Bruins Get It Together, Pull Away For Victory Over CSUB
By Bruin Basketball Report
The young UCLA Bruins grew up just enough to avoid a second consecutive loss.
Drew Gordon led five players in double figures with 19 points and UCLA overcame upstart Cal State Bakersfield and the suspension of starter Nikola Dragovic for a 75-64 victory Friday night.
The Bruins trailed for all but the opening minute of the first half, falling behind by 11 points, before taking control over the final 20 minutes. They were stunned in double overtime by Cal State Fullerton in their opener Monday night, ending a 37-game home winning streak against unranked nonconference opponents.
"We wanted to make sure we didn't have a repeat of last time," Gordon said. "We believed in ourselves we could still do it, still pull it out."
Michael Roll added 12 points and a career-high six assists, and Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson and James Keefe, who started in place of Dragovic, scored 10 points each.
Trent Blakley and Stephon Carter had 15 points each and Donovan Bragg 10 for the Roadrunners (1-2), who had never played the Bruins before but showed no nerves in the first half.
"I'm really proud of the kids and the way they competed," Bakersfield coach Keith Brown said. "I still can't minimize the role that fatigue played down the stretch. We made our fair share of mistakes and it was tough to stick with them by the end."
The young Bruins, hard hit by the departure of NBA-bound players, appeared on their way to starting the season 0-2 for the first time since 2002-03 the way they played in the first half.
Using an effective zone it hadn't employed in its first two games, Bakersfield twice led by 11, the second time on Santwon Latunde's rebound and follow of a missed shot that made it 31-20 late in the half.
UCLA again struggled to make free throws - Lee missed two to start the game - but cobbled together a 14-4 run to tie it at 35 heading into the break. Gordon scored six points in the spurt.
"We got off to a rocky start," coach Ben Howland said. "Lee had two free throws and we missed both, Jerime had a wide-open layup that rimmed out. We dug ourselves a hole."
Those problems were in addition to Dragovic's suspension, which was announced in a school statement minutes before tip-off. He was arrested earlier Friday and charged with felony assault by the Los Angeles district attorney's office.
The school said the 21-year-old senior from Belgrade, Serbia, was involved in an incident last month at a concert in Hollywood. Dragovic was booked and released from jail on $30,000 bail late Friday. It marked Dragovic's second arrest in less than a year, although charges weren't filed in a case involving misdemeanor battery last November.
"This is a second incident and that will be taken into account," said coach Ben Howland, adding that he will decide Dragovic's status on the team after finding out more. "Nikola is our only returning starter. We're a very young team and we're short-handed. I reallly feel bad for our team."
The Bruins settled down in the second half, opening on a 25-7 run that gave them a 60-42 lead. Anderson and Roll hit consecutive 3s while Gordon had four in a row, and UCLA never looked back. The Bruins shot 59 percent and took 30 less shots than they did while hitting 31 percent in the loss to Fullerton.
"We're getting more comfortable with each other as each day goes along," Anderson said. "It's going to take a while to find our identity."