Friday, November 27, 2009

Portland roasts UCLA on Turkey Day, 74-47

It was ugly. It was brutal. And that's after only watching a few minutes of the 2nd half. I don't have cable, so I was watching the game stream via And the low resolution made watching this massacre twice as hideous.

Unfortunately, this is what UCLA Basketball looks like in 2009-2010. Hopefully, the boys will grow and compete better in the future. And I have faith in Coach Ben Howland to lead this team.

Oh, what could have been! If Kevin Love, Jrue Holiday and Russell Westbrook had only stayed to finish their four years at UCLA, things could have been alot better. But those guys are not with us anymore, so we move on.

Back to the this blog tries to keep current on all things UCLA Basketball, I need to post a write-up of the Thanksgiving shellacking. This is the one and only write-up I am "linking" on here.

Portland 74, UCLA 47
Associated Press
Nov 26, 2009

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jared Stohl and T.J. Campbell scored 15 points each as Portland clobbered UCLA 74-47 Thursday night in the first round of the 76 Classic.

The Pilots (4-0) will play No. 22 Minnesota in the semifinals Friday.

Portland, coming off a seven-point win over Oregon, never trailed. It was UCLA's largest margin of defeat since losing 79-48 at Oregon on March 1, 2003.

Malcolm Lee had 14 points and five rebounds and Drew Gordon 10 points for the Bruins (2-2), who will play No. 12 Butler in a consolation game Friday.

The Pilots, picked second in the West Coast Conference preseason coaches poll, knifed through UCLA's defense with ease, scoring off the dribble and making 3-pointers.

Entering the game having made 52.1 percent of their 3-point attempts, the Pilots continued making a barrage of long-distance shots to bury the Bruins. Portland sank 11 of 19 3-pointers and shot 54.2 percent overall.

Conversely, UCLA shot 32.7 percent overall and 21.7 percent on 3-pointers. The Bruins converted just 6 of 14 free throws.

The 47 points were the fewest UCLA had scored since a 55-48 loss to Washington State on Feb. 5, 2004.

UCLA was so inept on both ends of the court that a fan sitting across from the Portland bench yelled late in the second half, "Come on, you're embarrassing us!" and, "Come on, have some pride! Let's go!"

Stohl made all five of his 3-point attempts to move up to third on the Pilots' career list for 3-point baskets, while Nik Raivio contributed 13 points and five assists.

UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic rejoined the team after serving a two-game suspension. Dragovic, who finished with three points, was suspended after he was arrested in an assault case. He was reinstated Tuesday.

The Pilots made 6 of 8 3-pointers and shot 57.1 percent from the field en route to a 36-19 halftime lead.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 26: The 76 Classic

Next up, The 76 Classic in Anaheim, CA boasting a solid list of teams: UCLA (2-1), No. 8 West Virginia, No. 16 Minnesota (3-0), No. 19 Clemson (4-0), Portland (3-0), Long Beach State (3-1), and Texas A&M (3-0). Can our young team compete?

Bruins look to turn a corner
With only two wins to boast, team will try to hold up against Pepperdine, Portland

By Eli Smukler
The Daily Bruin
Nov. 25, 2009 at 1:39 a.m.

The UCLA men’s basketball team is playing with a chip on its shoulder.

Two straight wins and marked improvement on both ends of the floor have done little to appease the doubts stirred up by the team’s opening-night loss.

Thurs. – Sunday 76 Classic Anaheim Convention Center “We have to make up for our performance a couple weeks ago,” sophomore forward Drew Gordon said, referring to the team’s 68-65 double-overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton.

Monday night’s victory over Pepperdine was UCLA’s most complete game of the season with Gordon scoring 18 points inside and senior guard Michael Roll nailing five of nine shots from beyond the arc. Usually that kind of night could buy the Bruins at least a week of positive feeling, but with the fall schedule being as tough as it is, there’s no time to savor the moment.

The next step for UCLA (2-1) will be to show up against Portland (3-0) in the first round of the highly competitve 76 Classic, a three-round tournament taking place at the Anaheim Convention Center that features four nationally ranked teams. Portland has already knocked off one Pac-10 team, Oregon, and has the potential to be the first team since 2000 to unseat powerhouse Gonzaga from the WCC regular season championship, UCLA coach Ben Howland said.

“(Portland is) going to be in the NCAA Tournament,” Howland said. “They’re that good.”

The Pilots are led by five senior starters, including guard Nik Raivio, who has averaged 19 points and nine rebounds so far this year.

With tip-off at 7:30 on Thursday night, the players will be sacrificing their Thanksgiving meals for some quality prime-time exposure.

“There’ll be a lot of people finishing with their big turkey dinner, relaxing in front of the TV,” Howland said. “We’re going to have a great audience to watch us play.”

“I kind of enjoy it to be honest,” Roll said of the start time. “It’s what we like to do, and we’re going to enjoy it.”

Butler one of several ranked teams at 76
By Andy Katz
Originally Published: November 25, 2009

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- OK, Brad Stevens, we get it. You've heard enough of this Final Four chatter in October and November.

