Saturday, April 05, 2008

Mismatches Doom Bruins in Final Four Loss

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

For the third consecutive year UCLA ran into a team better in the Final Four. Memphis's Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 28 points and Derrick Rose added 25 to end the Bruin's season with a 78-63 win. The Tigers advance to the championship game against Kansas on Monday.

UCLA came into the contest with a reputation of being the better defensive and more physical team; however, they were never able to impose their will on a solid Memphis squad. In many respects, the Tigers were the more aggressive team and it was the Bruins playing on the back of their heels.

One of the keys going into the game for UCLA was their ability to control the boards, instead Memphis out-worked them and outrebounded the Bruins 42-35. In addition, the Tigers seemingly beat them to every loose ball opportunity. Joey Dorsey scored zero points but he pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds including 6 on the offensive end.

However, the biggest disparity between the two teams was the mismatch in the backcourt. Freshman Derrick Rose dominated UCLA's Darren Collison who was neither strong nor big enough to check the 6'3 Memphis point guard. Rose repeatedly powered himself into the paint against Collison for high percentage shots and passes to open teammates.

Unfortunately for UCLA, Collison's problems on the defensive end carried over into his offense. He finished with only 2 points on 1 of 9 shooting and committed five turnovers, playing perhaps his worst game of the season.

Collison was guarded most of the evening by either 6'7 Douglas-Roberts or 6'6 Antonio Anderson, and their size and length bothered and frustrated him.

Interestingly UCLA perhaps had its best match-up on the floor against Memphis when Collison picked up his fourth foul and had to sit on the bench with eight minutes remaining in the game. With Collison out, UCLA had Westbrook on Rose, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on Douglas-Roberts and Josh Shipp on Anderson. With this line-up UCLA got two impressive defensive stops, forcing Memphis into tough shots, and cut the lead from eleven to seven points.

But then UCLA Coach Ben Howland decided to insert Collison back into the game at the five minute mark. Perhaps Howland figured he'd win this game with the same players who got them here. Instead the Bruins were thrown again into an array of defensive mismatches. Douglas-Roberts scored four straight points, including a momentum-changing dunk over Kevin Love while being guarded on the perimeter by Josh Shipp.

The Bruins were never able to make another run. Yet, the game wasn't just lost during this span, instead Memphis was the aggressor in the game and with their talent and athleticism the Tigers were able to control the tempo and ultimate outcome.

UCLA did not do a good job stopping Memphis in transition throughout the contest, in addition, the Bruins were unable to exploit its offensive advantage inside the paint with Kevin Love.

Although Love finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds, he only scored two points in the second half, finishing the game with just 11 shot attempts. The Bruins were unable to get the ball to Love despite Memphis' big men Dorsey and Shawn Taggart picking early foul trouble to start the second half.

With the Bruins unable to establish a low post game, they were forced to take shots from outside resulting in long rebounds and transition opportunities for Memphis. Love took three shot-attempts in the second half - two of the shots were from three-point distance!

Since UCLA was down most of the half, Howland elected to play Love the entire second and he was clearly winded down the stretch.

Sophomore guard Russell Westbrook had the best offensive performance for UCLA. He finished 10 of 19 for 22 points to lead the Bruins. Westbrook showed to all why he will play at the next level, aggressively slicing through traffic and getting to the basket at ease for scores.

But much of the credit must be given to the Memphis Tigers who outplayed UCLA in practically every facet of the game. Instead of allowing Collison and Love to beat them, they forced others on the Bruin team to hit shots such as Luc Ricahrd Mbah a Moute who took 13 shot attempts - second most on the team only behind Westbrook.

The Tigers also did a good job taking care of the ball. One of UCLA's signatures under Howland is to generate offensive opportunities via its pressure defense, but the Tigers were ready and committed just nine turnovers in the game.

UCLA finished an incredible season at 35-4. While a third consecutive Final Four is an amazing accomplishment for any basketball program, missing out on a national championship is disappointing, especially considering this was perhaps Coach Ben Howland's best team in Westwood since arriving five years ago.

(photo credit: AP)


Final Four Post Game Press Conference: Coach Howland, Love, and Westbrook


April 5, 2008

Ben Howland
Kevin Love
Russell Westbrook


THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could just give us a quick overview of the game, then we'll start with questions.

COACH HOWLAND: Sure. Obviously we're very disappointed to get all the way here and lose. But you have to give credit to Memphis State. They're a very, very good basketball team. Obviously, 38-1. They played very, very good basketball today.

We had some opportunities. We cut it to three. Didn't really feel great about how we played the first half. They hurt us in transition early in the game. Every time we would turn it over, they took advantage. They had nine offensive boards in the first half. And their guard play was really, really good. Obviously, Rose and Douglas-Roberts have been very consistent in at least the last three games, scoring about 25 each.

But I thought we made a nice run to get back to three. And then we just got off to a poor start. We were fighting an uphill battle the whole second half. We had a couple three-pointers go in and out that would have cut it to four twice. Couldn't get it to go.
You know, as disappointing as this loss is, it's hard to be here three years in a row and not come away with a championship. I'm still very proud of this group of young men. I thought this was our best team, our best chance. Memphis State was the better team today and you have to credit them.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Russell, talk about playing against Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, how tough they were, the challenge of having to do that?

RUSSELL WESTBROOK: I mean, they're two great players. They came out and was ready to play tonight. It really showed. Like coach said, they both have 25 each, they've been real consistent all year long. They just was real tough players.

Q. Russell, a lot was made about the pace of this game. Could you talk about -- do you feel like Memphis controlled the tempo early. It seemed to favor you personally.

RUSSELL WESTBROOK: A little bit. I mean, it started off in the first half, they got a lot of transition points, a couple buckets, get back in transition . That's their game. They really took the opportunity of that in the second half and finished the game off.

Q. Kevin, can you talk about going up against Dorsey, a guy who had no points like he did, came up pretty big for them.

KEVIN LOVE: Yeah, he did. That's their man out there. He had 15 rebounds in 27 minutes. He was going in and out of the game. I didn't even realize it.

But, you know, I felt like I did a good job on him defensively along with the rest of the team. But, you know, he just kept getting to balls, had a couple big blocks, just played a pretty good game for only playing 27 minutes.

Q. Kevin, how much what they were doing defensively threw you out of your comfort zone, the double-teams, trying to disrupt your rhythm?

KEVIN LOVE: I wouldn't necessarily say it threw me out of my comfort zone. I had two or three shots that went in and out. They were double-teaming me. They had players, you know, swarming me, coming at me.

You know, there was a couple plays where, you know, I threw the ball away. I think I had two turnovers. But other than that, other players, we just need to step up and hit big shots. Like coach mentioned, we had a couple of them down the stretch that went in and out. You know, we needed to keep executing, and we could have cut it to four a couple of times, and we just didn't do that.

Q. Kevin, you have played a lot of good teams this year. You played a lot of big games. Can you summarize from your perspective how good you think Memphis is. Seemed like every time you stopped them, another leak would spring on you guys.

KEVIN LOVE: Right. At this stage I feel like Memphis is definitely the best team we've played. They just got up and down the court very well. It seemed like every team that we shot a quick shot or shot an uncharacteristic shot on our team, they were, you know, down the floor with less than five seconds in transition, scoring another bucket.
So that was tough for us. We didn't drop our heads. We kept fighting. But it just seemed like they got some breaks. You know, sometimes you need that.

Q. Kevin, you and Derrick shared a moment together at the end of the game. Did he say anything that you remember at all? If this was your last college game, how much did you enjoy this year in college both on and off the court?

KEVIN LOVE: You know, Derrick, all he said to me was, just being a good friend of mine, he said, You're a winner, keep your head up.

