Bruins Zone Out Sun Devils, Win Pac-10 Opener
By Bruin Basketball Report
UCLA faithful were witness to a first in the Coach Ben Howland era - the Bruins played zone defense.
With UCLA struggling with its perimeter man-to-man defense and unable to effectively prevent dribble penetration in pre-conference games, Howland had mentioned his team might employ a zone this season.
Well, he waited until New Year's eve against Arizona State.
Effectively mixing a 2-3 zone with its standard man-to-man defense, the Bruins jumped out to an early 16 point lead and then held on to a 72-70 win over the Sun Devils in its Pac-10 opener.
Senior Nikola Dragovic found his shooting touch and tied career highs with six 3-pointers and 23 points. The 6'9 Serbian had entered the game shooting just 22% from the three-point arc.
With Dragovic hitting from the perimeter, his teammates found their rhythm as well. Fellow sharpshooter Michael Roll was 4 of 4 from three-point land and finished with 12 points.
While UCLA (6-7, 1-0) was mixing up its defense to hold Arizona State to 44% shooting in the first half, the Bruins were sizzling at a 83% opening half clip to open a 42-31 halftime lead.
Not surprisingly though the Bruins shooting cooled down in the second half as the Sun Devils mounted a comeback. With senior leader Derek Glasser on the bench, Arizona State cut the lead to just one point, 60-59, with less than 4 minutes remaining.
But then the Bruins scored 8 straight points to push the lead back to 9 with just over 2 minutes.
However, Arizona State then started putting UCLA at the line and the Bruins continued their struggles with free-throws and almost lost the game, missing 5 of its last 9 free throws.
In the winding seconds of the game and UCLA up by just two points, after two missed free throws by Reeves Nelson, the Sun Devils had a chance to win the game on a three-pointer but Jerren Shipp's long distance attempt was blocked by Jerime Anderson as time expired.
Anderson played a solid game with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists while only committing 2 turnovers. Malcolm Lee had 16 points and Reeves Nelson 10 points as all five Bruins finished in double figures.
Senior James Keefe returned from a shoulder injury and played a productive 12 points, grabbing 3 rebounds.
UCLA now takes on Arizona on Saturday, January 2, in an early 10:00 AM game at Pauley Pavilion.