Sounds cool, trendy and of course a bit over the top. Right?

Or maybe it's just hard to grasp for a program that has been considered the darling, not the targeted, for so long. To someone like Stevens, pitting Butler a favorite to reach Indianapolis doesn't make the least bit of sense.

"Trust me, I'd love to be a team there some day and I told our guys to believe in it," Stevens said after arriving in Anaheim on Tuesday for the 76 Classic, which begins on Thanksgiving, "but we're all stabbing at the dark to be there because you don't know about injuries and which guys will step up. I've never been there so it's hard for me to talk about it."

Whether No. 10 Butler is a legitimate Final Four team isn't going to be decided by Sunday night. But how the Bulldogs perform here might go a long way toward changing perception. If the favorites hold, Butler would have to go through Minnesota, UCLA and West Virginia or Clemson for the title. On Thursday, the Bulldogs open with the 16th-ranked Golden Gophers at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Butler has already recorded two true road wins at depleted Northwestern and Evansville, and still has to play another two true road games at Ball State and UAB. And sandwiched in there is a game against Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic in New York and home games against Ohio State and Xavier.

"How many teams will have already played in Chicago, in L.A. and then in New York in a span of two weeks?" said Stevens. "This is a heck of a test for us. Just like we have everybody back, so too does Minnesota."

The Bulldogs' big three of Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard have been as good as advertised. The big surprise may be the play of senior small forward Willie Veasley, who gets no pub despite averaging nine points and four rebounds per game last season. Veasley is at 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds a game this season.

"He's outstanding," Stevens said. "He's been one of the most unselfish players we've had here. He didn't shoot 3s the first two years he was here and now he has made five in three games this season [he made 34 as a junior]. He has improved and been a team-first guy."

Butler will be an NCAA tournament team, a Horizon League champ and a squad that could make a run to Indianapolis. Will all those high hopes be justified with a tournament title this weekend?

"They're handling all of this great," Stevens said. "I don't think [the top-10 ranking has] been much of an issue at all. Being on the road so much has helped."

Here's a look at the other teams competing at the 76 Classic:

No. 16 Minnesota (3-0)
What's at stake? The Gophers have a shot to prove they can be a real contender in the Big Ten with a strong showing here. They open Thursday with a stiff test in No. 10 Butler.

Who has stood out so far? Lawrence Westbrook has been a go-to player with 18.5 points a game. He missed the Utah Valley win with food poisoning, but will return for the Butler game on Thanksgiving.

Who is the surprise? So much was made of the hyped newcomer class, but with suspensions taking out Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe, freshman Rodney Williams has emerged as a legit scorer with 15 ppg. He's shooting 65 percent from the field.

Projection: The Gophers should be an NCAA tournament team that can win a game or two while there. Anything less would be considered a disappointment in Minneapolis.

Portland (3-0)
What's at stake? The Pilots are coming off a seven-point home win over Oregon. The victory over the Ducks might be muted a bit by Oregon's loss to Montana. Still, it was a significant win and proves the Pilots are living up to their preseason hype of being a challenger to Gonzaga. Showing well in this tournament would do wonders for the Pilots' national profile, which has been dwarfed by Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and even San Diego of late. Portland's 17-point win over Seattle is looking better and better as Cameron Dollar's team now has wins over Weber State, Fresno State and at Utah.

Who's hot: Nik Raivio. The senior guard is averaging 19 points and nine rebounds. Yes, you read that right. The Pilots also are getting quality board work out of legacy big man Luke Sikma, who is pulling down 9.3 boards a game.

What will happen if … the Pilots beat UCLA (Thursday 11 ET, ESPN2)? Well, Portland will be relevant nationally for quite some time this season. The problem is, there is no guarantee Oregon and UCLA will be in the NCAAs. Portland will definitely play an NCAA tournament team Friday, regardless of what happens with Butler or Minnesota. The team has three remaining true road games -- at Idaho, Nevada and Washington. Could the Pilots find themselves in the at-large pool come March?

Prediction: Portland could be an NCAA team come March, but at the very least should be in the NIT.

UCLA (2-1)
What's at stake? Hate to say this in late November, but the Bruins' chances for an NCAA bid are in serious jeopardy if they don't do well here. Part of the reason is because the schedule is daunting in the coming weeks. After this slate of three games in four days, the Bruins host top-ranked Kansas, then play deeper and more experienced Mississippi State at the Wooden Classic here in Anaheim before a home game with New Mexico State (should be a win) and a road game at Notre Dame. The Bruins also have that stinging season-opening loss to Cal State Fullerton on the résumé.

Trouble: The suspension of Nikola Dragovic is not good. Dragovic's attorney says Dragovic was the victim, not the aggressor, and that they were stunned by the charges of felony assault. A year ago, Dragovic was arrested for battery with his live-in girlfriend, but no charges were filed. So the cloud above Dragovic still hovers and his status for this week is still unknown.