You know, I feel like I am a winner, and so is he. We just didn't happen to come out on top today. I haven't given it any thought -- you know, the season just ended. I haven't given any thought about if it's my last college game. As of right now, I'm still a UCLA Bruin. I'm enjoying my time and I'll be at class on Monday.

Q. I'm asking how much have you enjoyed college?

KEVIN LOVE: I was just trying to deaden those questions as quickly as I could (smiling).
This has been the best year of my life. I know we didn't come out on top. Coach mentioned that. There's only one team at the end of the year that really feels truly satisfied. You know, we've had a great year. We have a bunch of great players. We've been a true family. Just being part of the UCLA program has been really huge for me. Like I mentioned, it's been the best year of my life inside basketball, outside of basketball, and family-wise, as well.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, you can go. Thank you very much.
We'll continue with questions for Coach Howland.

Q. You knew their guards were going to be a handful coming in. They were able to post. They can drive it. They can shoot it. What did you try to do to stop them? Nothing worked very well.

COACH HOWLAND: Well, they ended up shooting 42%. They were at 40 the first half. Those two guys are their key guys, Robertson, Rose. They're just really, really good players. You know, they're hard to match up with because of their length and their strength.

We tried to double them when they got in the post. A couple times we were late to do so. And, you know, there's a reason why they've only lost one game and won 38. They're a very, very good team.

Q. Ben, last few years you ran into one of the great teams of the modern era. Having seen Memphis today, would you put Memphis in Florida's class?

COACH HOWLAND: I'll tell you what, Memphis is really, really good. When you look, you know, they both have strength in all areas. They're very well-coached, both teams. They can play fast. They can play a halfcourt game. They have good, you know, low -- like I was really impressed with Taggart, the way he came off the bench and helped them. They had the big kid last year from Florida, I can't remember his name. But they always played well against us in the two games we saw them. So they're similar in a lot of respects.

Q. Ben, what changes need to happen to have this team get here and win?

COACH HOWLAND: You know, every year's different. I don't know if there's some sweeping change that we need to do. I mean, it's very difficult, number one, to get here. There's only four teams that make it here each year, and it's a very difficult thing to do in itself. Unfortunately for us, we've run up against now three really good teams.
You know, the first year we got here, three years ago, we were fortunate. We were down 17 against Gonzaga. Make a miraculous comeback to win that game. We ended up beating Memphis to get here, and ran into a very good Florida team.

The following year, we I think had one starter back off of that team, and we met Florida again. They had every starter back. In this modern day, it's really unexpected when you win a national championship, you have players like Noah, the big kid from inside - what's his name?

Q. Horford.

COACH HOWLAND: Horford. They didn't come out. We ran into a team at the same time that had all five starters back, and we were retooling. I was really proud of the way we came back last year and got here. This year we ran into a great Memphis team.
So every year's different. Get a new coach maybe (smiling).

Q. How do you propose a team stops Memphis? They're obviously cruising, shooting free throws, playing so loose and confident.

COACH HOWLAND: Well, I think you got to take good care of the basketball and try to stop their transition game. We failed to stop the transition game early, sometimes off of, you know, a quick shot. We were 26-23, and we came down and shot a flying three. We don't have a lot of depth in the back court. So we had to play it maybe a little slower paced than Memphis would like to give ourselves a chance.

It depends on -- you know, for either Kansas, North Carolina, they both have a tough task at hand. They're both great teams. As I told our team after the game, Only one team is going to leave San Antonio completely satisfied. I'm just sorry it's not going to be us because I thought our kids had a great week of preparation and have had an unbelievable year.

But, again, I have to credit Memphis State, Coach Calipari. They're very, very good. They've had an unbelievable season thus far.

Q. For a guy who's known for being a great defensive coach, how impressed were you with them coming back in transition, getting the blocks?

COACH HOWLAND: They made a couple big blocks. Every time we jumped in the air to pass, it was a turnover that led to a basket going the other way. We had 12 turnovers. I would bet that half of those at least led to dunks or layups at the other end. They do a really good job of capitalizing on your mistakes. That's what good teams do.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.


Friday, April 04, 2008

UCLA vs. Memphis: Game Day Stories

By Bruin Basketball Report

Stories from outside the L.A. Writer's Beat Beltway

Tigers loose, free in trip to San Antonio: In an odd way, even the news Wednesday night that backup point guard Andre Allen was suspended for failing a drug test seemed to be business as usual. "It's sad to say; I don't want to say we're used to it, but there has been a couple incidents even with myself getting in trouble," said junior Robert Dozier, referencing his one-game suspension in February for violating team rules. "Guys just learn to look past that. You can't worry about it and harp on it, because that'll affect how you play and how your team thinks." Memphis Commercial Appeal

Tigers, fans have reason to be giddy: None of the other Final Four teams answered questions Friday about the places they represent. UCLA center Kevin Love was not asked about Watts. Does this mean that Memphis fans care more about their program than UCLA fans care about theirs? Of course not. But it does speak to the bond between the city and the team, a bond unlike almost any other you'll find. Lousville, maybe. UNLV in the glory days. But UCLA does not have a grip on Los Angeles the way the Tigers have a grip on Memphis this morning. Los Angeles has the Lakers, for one thing. And the beach. Memphis has this basketball team, and this trip to the Final Four, and who knows when it will happen again? Memphis Commercial Appeal

Bruins Have a Fan on the Charts: Last month, when U.C.L.A. went to overtime against Stanford, the Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson convinced his bandmates to not take the stage for a concert in Las Vegas until the game ended. The move paid off for Delson, who got to watch the Bruins close out a 77-67 victory. “We had to see the end of the game,” Delson, a founding member of the Grammy-winning rock band and a 1999 graduate of U.C.L.A., said in a telephone interview. “It worked out pretty good.” New York Times

Memphis plays no-respect card: "We are here and we are looking forward to this," junior forward Robert Dozier said. "People are saying it is us against the world, but we are just focusing on ourselves. "We are starting to get a little respect, but we are not focusing on that. We are just concerning ourselves with what we do." Topeka Capital Journal

Memphis More Than Party Crasher: It's all so pedigreed. And then there's Memphis. Somebody obviously forgot to call the barons of Kentucky, because John Calipari and his peasants showed up in their place. Ladies and gentlemen, refined taste has left the building. (Sorry about the Elvis reference, but it is Memphis.) "Between UCLA and Memphis, we've won 11 national titles," Calipari said at the Alamodome Friday, a day before his team meets the Bruins in the semifinals. UCLA 11, Memphis 0. Hartford Courant

Bruins all business: "This is a business trip," said Collison, who averages 14.8 points and 3.8 assists for the Bruins. "It is not about the Final Four; it is about the final one. We want to be the final one." Collison said that this year's Final Four mindset is much different than the past two seasons. "The last couple of years we were happy to make it to the Final Four, but this year we are just trying to take it one game at a time," he said. Topeka Capital Journal

Dorsey avoids trash talk on Love: "I watched Love a lot this year for UCLA," Dorsey said. "He's a great passer out of the post. The outlet passes that he throws like Wes Unseld, that's incredible. It's going to be a big key to the team." Somewhere in the Alamodome, Tigers coach John Calipari probably exhaled. That's because in the same building last year, Dorsey had a very different tone when speaking of another center before the Tigers played Ohio State in the South Regional final. Dorsey was asked if he thought he could raise his stock among scouts with his play against Buckeyes center Greg Oden. Oregonian

Brown has connections with all four in semis: The 2008 Final Four might be subtitled the Larry Brown Invitational. Not only did the Long Beach High School product coach the San Antonio Spurs in the ABA many years ago, he has a connection with three of the participating schools and with the coach of the fourth. Brown attended North Carolina, led UCLA to the 1980 championship game and was the coach when Kansas earned its most recent national title in 1988. He also gave Memphis coach John Calipari his first full-time job when he hired him at Kansas in 1983. Newsday

