game. The era. There was no question that this was a special team, clearly one of the best in Santa Clara County history. But the Monarchs were unable to prove it with a state championship. Despite a furious rally to tie the score in the fourth quarter, Mitty faltered down the stretch, losing to Mater Dei-Santa Ana 65-53 in the Division II final Friday at Arco Arena. "It rips my heart out," said center Drew Gordon, the heart of an immensely talented senior class that reached three consecutive Northern California finals and two state championship games. "Every one of my teammates deserves it." Mercury News 3/15


6-8 junior Milton Jennings of Pinewood Prep attended Clemson's game Sunday against Virginia Tech and the Tigers appear to be in good shape with him. Jennings could make a soft commitment to a school by the end of this month or sometime in April, leaving him the option to make other official visits in the fall. He's also been looking at USC, Florida, Georgetown, UCLA, Connecticut and Virginia. Post Courier 3/10

A nasty flu has left Renaissance Academy of La Canada Flintridge short-handed this week in preparation for the Div. V state championship at 11:15 a.m. Saturday at Arco Arena in Sacramento. Starters Anthony Stover and Hector Harold missed two practices and two days of school, returning Wednesday. Daily News 3/12

Just one year ago, Renaissance Academy center Anthony Stover immediately was noticed by fans and onlookers alike because of his 6-foot-7 frame. Three inches taller and a lot more mobile and polished, Stover has become the center of attention for reasons other than his height. He has become a human flyswatter who makes it almost impossible for opponents to penetrate the lane against the Wildcats. The junior is hoping to make things miserable for two-time defending CIF State Division V champion Branson when the schools square off in Saturday's Division V title game at Arco Arena in Sacramento. Pasadena Star News 3/13

William Cherry had 19 points, eight assists and four steals to lead McClymonds of Oakland past Dominguez of Compton, 73-54, and win the boys' Division I state championship at Arco Arena Saturday....Jordan Hamilton led Dominguez (32-3) with 20 points, including two NBA-distance 3-pointers, but the Dons shot just 32 percent from the field, and allowed Mack to hit 47 percent of its attempts. Contra Costa Times 3/15

The Branson School not only imposed its will against Renaissance Academy on Saturday, it served it with a side of cold reality. Renaissance Academy, a team that loves to run the court and utilize its inside players, was stopped in its tracks by a smaller, but scrappy Bulls squad in a 40-33 loss in the CIF State Division V finals at Arco Arena....Tremaine Tatum scored 10 points; Anthony Stover was held to six points and four rebounds. "It was really frustrating because their defense was taking away Justin's scoring ability, and taking away me being able to post up," said Stover, who had six blocks. Pasadena Star News 3/16 

(photo credit: Modesto Bee and Pasadena Star News/Mancini)


UCLA's Road To Final Four Stays Out West

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Complete 2008 NCAA tournament field of 65 here

UCLA earned the top seed in the West Region of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday. It is the first top seed for UCLA since the 1995 season when the Bruins last won the NCAA championship.

North Carolina, Memphis, and Kansas earned the other top seeds in the tournament. All four No.1 seed teams each won its conference tournament championship.

The Bruins are now guaranteed to stay out West for the entire NCAA tournament. Their first and second-round games will be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Thursday, March 20 and Saturday, March 22; and Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games at the U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix on Thursday, March 27 and Saturday, March 29. The Final Four is set at the Alamodome in San Antonio on April 5 and 7.

"It's great that we're close to home," Pac-10 player and freshman of the year Kevin Love said. "This is my first time around, so I'm excited for it."

UCLA plays No. 16 Mississippi Valley State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) in its first game of the tournament on Thursday. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 6:50 PM PT

The Delta Devils (15-12, 12-6) received its bid after winning the SWAC conference tournament. If the Bruins win then they will face the winner of the No.8 BYU vs. No.9 Texas A&M contest.

"We don't want to be the first team in the tournament to be the No. 1 seed that loses to a No. 16," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "That's going to happen someday. I just hope it's not us on Thursday."

The West Region bracket sets up a potential blockbuster No.1 UCLA vs. No.2 Duke in an Elite Eight match-up.

"I called it a couple days ago, I go, 'If we're a No. 1 seed, they're going to put Duke on our side,"' Love said. "They want to make matchups, they want to make big-time games for TV. We're not looking too far ahead, but I do see it down the road. That would be a fun game to play in."

The rest of the West region bracket:

No.1 UCLA plays No. 16 Mississippi Valley State
No. 8 BYU plays No. 9 Texas A&M,
No. 5 Drake plays No. 12 Western Kentucky
No. 4 Connecticut plays No. 13 San Diego.

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Belmont
No. 7 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Arizona
No. 6 Purdue vs. No. 11 Baylor
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 14 Georgia

"They're saying we probably have the easiest bracket, which I disagree," UCLA guard Darren Collison said. "You've got to still go out there and win."

Six Pac-10 conference teams made the tournament: Stanford, Washington State, USC, Arizona, and Oregon join UCLA in the big dance. Bubble team Arizona State was left out. Arizona is making its 24th consecutive appearance in the tournament, the longest standing record.

Absent from the tournament are last year's two finalists, Ohio State and two-time defending champion Florida. The Buckeyes were a bubble team that didn't make it, and the rebuilt Gators saw their chances die with a first-round loss in the Southeastern Conference tournament. They're the first defending champs to miss the tournament since Kansas in 1989, when the Jayhawks were on probation.

The Bruins boast a 14-2 record on the season against teams competing in this year's NCAA Tournament.

Two Bruins, Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, are recovering from injuries sustained last week during the Pac-10 tournament.

Kevin Love suffered bask spasms in the Pac-10 championship game against Stanford. He received treatment on his back on Sunday.

"If I stand too long on it, it kind of tightens up on me a little bit," Love said. "By the time we play, I think I'll be fine."

Junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was in a walking boot on Sunday in his recovery from a sprained ankle, hoever he is no longer using crutches. He was hurt in the Pac-10 tourney game against USC on Friday.

"It feels good as of right now," Mbah a Moute said. "I can't say if I'll be able to play Thursday, but I'm sure I'll play sometime this week."


[video] UCLA Bruins: 2008 Pac 10 Tourney Champions

By Erkki Corpuz