Injuries: The Bruins haven't been able to hold practices with the entire team because so many players, notably Tyler Honeycutt, have been hurt. The freshmen class has talent, led by Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson, but there needs to be more production.

Leadership: UCLA is still finding its identity, and it would help if someone would step up to become the go-to guy. Drew Gordon is scoring (15.7 ppg), but Malcolm Lee (13.3 ppg) probably has more of the game to be the man in late-game situations. The Bruins may have to harbor down and become a defensive team for their identity to emerge.

Prediction: The Bruins may struggle to get an NCAA bid at this juncture. An NIT berth is looking more realistic unless they can get on a nonconference roll and win some key games, beginning this week. Yes, the Fullerton loss did expose them that much and the Pac-10's poor nonconference showing so far means the league could be headed for just three bids, much like the SEC last season.

No. 8 West Virginia (2-0)
What's at stake? To some degree Villanova lived up to its hype by winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The Cats are the preseason pick to win the Big East title. But West Virginia was given strong consideration to claim the title, too (including by me). But a lot of that depended on Devin Ebanks' being next to Da'Sean Butler. Ebanks hasn't played this season because of a personal absence that hasn't been explained by anyone at WVU. He was at The Citadel game Tuesday night in Charleston, W.Va., but it's still unclear if he will make the trip and play against Long Beach on Thanksgiving at 2 p.m. (ESPNU).

What's certain? The Mountaineers knew they would get scoring out of Butler and that's exactly what has occurred. He's scored 52 points in the team's first two games. Point guard Darryl Bryant isn't too shabby, either, with 15 points a game. The Mountaineers have also been getting good play out of Kevin Jones and Casey Mitchell. Expect solid role play out of Wellington Smith and John Flowers as well. The competition will change dramatically, but allowing an average of 55 points in two games is pretty darn good. If defense can be the staple, the Mountaineers will be difficult to stop.

Prediction: West Virginia has Final Four potential, but only if Ebanks is on board full-time. WVU is now no longer the lone pick to knock off Villanova from its favorite perch. Syracuse and Cincinnati have been very impressive in the early going. And that doesn't even include Louisville, Connecticut and Georgetown, all of which are still viable.

Long Beach State (3-1)
What's at stake? The 49ers are essentially the home team here. What's at stake is that they have a chance to make a name for themselves like Cal State Fullerton did last week with an upset at UCLA. The Big West has lacked national recognition for some time, and there could be plenty of reason to pay attention if Long Beach can make itself relevant again.

The problem with the 49ers is that they play a brutal schedule. Regardless of what happens this week, beginning with the West Virginia game at 2 p.m. ET on Thursday (ESPNU), the 49ers still have to go to Texas, Kentucky and Duke (having already played and lost at Notre Dame). No one would expect a win at any of those three national title contenders, but the key will be to ensure coach Dan Monson doesn't have a confidence issue with this squad after that onslaught is over.

Hot hand: Monson brought in sophomore Larry Anderson with the hope he would be a contributor. Anderson saw his average go from 10.8 points last season to 18.8 through four games this season. If he can go off against the Mountaineers, then who knows, maybe the 49ers will have a chance for a signature win. But getting one win, let alone two, against this field will be extremely difficult.

Prediction: Making the NCAA tournament by becoming the Big West champ is still in play. There's no reason to believe Long Beach State won't be in the mix for the bid.

Texas A&M (3-0)
What's at stake? The Aggies may be the most intriguing team in this field. They are a bit of a mystery. Texas A&M has three victories so far, winning at SMU and over Angelo State and Samford. But the loss of Chinemelu Elonu early to the NBA draft, as well as the graduation of sharpshooting Josh Carter, raised serious questions about how well the Aggies could board inside and whether or not they had the talent to make a third straight NCAA appearance under Mark Turgeon.

The key was the return of Donald Sloan, Derrick Roland, David Loubeau and Bryan Davis. So far, Sloan (20 ppg), Roland (15.7) and Loubeau (10.7) have been consistently solid. But can this team become any more relevant now than it was a year ago, when it made a late run in the Big 12 to finish 9-7?

The schedule: The Ags have a much more daunting slate that will tell us a bit more about this squad. A home game against North Texas, one of the favorites in the Sun Belt, won't be an easy path to a win. Going to New Mexico, one of the hottest teams in the Mountain West, looks like trouble -- as does a road game at Washington in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series. Having rival Texas twice on the schedule when the Longhorns are projected to go to the Final Four will be difficult. But having these power-rating games should help the overall perception of the team.

Prediction: I'm waiting to see this group. It's hard to project A&M in the NCAAs, but a surprisingly good showing here could make that prospect likelier.

No. 19 Clemson (4-0)
What's at stake? Clemson can position itself as a real player in the ACC title race if the Tigers get through this field. I don't think it's a reach at all to say Clemson should be one of the four teams that are favored to win this event (the others being West Virginia, Butler and Minnesota).