UCLA may be team to beat if Shipp can find his shot: Shipp said he wouldn't qualify it as a slump, but said, "I'm just not shooting the ball as well as I usually do. I'm a shooter . . . I can't second-guess myself.'' It's the outside influences that have been the most annoying thing. He's getting advice from everyone about his shooting. "Man, it is ridiculous,'' he said. "It has been crazy.''The best advice?
"Most of the advice I have received is to shoot more and stay confident,'' he said. He's tried to block out a lot of outside influences. Tucson Citizen Times

Rose's phenomenal tournament run has drawn attention of NBA, nation: Highly regarded for years in basketball circles and a lead-pipe lottery cinch before he took his first dribble for the Tigers, Rose's play over the past few weeks has propelled him into something approaching superstardom. No one would now be surprised to see him go first overall in June's NBA Draft, should he decide to enter it. Memphis Commercial Appeal

(photo credit: AP)


Final Four Press Conference: Coach Howland, Love, and Collison


April 4, 2008

Darren Collison
Ben Howland
Kevin Love


THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with Coach Howland.

Q. A little bit about the familiarity between UCLA and Memphis. You played a really ugly game a couple years ago that was a defensive battle. A little bit about this matchup this time around.

COACH HOWLAND: They're a great team. I think both teams are probably better than the last time we met two years ago, primarily because so many of the players in tomorrow's game played in that game and have had a couple years' experience. Then each team has added a great freshman, in our case obviously Kevin Love, and on their side Rose.

So it's gonna be a very tough game for us. We know that. When I look at their lineup, they're just loaded with so many guys who can score in different ways. They have a great perimeter game. They have a good inside game. They really push the ball. They create a lot of havoc with their defense and a lot of offense from forcing turnovers and blocking shots.

Q. Aside from the obvious talent, do you see anything that Love and Rose have in common?

COACH HOWLAND: I think the thing they have in common is all the hype and expectation surrounding them coming into college. These were two of the top five players coming out of high school last year, for sure. Kevin won just about every award, national Player of the Year. But yet when you have that much expectation, hype for each kid, to be able to handle all the incredible scrutiny, everybody trying to interview them.

I remember when we first started psychological, it was incredible how much demand there was for Kevin with all the different magazines. To be able to handle that all and still perform so well and lead their respective teams to Final Fours, which I think they've both been obviously key drivers behind both teams, has been really special.

Q. Obviously Memphis and you have gotten here. At this stage of the season, is your steady diet of PAC-10 basketball given you -- any relevance over Memphis' steady diet of Conference USA?

COACH HOWLAND: I would say we played now 20 games against the NCAA tournament field this year. So we've had a very difficult schedule. I think that's the most of any of the four teams. And 10 games against the teams that were in the Sweet 16, not including tomorrow.

So we've had, you know, a lot of tough games from start to finish, and especially when we started PAC-10 play, it just seems to never end.

You know, they've had -- I think that John was really, really smart the way he staggers in some really tough games during the middle of their conference. I don't think they're -- the fact that the PAC-10 is such a tough conference gives us any advantage over them. They play -- they're playing SC, they played Arizona, they played UConn, they played Tennessee, they've played Gonzaga. I mean, their schedule is star-studded as ever. In their conference, they're always a team that everybody is doing their very best to try to beat. They're getting everybody's best effort every night. And we experience that same thing in our conference.

So that always makes it doubly difficult when you're playing against somebody.

Q. If I remember correctly, you were [] Weber State's defensive player two times. That is correct?


Q. Do you have any idea where those trophies are?

COACH HOWLAND: Probably in my garage somewhere. I think it was really a token award two years in a row. I think Neil McCarthy felt bad for me so he wanted to take care of me in some way. I appreciate that from Coach McCarthy.

Q. Why defense? What is it about defense for you?

COACH HOWLAND: In terms of what? What's the question?

Q. In terms of what you've always gravitated to, your coaching style.

COACH HOWLAND: I actually was a shooter (smiling). I got credit for being a good defender because I tried hard and played with a lot of enthusiasm and passion.

But as a coach, I understand that's what wins. And it's true in any sport. When you look at the best teams in football, where it be the Giants this year, the Patriots, who made the longest runs, you look at LSU's defense this year in college football, look at baseball, always comes down to pitching and defense, that's always going to give you a chance. The same is true in basketball. You look at how good the Spurs are year in and year out defensively, how Phil Jackson's teams, all nine championships were great defensive teams.

It's really clear defense is a constant that you have the most control over as a team because it's effort and preparation every day. Some nights that shot's going to be going and you're going to be knocking things down without even looking at the basket. But on those days where it may be rough, you know, like that game, for example, you alluded to two years ago, I watched that game just the other night, and it was a game where we turned the ball over many times, really struggled to score, largely due to their good defense. They had a tough time scoring because we played good defense.

At the end, it -- there's no way this will be one of those games where it's 50 to 45. Both teams are better. There's just no way you can hold a team like them down like we did last time. They're just so much more experienced and better. Then when you add Jason Kidd to the lineup, it makes it even doubly difficult.

Q. I know Kevin Love took it upon himself to reach out to Coach Wooden, sought his advice. Can you talk about that relationship, what that says about Kevin and his character.

COACH HOWLAND: Well, when we recruited Kevin, we arranged for Coach Wooden to come on campus to meet with Kevin and his family. Coach is retained as an employee of the university, which allows him to be able to do that, not only with basketball recruits, but other recruits.

Now he's cut back on that in the last couple years. It's pretty rare that he does that, come to the campus. We used to have breakfast with him once in a while.

The great thing for Kevin, his parents and his father really instilled in him, because his dad Stan played against Coach Wooden's teams, you know, when at the University of Oregon. So Kevin, and I really appreciate this, because I love the history of the game, he has great appreciation for the history of basketball, of college basketball, knowing all the players, being exposed to film at an early age.

So what I really love about that is that he has a true appreciation for it and really, really cares about it. You know, he gets how great it is for him to be able to know and to be able to have a relationship with Coach John R. Wooden, who is the greatest coach in the history of all sport, in my opinion.

Q. Can you talk a minute about the big-man matchup, Kevin, I don't know if it will be solely against Joey Dorsey, might be Dozier, they have two or three different bigs that can rotate on Kevin. Can you talk about that matchup?

COACH HOWLAND: Well, Dorsey we played against. Remember, the first time we played Memphis, we played him twice two years ago in the same year. They crushed us at Madison Square Garden, November, the pre-season of the NIT, I think it was. They had a great team that year. I think their team this year's much better because of all the experience, Roberts returns from that team, Dozier returns from that team, Dorsey was on that team, so on and so forth. A lot of their key guys. Anderson, their four other starters played significant minutes with them two years ago.

But Dorsey is just so strong and so physical and so tough, I remember when he was coming out of Baltimore, I was still the head coach at Pitt. But Kevin will probably see a multitude of bigs rotating at him, including Taggart, as well. They're big, they're strong, they're tough, they pressure the ball, they switch a lot on the perimeter. They're switching one through four. All ball screens, sometimes one through five. They're also very athletic. They make every pass hard to complete.

What's amazing is that, okay, we played Michigan State in November. In November, Darren wasn't playing in that game, so that was a disadvantage. But we were lucky to beat Michigan State. We were down 13, I think, early in the second half and came back and took a one-point lead with 30 seconds to go and ended up winning by three. They had them down 50 to 20 at the half last week. That just is incredible to me.

Then we got beat by Texas at home in a tough game. We played 'em tough. But they ended up beating us on our home floor. They had them down 17.

We understand how good Memphis is as a team and have unbelievable respect for not only how good they are, but what they've accomplished. 37-1, close to being 38-0. They were up one in that game against Tennessee with three minutes to go.

With all that pressure of trying to be "undefeated" all that, they have just been incredible. You have to commend their coach, Coach Calipari, and their players.

Q. You talked about the big-men matchup. What about out front with the guards?

COACH HOWLAND: Rose and Roberts are their guards. I think they have 98 points last weekend between the two of them. They each averaged about 25 a game in their last two games. Rose and Roberts are their two leading scorers on the year. They're a very difficult matchup. Rose because he's so strong, he can get wherever he wants to go. He is so quick. You know, I saw one play against I believe it was Texas where he went up and grabbed the ball on a rebound on defense, two hands, way above the rim. You know, it looked like Jason Kidd or Sidney Moncrief or something. Went coast-to-coast like a bull at the time, about three seconds, if that, the other end, laid it in.

Then you look at Roberts how he finishes, left hand, right hand, floaters, jumpers, post-up, face-up. I mean, these guys are great players. They're both future NBA players obviously.

That's why they're hard to match up with anybody, much less up.

Q. I understand you've been listening to a lot of Ribbon in the Sky when you've been breaking down film. Any significance to that song? Any reason for that?

COACH HOWLAND: I actually saw Stevie Wonder in concert this year at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. I've always loved Stevie. He actually sang that song this summer. He's improvising. He sang it for about, I don't know, 10 minutes. It was actually incredible. The recording I have, I listen to it when I'm watching film once in a while, does it no justice. But no significance other than I really liked how he sang it this summer. I was so impressed with him. Hope he's on tour again this summer.

Q. Kevin and the bigs, how much of an advantage is it for him to be able to take those guys outside and shoot from the outside?

COACH HOWLAND: That's always more difficult to guard a player who can face-up, post-up, bounce it, pass it. And Kevin is a tough matchup. He's really improved as the season's progressed at knocking down those perimeter shots. I remember I think it was against - who was it - Oregon State maybe, somebody, he hit three threes in a row late in the year right from the top of the key to start the second half.

You know, Kevin can really, really shoot the basketball. I've been working with him on that halfcourt and full-court shot all year, and it's starting to play dividends. We're really excited about that.

THE MODERATOR: That's all the time we have. Thank you, coach.


THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Darren, Kevin said when he first started trying to be a leader, people just kind of shrugged him off. How did he convince you guys and when that he was okay like that?

DARREN COLLISON: Uhm, you know, personally for myself, you know, I always listen to Kevin. Kevin's IQ of basketball is phenomenal. Just as a freshman, he doesn't think as a freshman, he thinks, you know, probably as a senior for this game. From high school to college is a big transition. And you can see that he's already made for this game, if not better.

The thing I wanted to do with this team is just make everybody feel comfortable so everybody could play at they best. I thought we did a good job of that this year. Kevin probably had his times, but for the most part, you know, when Kevin says something, everybody listen. It was all meaningful to us.

Q. Kevin, I know coach talked about you reaching out to Coach Wooden and talking to him. Why did you feel the reason to do that and your appreciation of history to take that step on your own?

KEVIN LOVE: I would say mostly because my dad and myself, I would have it no other way. I've always tried to be a historian for the game. You know, in my situation, coming into UCLA, being a big recruit, you know, I felt it was only the right thing to do to reach out to Coach Wooden. I feel like anybody in the same situation would do the same thing as well because I feel like, not only is he one of the greatest human beings I've ever met, he's also the best coach I've ever met as well. He's probably the best coach in college basketball ever. Has 10 national championships, coached two of the greatest NCAA players of all time, and some of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Q. Were you surprised he reached out and called him?

DARREN COLLISON: Definitely, I was real surprised. I can't remember the last time a player has done that. Just proved to my last point I made about him, his maturity level. He just wants to learn so much about the game, he's gonna do whatever it takes and ask whoever to learn about the game.

Q. Kevin, the crowd seemed to enjoy your full-court shots quite a bit. If you have to point to one single thing you did growing up to help you prepare for that shot, working out, what was it? Darren, how is your full-court shot coming along?

KEVIN LOVE: I always keep stating my dad Stan, but he really helped me with that as well. He always had me doing the curl bars with the weights, doing push-ups. But mostly it was fingertip push-ups as well. Wes Unseld doing them all the time, which is actually my middle name. I'm sure all of you know by now, I'm named after Wes Unseld after how many times I've mentioned it.

No, I've worked on that shot since I was about, you know, a freshman, doing it on the smaller court, my sophomore and junior year where I moved to a bigger court. Now I'm pretty consistent on hitting the rim or the backboard.

DARREN COLLISON: My full-court shot is coming along as well, too (laughter).

Q. After you made the one out there, did you consider just going out and leaving the court at that point?

KEVIN LOVE: I wanted to make two in a row actually. That's what I was trying to do. I hit the rim a couple more times after that.

Coach Howland, along with a couple of the trainers, pulled me off the court after I sat down and tried to start making them from halfcourt as well.

It's all fun and games. We're going out there trying to dunk, trying to make halfcourt shots, everything like that. But come game time tomorrow, we'll be focused and ready.

Q. Jordan Farmar related a story a couple years ago that in his recruitment, Ben talked about defense, defense and more defense. Has he changed the picture at all? Do you ever at times wonder if he's ever going to mention offense?

DARREN COLLISON: I mean, it's the reason why we're here, 'cause of his defense philosophy. You know, he really does talk about offense in practice, and practice is nothing like the games. It's real physical. You know, guys are hurt every day. Knicks and nags every day. Practice against Kevin, guys really get after him in practice. It mainly started with the defensive end.

I always felt we were a defensive team because when we really started, you know, playing as hard on the defensive end, that really starts our offense. We do a good job of not worrying about offense because we're good enough to score whenever we want. But, again, you know, Coach Howland, he's done a good job of emphasizing that throughout my whole years at UCLA.

KEVIN LOVE: Just like Darren mentioned, Coach Howland emphasized defense all throughout the year. Every practice, that's what we start out with. Our main focus is always the defensive end, knowing if we take care of it on the defensive end, we're hyped up, getting steals, deflections, doing everything we need to do on the defensive end, that the offensive end will take care of itself and we feel pretty confident that we can score every possession down.

Q. I know last night y'all got to preview One Shining Moment. Did that inspire you?

KEVIN LOVE: That gave me chills, I don't know about you. But you've been here how many times now, three times?

DARREN COLLISON: The video itself was cool. But personally I'm kind of tired of the music. I'm not just trying to be mean. It's just like, you know, you hear it so many times.

KEVIN LOVE: "The ball is tipped and there you are" (singing and laughing).

DARREN COLLISON: Third year, right now it's just about winning. You can hear the music all you want, but if you don't win it, you're not going to be a fan of it. Maybe when we win it, I'm going to love that music. I'm going to play it a lot.

KEVIN LOVE: I feel the same way. As you can see, I didn't get the singing gene from my Uncle Mike. That sent chills up and down my spine, even though, like Darren said, the song is a little cheesy.

When it says, Will you be next, that was pretty cool.

DARREN COLLISON: How long have they had that music? Anybody know? Can they change it? Have a little hip-hop?

KEVIN LOVE: What are they going to throw in there, though?


KEVIN LOVE: You want me to give you a beat? Darren is a little camera shy. Trying to help my counterpart out here. You want the beat?

DARREN COLLISON: Go ahead and sing.

KEVIN LOVE: I can't rap, man (smiling). Back to business. Sorry about that.