The program is hardly going soft in nonconference games this season. The rap on the Tigers in the past has been that they build up the win total in November and December against mush. But Clemson did play two true road games already, even if they were at Liberty and UNC Greensboro. Thursday's game against A&M (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) starts a brutal stretch of games. After the 76 Classic, Clemson heads home to host Illinois in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and then hosts South Carolina. And guess where the Tigers open the ACC? Duke on Jan. 3. We will know sooner rather than later if Clemson is a real player.

What's to like? As expected, Trevor Booker has been a solid post player with 13.8 points and 10 rebounds a game. But the unknown was shooting and who else would be a major factor. Senior forward David Potter averaged just 4.9 points a game last season yet busted out with 17 in the win over Liberty. The Tigers have been consistent on offense with Tanner Smith, Andre Young and Noel Johnson all contributing well.

Clemson's defense has always been an Oliver Purnell staple. Purnell may not have as many high-flying athletes for his press, but the D has been just as effective, holding opponents to 53.3 points a game so far. The competition soon changes, though, and so too will the numbers.

Prediction: Clemson is an NCAA tournament team. Will it compete with Duke and UNC atop the ACC? How the Tigers perform this week will go a long way toward forming a perception of how good this team is and can be this season.

For more on The 76 Classic, click here.

Can Drago come out & play? UCLA says "YES".

UCLA reinstates Dragovic
Updated: November 25, 2009, 2:05 PM ET

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA reinstated Nikola Dragovic on Wednesday after the Serbian forward's two-game suspension for his arrest in an assault case.

Coach Ben Howland cleared the 21-year-old senior to practice with the Bruins on Wednesday, and said he'll play in Thursday's 76 Classic opener in Anaheim against Portland.

"Based on the information we have right now and what we know about the situation, I sat down with [athletic director] Dan [Guerrero] and we've been discussing this," Howland said. "We just felt like he's been suspended for the two games, and based on what we know right now, it would be the right decision to let him play."

Dragovic hasn't been practicing with the Bruins since he was suspended last Friday. He missed games against Cal State Bakersfield and Pepperdine.

Howland said Dragovic won't yet reclaim his spot from James Keefe in the Bruins' starting lineup. Dragovic is the Bruins' only returning starter this fall.

Dragovic's lawyer, Jon Artz, said his client will plead not guilty after being arrested last week on a felony warrant which alleges Dragovic knocked a man into a glass case during a concert in Hollywood.

Artz says the other man was the aggressor, was drinking heavily and had slapped Dragovic's roommate. He claims Dragovic attempted to leave, but was followed from the third floor of the theater by the man, who said he had a knife and threatened to kill Dragovic.

"We're pretty confident that once we show what happened upstairs, the spin in this case that Nikola was the bad guy will take a different spin," Artz said.

Dragovic voluntarily filed a report with campus police a week after the incident, and believed the incident had been written off as a minor scuffle. He was "unpleasantly surprised" to be arrested the following month, Artz said.

Dragovic also was suspended for one game last season on suspicion of pushing his former live-in girlfriend to the ground during a dispute. He was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor battery, and though prosecutors decided not to file charges, Howland said the incident would be taken into account in determining Dragovic's punishment.

Artz said Dragovic's arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 21.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

Nikola Dragovic, accused of felony assault, is reinstated by the Bruins

The UCLA forward is expected to come off the bench Thursday against Portland. It's not the first time UCLA has reinstated Dragovic while he faces prosecution.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 26, 2009

After two games under suspension, UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic has been reinstated despite a felony assault charge against him in connection with a fight at a Hollywood concert last month.

The senior will not regain his starting position immediately but is expected to come off the bench against Portland at the 76 Classic on Thursday night, Coach Ben Howland said today.

"Based on what we know right now, we thought it was the right decision to allow him to play," Howland said. "It's a decision that I sit down with my boss or bosses and discuss. So, it's not just my decision."

The announcement followed a meeting between the coach and Athletic Director Dan Guerrero.

"Based on the information available to us and in consultation with our legal counsel, we feel the two-game suspension for Nikola Dragovic is appropriate at this time . . ." Guerrero said in a statement e-mailed to The Times. "While Nikola has been charged, nothing has yet been proven. We will continue to monitor the legal proceedings closely and, of course, reserve the right to impose additional sanctions should the situation merit them."

This is not the first time UCLA has decided to play Dragovic when he faced prosecution.

At the start of last season, he was arrested for allegedly pushing a former girlfriend to the ground during an argument. The Bruins reinstated him after a one-game suspension.

The case stretched into December before the city attorney decided not to file charges, leaving open the possibility of revisiting the incident within a year.

"That event was mostly an argument," said attorney Jon Artz, who represented Dragovic then and now. "They were breaking up, and there were some heated words."

The more-recent incident occurred at the Henry Fonda Theater on Oct. 24. According to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, it began when Dragovic's friend Aleksandar Stanisic argued with a man and his girlfriend during the concert.

After the show, prosecutors allege, Dragovic charged the man and pushed him into a glass display, which shattered. The alleged victim suffered a lacerated Achilles tendon.