Q. Can you both address what Lorenzo has meant to the team and how he accepted and embraced his role this year?

DARREN COLLISON: Lorenzo's probably that piece that we really need to symbolize us: hard, tough, going through adversity. That's Lorenzo himself right there.

Anybody can speak in college basketball. When you're a player, you know, your whole goal is to start on the team. If another player comes in, he starts over you, that's one of the toughest things ever. Lorenzo, he didn't look at it as a bad way, he looked at it for the team. We all know Kevin is good. Lorenzo has worked on his game in the off-season. He does some good things, some really good things for us. The way he sacrificed himself for the team explains a lot about his character. That's what I love about Lorenzo. He's a people first, before the team. Lorenzo is always going to fight through adversity. I hope he has a good future ahead of him.

KEVIN LOVE: Pretty much Darren said everything. The thing about Lorenzo, not only is he a family-oriented person off the court, but he is on the court as well. He really took into the family. Being a newcomer, being one of the lone freshman on the team, myself and Chace Stanback and myself, it was a little different. Anybody in his situation could have been a jerk to me, could have kind of blown me off. But he embraced me, he really brought me in and made me part of the family as well. For him to take a little bit of a backseat to me for part of the team, for the team aspect, that was huge and it showed a lot of maturity.

Q. After watching tape of Memphis, what impresses you about those guys most?

KEVIN LOVE: Definitely their speed, their athleticism, the way they get out on the break. For us to win this game, we're going to have to win the battle of the boards, like Coach Howland always mentions in our pregame. Also, we're going to have to get back into transition, try to play our tempo, because they're a fast team, to get up and down the court.

DARREN COLLISON: Again, like Kevin said, one thing that does impress me is their athleticism. I thought their athleticism was a big part in that Texas game. It was the reason why they overcome that victory. We're ready to play tough. We're going to go out there and play tough. A little physical battle, like Ben has always taught us. That should do it for us right there.

Q. Kevin, with all the attention you've gotten, all the media scrutiny, interviews, how were you able to stay grounded this season?

KEVIN LOVE: That's easy. I mean, I got this guy sitting right next to me right here that wouldn't let me get a big head. I also have a good family. Even in my immediate family, but also my Bruin family as well keep me grounded.

I never feed into any of that stuff. I always feel like I have something to prove. I always feel like I'm fighting from behind. So I go out there and give it my all every game. They're something inside of me, that killer instinct, that's really the driving force in the back of me that really keeps me going.

Q. Is there a most Memphis-like team in the PAC-10? If not, how is Memphis different?

DARREN COLLISON: If I had to pick a team that was like them, it would probably be Oregon.


DARREN COLLISON: Because of the guard play. One through four, you know, they can shoot the ball really well. We really got a big load on our hands on the perimeter. We're on our own. We got to contain them on the D end. It's not going to be easy, but it's something we have to do to win the ballgame.

Just like Oregon, you know, we're going to be ready to switch, we're going to be ready to contest shots. You never can relax. There's possessions where you can't relax, but not against Memphis because they'll penalize you for that.

KEVIN LOVE: Yeah, I agree. They're kind of like Oregon on steroids a little bit. They go out there, they defend. Each player can shoot the three ball. Dorsey is a beast inside. Rose, he runs that team very well. We're all going to have our hands full, whether it's on the offensive or defensive end.

I think we're poised enough to get the job done if we just play our style of basketball.

Q. What sort of things have you learned or liked about sports and masculinity?

KEVIN LOVE: That's funny that you ask. He's over here asking me about school right now and I'm trying to focus on the Final Four. But I've had a great run at UCLA thus far. It's been a lot of fun. I have over a 3.0 GPA. I made the honor roll my first quarter. I know I'm bragging about academics when we're here at the Final Four when we're here trying to win basketball game, but it's been a lot of fun and a good ride for me as well.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow.

(photo credit: AP)


Thursday, April 03, 2008

UCLA vs. Memphis - Tourney Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA faces off against Memphis in a Final Four semifinal contest in San Antonio's Alamodome on Saturday afternoon.

For the first time in NCAA men's basketball history, all four No.1 seeds earned a spot in the Final Four. North Carolina plays Kansas in the second game of the double-header on Saturday.

The Tigers (37-1) advanced to the NCAA Tournament Final Four with a victory over Texas in the South Regional final. Chris Douglas Roberts scored a game-high 25 and freshman Derrick Rose added 21 points and 9 assists as Memphis routed Texas, 85-67. The game was never close with the Tigers dominating the Longhorns on both the perimeter and interior.

Riding an eleven game winning streak into the semifinal contest, the Tigers have been playing excellent basketball in the tournament. Aside from its gaudy win over Texas, the Tigers earned wins over Texas-Arlington 87-63, Mississippi State 77-74, and Michigan State 92-74.

Memphis went 16-0 in Conference-USA action and easily won its conference tournament title.

The Tigers are one of five teams in NCAA Division I history to have 37 wins in a single season, an NCAA Division I record. Of course, if UCLA (35-3) wins out in the tournament, they would also finish with a record 37 wins.

Memphis and UCLA have played four common opponents in 2007-08. The Tigers were 4-0 versus the common foes, while the Bruins went 4-2 against the same opponents.

Memphis vs Michigan St., (N), 92-74, win
UCLA vs. Michigan St, (N), 68-63, win

Memphis vs. Texas ,(N), 85-67, win
UCLA vs. Texas (H), 63-61, loss

Memphis vs. USC, (N), 62-58, OT win
UCLA vs. USC, (H), 72-63, loss
UCLA vs. USC, (A), 56-46, win

Memphis vs. Arizona, (H), 73-63, win
UCLA vs. Arizona, (H), 82-60, win
UCLA vs. Arizona, (A), 68-66, win

UCLA brings its own 14-game win streak into the Final Four. The Bruins advanced with wins over Mississippi Valley State, Texas A&M, Western Kentucky and Xavier.

Against Xavier in the West Regional final last Saturday, four Bruins scored in double-figures with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Kevin Love combining for 23 rebounds to help UCLA overpower a solid Musketeer team, 76-57.

Memphis has an high-octane offense that fast-breaks at will. In the halfcourt, they utilize a dribble-drive motion offense in which players try to breakdown their defender off the dribble for either a shot in the paint, a backdoor pass, or kick-out to an open three-point shooter.

In Derrick Rose, Antonio Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Tigers have three excellent ballhandlers who can penetrate and breakdown defenses. A key to stopping Memphis is preventing dribble penetration by their guards who are proficient at creating high-percentage shot opportunities for their team.

Memphis averages 80.3 points per game on 46.9% shooting. Although not spectacular from beyond the arc, the Tigers shoot a respectable 35.1% on three-pointers. When the Tigers are hitting their outside shots in games, they are very difficult to beat.

One achilles for Memphis this season has been its free-throw shooting. For the season, they are making just 60.7% from the foul line, although against Texas on Saturday they made 30 of 36 free throws for 83%.

While most people pay attention to Memphis' impressive offensive statistics, its the team's defense and rebounding which has enabled the Tigers to advance so far in the tournament.

On the season, Memphis allows opponents just 61.6 points on a stingy 38.8% field goal shooting. The Tigers utilize primarily an aggressive man-to-man defense that pressures the ball and plays the passing lanes. The team averages 8.4 steals and forces teams into almost 16 turnovers a contest.

In the battle on the backboards, the Tigers dominate opponents with a +6.7 rebounding margin per game.

UCLA has some tough match-up problems against Memphis' over-sized backcourt.

A guaranteed top-five NBA pick later this summer, freshman Derrick Rose (6'3, 205, Fr) is a big key to the Tigers' high-scoring offense. A quick, yet muscular point-guard, Rose is averaging 14.6 points on 48.1% shooting. Although he can hit from three (34.7%), Rose's game is off dribble-penetration. His speed and strength allows him to overpower smaller defenders, including Texas' D.J Augustine last Saturday. Rose also averages 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.

UCLA's Darren Collison will likely get the starting assignment against the bigger Rose. Collison needs to do a good job pressuring the ball while at the same time preventing Rose from getting by him and into the paint. UCLA's big men will likely rotate to help out Collison off Rose's drives to the basket but they need to be aware of Rose's ability to hit the open man underneath.

AP First-Team All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts (6'7, 200, Jr) leads the team in scoring with 17.7 points a game. The junior wing shoots 54.5% from the field and 41.6% from beyond the arc.

Excellent off the dribble, big and strong enough to create his own shot, makes Douglas-Roberts one of the nation's top players this season. Russell Westbrook will get the initial assignment against Douglas-Roberts. He needs to do a good job denying him the ball. If Douglas-Robert's size proves to be too much for the 6'3 Westbrook, then we may see Luc Richard Mbah a Moute have a turn in guarding him.

Swingman Antonio Anderson (6'6, 210, Jr) has the ability to drive and slash to the basket and has improved his three-point range. He is averaging 8.4 points and 3.5 assists per game.

Josh Shipp will get the inital call against Anderson. Shipp needs to do a good job checking him from going backdoor and closing out quickly on his three-point shot.

Veteran big man Joey Dorsey (6'9, 265, Sr) can be a dominant player inside, especially on the defensive end. He averages 7.1 points on 65% shooting - mostly baskets off the offensive glass, and a team-leading 9.6 rebounds per game while contributing almost two blocks per contest.

Dorsey has the size and physicality to give UCLA's Kevin Love a tough time in the paint, although, the Tigers big man tends to be foul prone and Love has an innate ability to get opposing players into foul trouble with an array of shot fakes and post moves underneath.

At the same time, Memphis has a stable of other good, solid frontline men who can switch off and utilize their fouls on Love in an attempt to slow him down.

Starting forward Robert Dozier (6'9, 215, Jr) is a very athletic and active big man. He averages 9.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. An excellent help defender and shotblocker, Dozier averages 1.8 blocks a game.

Off the bench Shawn Taggert (6'10, 230, So) and Pierre Niles (6'8, 310, So) give the Tigers additional depth along the front line.

Taggert averages 6.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in just 14.3 minutes a game. A long and athletic player, Taggert has improved his offense play over the course of the season. Niles gives the Tigers a very wide body to put in front of Kevin Love at moments during the game.

Memphis announced on Thursday that back-up senior point guard Andre Allen (5'10, 205, Jr) had been suspended for this weekend's Final Four in San Antonio for a violation of team policy.

His absence leaves just sophomores Willie Kemp (6'2, 175, So) and Doneal Mack (6'5, 175, So) in the backcourt off the bench. Both Kemp and Mack give the team excellent shooters from the perimeter with each hitting over 37% from beyond the arc.

Keys to a Bruin victory on Saturday will be winning the battle on the boards, controlling the game's tempo, and playing solid transition defense against Memphis. In addition, UCLA needs to do a good job defensively of pressuring the ballhandler on the perimeter while staying in front of him to discourage dribble-penetration into the paint.

It will be a tough game for both teams, but when there are still four No.1 seeds left in the tournament, nothing less should be expected.

Game Snapshot
NCAA Final Four Semifinal
April 5, 2008
UCLA vs. Memphis
Place: San Antonio, TX
Time: 3:00 PM PT

(photo credit: AP)


UCLA Team Final Four Send-Off

Photos courtesy of Jack Rosenfeld

View slide show HERE


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bruins and Tigers, a 2006 Defensive Redux?

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

This Saturday UCLA plays Memphis for the first time since the West Regional Final in 2006 when the Bruins smothered the Tigers for a 50-45 win at the Oakland Coliseum to earn its first Final Four appearance since 1995.

Similar to 2006, many people this year have questioned whether the Bruins match-up well against the Tigers on the court.

In 2006, Memphis was considered the more athletic team with bigger and longer players. The Tigers had a high-octane offense, averaging over 81 points per game.

The Bruins in 2006? Well, they were considered the 'disciplined' team.

Sound familiar to recent articles in the media?

Yet, there are certainly some real differences in both teams from two years ago, which may have a big impact on Saturday's game.

In the 2006 regional final game UCLA Coach Ben Howland had the luxury of having two lock-down defenders, in Cedric Bozeman and Arron Afflalo, both who had the ability to guard any position on the perimeter.

Howland exploited this advantage against Memphis by switching defensive assignments at the start of the game by placing 6'6 wing Cedric Bozeman on 6'2 guard Darius Washington and assigning 6'4 Arron Affalo to guard the taller 6'7 Rodney Carney.

The 2006 starting five match-ups:

Jordan Farmar on Antonio Anderson, SG
Arron Afflalo on Rodney Carney, SF
Cedric Bozeman on Darius Washington PG
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on Shawnee Williams, PF
Ryan Hollins on Joey Dorsey, C

The strategy worked.

Washington, who had dominated Jordan Farmar in an earlier meeting between the teams, was held to 4 of 10 shooting and was forced into four turnovers by Bozeman's shadowing defense. And in an epic battle on the wing, Afflalo shut down NBA-bound, C-USA Player of Year Rodney Carney, limiting him to just 5 points on 2 of 12 shooting.

With Memphis' two stars shutdown and 7'0 Bruin center Ryan Hollins manning the middle, UCLA held the Tigers to a season-low 31.5% shooting and 18 turnovers on its way to a convincing victory.

Move forward to 2008, UCLA has Pac-10 Defensive player of the year 6'3 Russell Westbrook; however, it does not have nearly the defensive personnel of the 2006 club.

Whereas the presence of Westbrook helps to make up for the loss of Afflalo on the defensive perimeter, instead of a 6'6 long and agile Bozeman, the Bruins have Josh Shipp who is perhaps the team's weakest defender on the wing.

And while Darren Collison is an excellent on-ball defender, his 6'1, 165 lb frame puts him at a decided size disadvantage against the Tigers' big backcourt of 6'3 205 lb Derrick Rose and 6'7 Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Howland recognizes the quality of the Memphis backcourt and understands the challenges his team faces in matching up with it.

"Their offense starts with Derrick Rose," Howland said. "Jason Kidd is a very good analogy, but with a better jump shot at the same stage. Chris Douglas-Roberts is very skilled with the ball, at putting the ball on the floor and making plays. He attacks the rim, he can knock down a three. He can do it all.

In 2006 Darius Washington was a solid point-guard for Memphis but NBA-lottery bound Rose is a completely different player who provides the team speed and shot creation at the point. Rose is definitely a difference maker and makes the Tiger offense hum.

The match-ups on the perimeter for Saturday's game between the two clubs will likely be Russell Westbrook on Douglas-Roberts, Josh Shipp on Antonio Anderson, and Darren Collison on Derrick Rose.

"We haven’t talked about the match-ups yet but most likely I will be on Rose," Collison said. "For a freshman to do what he does is a terrific accomplishment. I’ve played against him a couple of times in camps. A good player. He’s very athletic."

UCLA has one of the best team defenses in the nation. The Bruins pride themselves on their quick rotations, hedges, and pressure defense; however, basketball is also a game of individual match-ups.

Whether UCLA will be able to duplicate its stellar defensive effort of 2006 on Saturday against Memphis may likely come down to the match-up between Collison and Rose.