Prosecutors said that while the two men were on the ground, Stanisic began punching the alleged victim until security and bystanders intervened.

Speaking for his client, Artz offered a different account of the altercation. He said the alleged victim was actually the aggressor, following Dragovic through the venue. Artz said the victim claimed that he had a knife.

"He was drinking heavily," Artz said. "He slapped Dragovic's roommate."

Dragovic subsequently reported the incident to campus police and team officials. Artz said the player expected nothing more to come of it.

But after several weeks, the district attorney filed charges against Dragovic and Stanisic on Friday, and an arraignment was scheduled for Dec. 21.

Dragovic will plead not guilty, and it might take three months to a year for the case to reach trial, if it goes that far, Artz said.

By that time, the basketball season could be over.

"I would suggest to UCLA and anybody else, let the evidence play out," Artz said, adding: "He should be allowed to play."

The university said it could place Dragovic back on suspension if new information comes to light.

The Belgrade native is normally soft-spoken, not given to losing his temper on court, but has a history of troubles since joining the Bruins.

In addition to legal matters, he served a 10-game suspension as a freshman after the NCAA discovered he had played with professionals on a club squad back home.

This season, he is the only returning starter on a young roster, a player who averaged 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 2008-09.

Dragovic has been at practice and games but has remained in street clothes. He was expected to participate in drills today and might need time to work back into the starting lineup.

"I think he's been doing some running, conditioning, shooting if he can," Howland said. "But James Keefe will start at power forward and he'll have to come in off the bench."

UCLA tames the Waves, 71-52, Drago update

UCLA dispatches Pepperdine

November 23, 2009 10:47 PM

LOS ANGELES - UCLA expected to have its fair share of tough games early on: Kansas, Notre Dame, Mississippi State, and a few potential NCAA-Tournament teams in this weekend's 76 Classic.

One week into the season and that list continues to grow. The Bruins turned in another patchy performance Monday before dispelling Pepperdine, 71-52, at Pauley Pavilion.

"I think this whole preseason is what we've needed heading into this tournament," forward Drew Gordon said. "We're going to have our ups and downs and we're on an up right now."

Senior guard Michael Roll and his five assists led UCLA for the third consecutive game. His 17 points and five 3-pointers were just as important. Pepperdine had cut a double-digit deficit to five midway through the second half when Roll connected on his third 3-pointer of the half. He added two assists soon after and another 3-pointer as the Bruins closed the game with a 25-11 run.

(Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times / November 23, 2009)
UCLA guard Michael Roll looks to pass after penetrating the Waves defense in the first half Monday night.

UCLA shot above 50 percent (54.3) for the second game in a row. Gordon had a team-high 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Guard Malcolm Lee had 13 points and three steals.

(Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times / November 23, 2009)UCLA center Drew Gordon power his way to a shot in the second half Monday night.

"We all have to keep contributing," Roll said. "Drew opens it up for me and Malcolm. Teams are definitely going to have trouble covering all three of us. At respective times we all have open shots."

UCLA was noticeably tougher on the defensive end, forcing 17 Pepperdine turnovers and holding the Waves to 41 percent shooting. Coach Ben Howland said he was especially pleased with three charges UCLA took.

Reserve point guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid had 10 points and three assists — all in the second half — as guard Jerime Anderson sat out all but one minute after halftime with leg cramps.

The Bruins, which led 28-20 at halftime, limited Pepperdine guard Keion Bell to three points in the first half but watched as he briefly brought the Waves back. He finished with 22 points.

Howland says last week's loss to Cal State Fullerton in the season opener still hangs over the Bruins (2-1).

"When you get beat you have that sting in your feet," Howland said. "We expect to win. When you lose that game it hurts everybody."

A lawyer for UCLA starter Nikola Dragovic (DRAH-go-vich) says his client will plead not guilty in an assault case that led to his suspension.

Dragovic and a friend were arrested last week on a felony warrant charging them in an October incident in which the basketball player allegedly knocked a man into a glass display case at a Hollywood concert.

Attorney Jon Artz said in a call with reporters Monday that the other person was the aggressor, was drinking heavily and slapped Dragovic's friend.

Bruins take (baby) steps forward in 71-52 win over Pepperdine

A week after shocking loss to Cal State Fullerton in season opener, UCLA gets its second straight win and exhibits at least a few signs of progress.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 24, 2009

For now, at least, the UCLA basketball team will have to suffice with small improvements, glimmers of progress.

Baby steps.

Still looking to work their way back from a season-opening loss, the Bruins kept moving in the right direction with a 71-52 victory over Pepperdine on Monday night.

"I'm sure losing that game hurt everybody," Coach Ben Howland said of the opener. "It should hurt. And that's motivation."

Playing before another small crowd at Pauley Pavilion, his team finally showed hints of the pressure defense for which Howland's program has been known over the last few seasons.

The Bruins prevailed with better shooting from Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll, and with Drew Gordon's continued development at center.