Look back: BBR UCLA vs. Memphis - 2006 Game Preview
Look back: BBR UCLA vs. Memphis - 2006 Game Summary

(photo credit: AP)


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Howland Marvels At Love's Development

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

With Kevin Love piling up postseason honors on his resume, most notably his recent AP First-Team All-American selection, UCLA Coach Ben Howland took time to reflect on his good fortune of having Love in Westwood this season.

As one of the highest profile prep stars to join the Bruins in decades, Love has had to deal with lofty expectations.

"When you’re ranked the No. 1 high school player in the country, there are high expectations," Howland said. "The great thing is, I think he’s exceeded my expectations for how good he would be as a freshman and I have high expectations. He’s done a great job."

After breezing through the early portion of the non-conference schedule and racking up double-doubles, Love found himself in a unfamiliar spot on the bench at the end of a close contest against Texas.

Howland, looking for better interior defense, went with senior Lorenzo Mata-Real down the stretch against the Longhorns - a game UCLA eventually would lose 63-61. Mata-Real is a veteran player who started every game as a junior and was familiar with the team's defensive scheme. Clearly at the time, the UCLA coach did not have the confidence yet in his freshman phenom on the defensive end.

But Love got the message from the game - loud and clear. Even a player, who was averaging a double-double, would ride the pine under Howland if he couldn't defend.

Love has improved his defense tremendously over the course of the season. His rotations are quicker, his hedges on screens are more crisp, to the point he can be a defensive force in the paint. Against Texas A&M, Love recorded seven blocked shots. Moreover, at the end of the conference season, he received honorable mention for the Pac-10 All-Defensive Team.

"I didn’t make much defense in high school," Love said. "I just kind of stood around and waited for rebounds and got four, five blocks a game, but other than that I wasn’t out 20 feet from the basket trying to defend, but I’ve gotten a lot better."

"He’s developed into a good defensive player," Howland said. "And a lot of it is the experience of learning so many new things. Every program is different in terms of how they play defense, or what they teach. We have a lot of intricate rotations and we expect to do things defensively that are sometimes, maybe, unique. But he’s really, really tough, he’s hard-nosed, he’s really become a good defensive player."

In addition to his improvement on defense, Love has been the major cog in the UCLA offense. At the beginning of the season, Love predicted he might be able to average a double-double, a prediction Coach Howland thought at the time would be extremely difficult to acheive considering the high level of competition the Bruins would face game in and game out. Yet, Love has been a double-double machine, averaging 17.6 points and 10.7 rebounds.

With the tremendous success that Love individually and his team has achieved on the court, its highly likely this will be his only season at UCLA. But Howland understands the reality of the current environment in collegiate sports and is realistic and supportive of his star players.

It’s more difficult from the standpoint of being able to plan the future," Howland said. "Having a great player for one year or two years is still a great problem that you want to have. You want to get the best players that fit into the program that are good kids. Arron Afflalo is already planning to come back and take some summer school classes to continue working toward finishing his degree; he’s very close. Those are great kids, so I appreciate the opportunity to work with them."

(Kevin Love at West Regional courtesy of Erkki Corpuz)

(photo by Bruin Basketball Report)


Monday, March 31, 2008

Love Named AP 1st Team All-American, Collison 3rd Team

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA's Kevin Love has been selected a first-team All-American by the Associated Press while Darren Collison was a third-team selection.

The 6'9 Love led the Bruins to their third straight Final Four appearance, averaging a double-double in their tournament run after getting 17.1 points and 10.6 rebounds and shooting 55.7% in the regular season.

Love received 52 first-team votes and 318 points to become UCLA's second All-America in as many seasons as Arron Afflalo was chosen last year.

North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough and Kansas State's Michael Beasley were unanimous selections to The Associated Press' All-America team Monday. For the first time, no senior was chosen.

Michael Beasley and Kevin Love made it two straight years in which there were two freshmen chosen. Sophomore D.J. Augustin of Texas and junior Chris Douglas-Roberts of Memphis rounded out the selections, shutting out the seniors.

"This ranks up there with the best because it’s such a prestigious honor," Love said. "To be mentioned right up there in the same breath as Tyler Hansbrough, Mike Beasley and all the players that were on it. It really feels great."

Collison, the Bruins' second-leading scorer this season, is averaging 14.8 points on 49.1% shooting. The junior point-guard is also shooting 53% on three-pointers.

When asked if he felt whether his early season injuries hurt his chances from being a first-team All-American, Collison said "I’m in the Final Four and I’m happy - none of that other stuff even matters."

Earlier last week, junior forward Alfred Aboya was named to the Pac-10 All-Academic second-team. He carried a 3.06 GPA in Political Science at UCLA.

To be eligible for selection to the academic team, a student-athlete must have a minimum 3.0 overall grade-point average and be either a starter or significant contributor.

Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute received an honorable mention for the academic team.

(photo credit: J Rosenfeld)


Wooden To Watch Final Four From Home

By The Associated Press

John Wooden will watch UCLA's Final Four run from the comfort of his armchair, and the 97-year-old coaching great believes this is the Bruins' year to win a record 12th national championship.

"(Two) years ago, we were in the Final Four and we finished second. Last year, we were third. Seems logical to be first this year, don't you think?'' he told The Associated Press by phone Monday.

Wooden is back home after stints in the hospital and at a rehab center. He broke his left wrist and collarbone in a fall at his suburban condo in February.

"I'm still having trouble getting around,'' he said. "Nothing to do with my fall, but my knees have been very, very bad. I use a walker and a wheelchair. Overall, I'm very fortunate at 97.''

Wooden's daughter, son and extended family are constant presences and he had friends drop by Monday. He won't be in San Antonio for the Final Four, but daughter Nan Muehlhausen will attend to present an award named for her father, as she has done the last couple of years.

Wooden's shadow continues to loom large over the UCLA program 33 years after he retired, having won 10 national championships, including an unmatched seven in a row. The Bruins' only title since then came in 1995 under Jim Harrick.

Wooden attended the championship game in Seattle that year, slipping out before the final buzzer to keep the focus on the players.

Coach Ben Howland calls himself "the caretaker of John Wooden's UCLA program.''

"That's what it is and always will be,'' Howland said Monday.

Informed of Howland's comments, Wooden joked, "My program? I retired in '75.'' Then he added, "I know what he means and I'm flattered.''

Wooden attended several UCLA games this season, sitting in his usual seat behind the Bruins' bench, until he got hurt.

The Bruins bring a 14-game winning streak into Saturday's national semifinal against Memphis.

"I thought going into the season that this was going to be coach Howland's best team at UCLA,'' Wooden said. "Success breeds success. You get a program going and it's easier to keep a program going that's doing well than it is to get there because you learn so much along the way.''

North Carolina and Kansas play the other semifinal, marking the first time all four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four.

"That is remarkable,'' Wooden said. "Any one of the four could win, but I wouldn't trade UCLA's chances for any of the other teams.''

(photo credit: AP)


UCLA vs. Memphis - Tourney Game Preview

Dribble Drive Motion offense

said, "as far as I know, neither has played a second of zone defense this year. They are both man-to-man teams. Both teams really guard you. The strength of both teams is defense and rebounding."

Floyd said one of the things he'll watch for in the game is defensive matchups.

"It will be fascinating," he said. "Does Darren Collison guard Rose or does Russell Westbrook? Will Josh Shipp or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute guard Douglas-Roberts? Matchups will be intriguing through the course of the game."

Memphis averages 80.3 points a game, and John Calipari's Tigers have gained a reputation as a fastbreaking, high-octane offensive team. "That won't happen against UCLA," Floyd said. "I don't see that happening, Memphis scoring 80 or 90 points."

While UCLA and Memphis play similar defensive styles and put a premium on rebounding, Floyd said offensively the Bruins and Tigers are different.