"I think it's just that our team is starting to click," said Gordon, who scored 18 points. "I think everybody's starting to feel more confident on the floor."

The Waves (1-3) are a rebuilding project under Coach Tom Asbury, their lone victory this season coming against Cal State San Bernardino

Howland expected to face a young but athletic opponent that might reach as deep as 10players down the bench.

The Bruins (2-1) wanted to pay particular attention to defending the wings against guard Keion Bell, who entered the game averaging 21 points, and forward Mychel Thompson, son of the former Laker.

Toward that end, UCLA came out pressuring Bell into an early turnover, Gordon jumping out to block a Thompson jumper on the perimeter.

It took a while for the offense to get moving -- again, the Bruins seemed confused about how to attack a zone defense.

But Gordon and Lee eventually found a rhythm and, when forward James Keefe flashed to the high post and hit a jumper, UCLA led, 28-20, after the first half.

That lead stretched to 11 points early in the second half and only a flurry of plays by Bell, on his way to 22 points, kept the Waves within striking distance.

Pepperdine inched back but only for a while, eventually falling by the wayside as Gordon, Roll (17) and Lee (13) combined for 48 points.

The Bruins shot 54% from the field and made 87% of their free throws.

"Teams are definitely going to have trouble covering all three of us," Roll said. "We all had open shots."

Still, the Bruins have plenty of room for improvement.

They have yet to enforce their will on the boards, allowing Pepperdine to stay even in rebounds.

And another concern -- point guard Jerime Anderson missed most of the second half because of cramps, prompting Howland to say: "We're going to force bananas down his throat every meal."

Anderson's absence forced the thin UCLA backcourt to go with former walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, who responded with 10 points.

But now the learning curve gets significantly steeper in the 76 Classic tournament at Anaheim Convention Center over the Thanksgiving holiday.

First up? A Portland squad that recently upset wobbly Oregon.

"Day by day we're going to get better," Gordon said. "We'll see where that takes us."

Bruins finish easy part of schedule
The Press-Enterprise
11:05 PM PST on Monday, November 23, 2009

LOS ANGELES - Ready or not, here they come.

After early-season games against a pair of Cal States (Fullerton and Bakersfield) and a beachside school known more for its stunning vistas than big-time basketball (Pepperdine), the UCLA basketball team will soon face its toughest competition yet.

Over their next three games the Bruins (2-1) will play an up-and-coming Portland squad in the first round of the 76 Classic in Anaheim and as many as two teams ranked in the Top 25 if they advance to the 76 championship.

Then comes a matchup with No. 1 Kansas at Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 6.

A 71-52 win Monday over Pepperdine in which the Bruins continued to look lost on offense did little to instill confidence heading into a difficult stretch. And now UCLA has only practice time with which to prepare.

"It's really going to be tough," UCLA coach Ben Howland said of the upcoming draw.

The Bruins led by eight points at halftime and withstood a second-half surge by Pepperdine, a team that needed a rally in the final three minutes to beat Division II Cal State San Bernardino on Friday, 72-70.

Drew Gordon led the Bruins with 18 points and nine rebounds, Michael Roll had 17 points, and former walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid had 10 points in place of starting point guard Jerime Anderson, who missed most of the second half while receiving treatment for leg cramps.

Pepperdine pulled within five points with eight minutes remaining in the second half, but UCLA scored 14 of the next 16 points to take a double-digit lead.

"This whole preseason is what we've needed," Gordon said. "We've had ups and downs. We're on an up right now -- hopefully we can keep going up."

The lawyer for UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic said Monday that his client will plead not guilty on felony assault charges when Dragovic is arraigned Dec. 21.

Los Angeles-based attorney Jon Artz said Dragovic was not the aggressor in the confrontation at a Hollywood concert venue in October that led to charges from the district attorney and an indefinite suspension from the UCLA basketball team last week.

Dragovic did not play Monday against Pepperdine, the second game he's missed since his arrest Nov. 20, and will remain suspended indefinitely, a team spokesman said.

Dragovic is the lone returning starter on a youthful UCLA team that stumbled in its season debut against Cal State Fullerton and overcame a poor first half to beat Cal State Bakersfield in its second game.

He and a friend were arrested Friday on a felony warrant charging them with one count each of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. Dragovic was charged additionally with an allegation of personally inflicting great bodily injury on the victim, said Deputy District Attorney Michelle Dodd.

"When we get the evidence it will show that Dragovic was protecting his friend," Artz said. "He was trying to retreat. He left the third floor of this theater and this guy followed him out after threatening him. I would suggest to UCLA and anybody else to let the evidence play out. If he's guilty, so beat it, but I don't think that's going to happen and he should be allowed to play. There is a presumption of innocence in our country, just like with anybody else."

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Things get better for Bruins on court, worse off it

UCLA overcomes slow start to beat Cal State Bakersfield, 75-64, for its first win of the season, but starting forward Nikola Dragovic is suspended after being charged with felony assault.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 21, 2009

An already tough season got a little tougher for the UCLA basketball team on Friday night.

The Bruins woke up from a first-half daze to scramble back and defeat Cal State Bakersfield, 75-64, earning their first victory of the new season.

But they had already suffered a significant loss earlier in the day when the Los Angeles County district attorney's office decided to file a felony assault charge against senior forward Nikola Dragovic.

The charge stemmed from an unspecified incident at a Hollywood concert last month.

"I'm going to meet with him either tonight or tomorrow," said Coach Ben Howland, who suspended Dragovic for the game. "Try to get more information about what happened."

The only returning starter on a young roster, Dragovic was expected to play a leadership role this season. This is not the first time he has been in trouble with the law, however.

Hours before an exhibition game last season, the normally soft-spoken Belgrade native got into an argument with a former girlfriend and was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor battery, accused of pushing her to the ground.

The city attorney's office decided not to file charges after meeting with the player and the alleged victim, though prosecutors left open the possibility that they might revisit the case at any time for up to a year.

On Friday night, it was unclear whether Dragovic's recent legal troubles would have any effect on the prior case.

He had reported the incident to campus police and Howland shortly after it occurred. When the charge was eventually filed, he surrendered to police around 11 a.m. Friday, accompanied by his coach, and was later freed on bail.

"We don't know what the situation is," forward James Keefe said. "We don't know how long he'll be out."

As for the game, the Bruins appeared to sleepwalk through much of the first half, befuddled by Bakersfield's trapping zone defense and committing too many turnovers.

The Roadrunners, meanwhile, gained confidence with each passing minute, guard Stephon Carter guiding his team to an 11-point lead.

"I'm really proud of the kids and the way they competed," Bakersfield Coach Keith Brown said.

The tide began to turn when Keefe got a bullet pass from guard Malcolm Lee and drove to the basket. UCLA went on a 10-0 run to tie the score, 35-35, by halftime.

"Finally, we got settled down and got the ball back to the middle," Howland said. "Once we got the ball to the high post, we were able to attack and get a lot of easy shots attacking the basket."

Though Bakersfield scored first in second half, it was all UCLA after that.

The Bruins, who had shot the ball miserably in a double-overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton in their season opener Monday, built a lead with three-pointers from Jerime Anderson and Michael Roll.

Reeves Nelson, a bright spot in the opener, added a basket from the paint as Howland switched him from power forward to center, where the freshman had fewer complexities to deal with.

It was that kind of night for UCLA, on the court at least, the game looking simpler and the stat sheet offering more to celebrate.

Drew Gordon led the team with 19 points and Roll had 12. Keefe, Lee and Anderson contributed 10 each, with Lee adding six rebounds and five assists.

The Bruins shot 59% -- though they still struggled at 50% on free throws -- and outrebounded Bakersfield, 39-25.

Defensively, they held the Roadrunners to 41% shooting, Carter and Trent Blakley scoring 15 each.

The win was especially important given the Bruins' schedule next week. After a game Monday against Pepper- dine, they get thrown into the fire at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, a tournament featuring top-25 teams such as Butler, Clemson and West Virginia.

They could go into those games without Dragovic. Though Howland declined to speculate on how long the suspension might last, the coach said he would take Dragovic's earlier problem into account.

"We're a very young team," Howland said. "Right now, we're short-handed."

UCLA 75, Cal-State Bakersfield 64
By Jon Gold
The Los Angeles Daily News
November 20, 2009 9:34 PM

Without Nikola Dragovic in the starting lineup - he was suspended indefinitely after being arrested for felony assault charges - the Bruins struggled out of the gate against the visiting Roadrunners.

UCLA (1-1) was down by as many as 11 in the first half and was still down 10 with 3 minutes, 57 seconds left in the first half, before sophomore forward Drew Gordon sparked a 10-0 run to close the half. Gordon had six points and a monstrous block of Cal-State Bakersfield's Stephon Carter that swung the momentum in the Bruins' favor.

The roll continued into the second half, as UCLA outscored the Roadrunners 17-6 in the early going of the second half and maintained a 15-point lead for much of the half by shooting 59.3 percent from the field, after shooting just 31 percent against Cal-State Fullerton.

Gordon led all scorers with 19 points, and all five Bruin starters scored in double figures, with senior guard Michael Roll chipping in 12 points and sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson, sophomore guard Malcolm Lee and senior forward James Keefe each adding 10. Carter and Trent Blakely led Cal-State Bakersfield (1-2) with 15 points each.

After saying he regretted not playing freshman forward Reeves Nelson more in the season-opening loss to Cal-State Fullerton, Howland deployed his freshmen throughout the game, with Nelson and forwards Brendan Lane and Mike Moser rotated throughout the game.

Bruins Bounce Back; Beat Bakersfield 75-64
Nov. 21, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) -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."

Friday, November 20, 2009

UCLA basketball: Dragovic arrested, suspended

UCLA basketball: Dragovic arrested, suspended
posted by Adam Maya, staff writer since 2006
UCLA blog
The Orange County Register
November 20th, 2009, 7:37 pm

Starting senior forward Nikola Dragovic was arrested today and has been suspended for tonight’s game against Cal State Bakersfield, the school announced.