"Memphis beats teams off the dribble," Floyd said. "They don't set a lot of screens. They really don't even run a lot of screen and roll. They just try to drive at you and create opportunities to get high-percentage shots.

"So far they've been able to run through the tournament against teams that don't have the size, strength or rebounding ability of UCLA."

Keating said what he sees in UCLA this time is a different sort of emotional intensity from two years ago. Then the Bruins overcame a 17-point deficit and scored the final 11 points to beat Gonzaga 73-71.
As was the case two years ago, Keating said, UCLA will try to limit Memphis' transition baskets and not give the Tigers second-chance points. "One thing Memphis has now," Keating said, "is the ability to score at a high rate of speed because they have three ballhandlers on the court and that is difficult to defend."

The ballhandlers are Anderson, Douglas-Roberts and Rose.

"Rose is so dynamic and strong," Keating said. "The other guys have two years under their belts."

In the 50-45 loss the Tigers had only five assists on their 17 baskets. This year Memphis has five players with more than 60 assists.

And Keating noted that two years ago UCLA had two fierce perimeter defenders -- 6-5 Arron Afflalo and 6-6 Cedric Bozeman -- plus an active, athletic 7-foot center in Ryan Hollins. That combination quickly frustrated the young Tigers, who seemed to have no backup plan when their guards couldn't score or create off the dribble.

"It’s a unique way they play; they have that Vance Walberg -– who was the head coach at Pepperdine and a very successful junior college coach up in Fresno -– system and that system works really well when you have really good players, as most systems will. But it’s an unorthodox style of offense and very difficult to defend. There’s not a lot of screens and it’s all about penetration to draw and kick. There’s a lot of hand-offs, lot of pitches from behind and they also do like a moving screen; he’ll pass from guard to guard and then he’ll try to run and just clip the guy as he’s driving. Invariably, when you have a guy almost run to you, you kind of flinch and move, so there is no foul. But that’s what they do when you study them."


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (3/31)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


Jrue Holiday- Never out to individually impress, Holiday's serious minded approach to the game has had a positive effect on the West squad since he began practicing on Monday. Primarily scoring with his unorthodox tendency to finish with his left hand in the lane, Holiday has been happy to keep the ball moving and get his points off moving without the basketball and hitting the glass. His best work was on the defensive end today where he did a sound job defending Jennings. It will be interesting to watch him defend Evans on Wednesday night. Rivals 3/25

Malcolm Lee- Lee displayed his defensive prowess locking up Demar DeRozan along with others during the West practice. At 6-foot-4, Lee can get low to the ground and move his feet with the best of them while pressuring the ball with his hands. He and Holiday are custom built for the UCLA system, but Lee is going to need some time in the weight room before he can have the impact that the physically stronger Holiday is ready to have. Rivals 3/25

Jerime Anderson did it all as a 6-foot-3 senior point guard at Canyon. He averaged 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists a game. With Anderson leading the way, Canyon went 10-0 in the Century League, won 15 in a row and reached the CIF-Southern Section Division I-A quarterfinals. Anderson, the most valuable player to an Orange County team, is the Register's county player of the year for the 2007-08 boys basketball season. OC Register 3/25

Even before the McDonald's All-American basketball game commences today in Wisconsin, Campbell Hall of North Hollywood's Jrue Holiday and Taft of Woodland Hills' Larry Drew Jr. already celebrated victories at the Powerade Jam Fest. Holiday teamed with girls' standout Nneka Ogwumike - representing Cy-Fair High of Houston - to win the team-ball competition and Drew captured the title in the 3-point contest. The UCLA-bound Holiday, who didn't arrive in Milwaukee until Monday because of flight complications that forced him to miss the first day of practice, was signed up by Ogwumike, who decided against competing as the lone female in the slam-dunk contest. Holiday and Ogwumike defeated Marlborough of Los Angeles' Nicki Speed - signed with Rutgers - and UCLA-bound Malcolm Lee of JWNorth of Riverside. Daily News 3/25

One player representative with several well-known NBA clients said agents are likely to spend at least part of the McDonald's game milling about the arena's concourse, hoping to run into players' parents, even if just to say hello. Players such as Malcolm Lee understand the game -- not just the one they play on the court but also the one agents play off it. Lee, a 6-4 guard who has signed with UCLA, said his AAU team's coach, Elvert "Kool-Aid" Perry, already has begun fielding phone calls from agents. Lee said there is no added pressure playing in front of agents. He understands they are just gathering information for what could be a significant investment on their part. Washington Post 3/25

In the four years since he arrived at North, Malcolm Lee has impressed Coach Mike Bartee as much with his unselfishness as his uncanny court vision and quick first step to the basket. When North lost several top big men before the season, Lee, who is 6-foot-5, volunteered to switch to center for the Huskies, playing out of position for the rest of the season because that's where the team needed him most. Lee still put up gaudy statistics as a senior, averaging 23.7 points per game and grabbing 7.4 rebounds among taller, stronger kids. He led the Huskies to the CIF-Southern Section Division 1-A quarterfinals, where their fourth-quarter comeback against Glendora fell two points short. "You put Malcolm on a team where he can play his natural position and he's 10 times more effective," Bartee said. "He's a natural point guard, and he played totally out of position. Press-Enterprise 3/25

The UCLA-bound Jrue Holiday had 14 points on six-for-nine shooting and the USC-bound DeRozan had 10 points on five-for-10 shooting. Holiday's highlights included a one-handed hanging flip-in, and DeRozan resembled former Trojans star Nick Young on a turnaround fadeaway jumper. North Carolina-bound guard Larry Drew Jr. of Woodland Hills Taft had seven points and five assists, and UCLA-bound guard Malcolm Lee of Riverside North had three points. LA Times 3/27

Jrue Holiday, 6-4 combo guard, UCLA: Holiday, whose game has really grown on me, showed off his skill and versatility, but all-star games aren’t really his thing–he simply plays too hard and doesn’t realize that defense isn’t a requirement, leading to things like point guards viciously banging on his head on the break. Still, he’s the only incoming Bruin recruit I see playing a whole lot next year, unless there’s an early exit or two on the current squad. SLAM 3/28


Brendan Lane: Only a junior; has committed to the Pacific Ten Conference; has narrowed his college choices to half of said conference; may have a fear of the Atlantic Ocean. SLAM Online 3/25

Ater Majok has taken the decision to wait this long (the NCAA late-signing period runs from April 15 to May 15) to see which coaches will stay with the program and which players will stay, rather than transfer to another school or leave for the NBA Draft." Daily Telegraph 3/27

When the U.S. Albert Schweitzer Tournament basketball team plays in Saturday’s third-place game, spectators are guaranteed to get their money’s worth....Anthony Stover, a 6-10 junior from La Canada, Calif., and Brendan Lane, a 6-9 junior from Rocklin, Calif., each of whom claimed seven rebounds, ignited the U.S. break, battling the burly Spaniards in the no-holds-barred action under the boards the international game allows. “They push hard,” Stover said of the game underneath the hoop. With Stover and Co. pushing back, the U.S. launched a game-ending 11-4 run behind seven points from Walker and two from Releford. Stars and Stripes 3/29

The boys' team includes Milton Jennings of Pinewood Prep, who repeats as a first-team selection. Jennings, a 6-9 forward, is considered to be one of the top 40 juniors in the country. Jennings averaged 18.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.2 blocked shots per game. He hit 50 percent from the field, 72 percent from the foul line, and was a threat from behind the arc, hitting 59 3-pointers. He is expected to announce his college decision soon. Some observers predict he will choose either Clemson or Florida. Charleston Post-Courier 3/30

(photo credit: OC Register and Daily Telegraph)


UCLA Bruins West Regional Montage

Thanks to Erkki Corpuz