Here’s the rest of the release:

Dragovic was involved in an incident last month at a concert in Hollywood. He filed a report with the UCLA Police Department early the following week. Following an investigation, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office filed a felony assault charge against Dragovic and he was informed of the charge this morning. He turned himself into the UCPD and Hollywood Division detectives earlier today.

“This is an unfortunate situation for Nikola,” Coach Ben Howland said. “Our staff and players will do what we can to help him during this time. He made us aware of the incident when it occurred but until this morning, we did not know charges would be filed.”

Dragovic’s status for upcoming games will be determined as more information becomes available.

Nikola, we wish you all the best. Good luck & stay strong.

UCLA Basketball: Post-Fullerton, Pre-Bakersfield

UCLA's Howland asks for patience
November 19, 2009 8:43 PM

The Bruins took too many 'bad shots' in their loss to Cal State Fullerton.

LOS ANGELES -- Less is better in UCLA coach Ben Howland's book.

That also applies to the Bruins' box score Monday against Cal State Fullerton.

The Bruins took 84 shots in the double-overtime loss, which are a lot more than what Howland is used to seeing from his teams.

"The biggest thing was that offensively we took so many bad shots," Howland said Thursday. "That's the most shots a team of mine has taken since I've been here at UCLA, by 14. It was just way too many shots. Malcolm Lee took 23 shots. That's the most any player has taken since I've been the coach here at UCLA."

The 84 shots would not have been much of a problem had the Bruins been a little more accurate with them. The Bruins connected on 31 percent of their field-goal tries, which made the 84 shots stand out even more.

"We've got to be more patient," Howland said. "Instead of going 26 for 84, we need to go 32 for 60. We play less time on defense when we do that. The most important thing about offense is shot selection. I think I counted either six or seven air balls, or air banks. I don't remember seeing that many in my recent memory."

The statistical sheet backs Howland. Lee hit 7 of his 23 shots in Monday's game. Nikola Dragovic was 2 for 14, and Jerime Anderson was 1 for 11.

Howland attributed some of the offensive problems to his team being "anxious and amped up" but Cal State Fullerton's second-half zone defense deserves credit.

"Right now, early in the season, we've only had one play for that zone," said senior forward James Keefe, who scored two points off the bench. "They had a great zone. It was kind of hard to emulate the zone that they played (in practice). Our zone offense was tearing up our zone defense. They (Fullerton) played it well."

The Bruins should expect something similar out of Cal State Bakersfield, tonight's opponent, as well as every other opponent on their schedule until they prove that they can beat the zone.

By the time they take the court for tonight's contest, they will have had two practice sessions to work on beating the zone.

"I'd play the zone," Drew Gordon said when asked if he would play a zone defense if he was playing against UCLA. "Hopefully we'll be ready for the zone because in the last game, they kind of had us back on our heels."


All of the Bruins had a share of the blame for Monday's loss but Anderson seems to be taking a bit more. As the point guard, he feels he should have done a better job shooting and distributing the ball.

"I put a lot of the blame on myself because I feel that for our team to be successful, I've got to be a little more successful on the floor individually," he said. "That's the pressure I put on myself, regardless of what anybody has to say about whose fault it was to lose the game.

"I know what I did in the game and I know what I didn't do well. I didn't do a lot of things well in that game. I've got to be a little bit more of a better player out there for us to be better."

Howland ON:
By Jon Gold
Inside UCLA
Los Angeles Times Daily News
November 19, 2009 2:18 PM

UCLA head coach Ben Howland at the team's press conference on Thursday, as the Bruins gear up for Cal-State Bakersfield:

On UCLA's poor offensive performance:
"The biggest thing was offensively we took so many bad shots. We were really hurried. That's the most shots a team of mine has taken since I've been here by 14. Malcolm Lee took 23 shots, the most any player has taken. We were very anxious, very amped up."

On why the team shot so bad:
"The most important thing about offense is shot selection. I think I counted six or seven either airballs or airbanks. I don't remember seeing that many in any time in recent memory. After the game (I realized) I played our starters too many minutes. When you're a shooter, you have to have your legs. We were so quick to shoot, we were on defense more than offense in that 50 minutes."

On what practices have been like:
"Our practice yesterday was geared totally toward us. Our execution of the things that we need to do. We need to focus on ourselves.

On Jerime Anderson:
"Obviously, he didn't have a good game in terms of his shooting. Neither did Nik. Between the two of them, 3-for-25. Jerime really had a setback, and you could see in his first exhibition against Humboldt State, he got really tired. He's still catching up conditioning-wise. What I want out of Jerime is continued improvement in every facet of the game. I look back at how he was playing in January, February and March, and he was playing really well, just behind an NBA point guard. When he gets back to where he was, I think he'll be fine."

On not playing Reeves Nelson more:
Reeves Nelson was really dominant yesterday. The biggest mistake I made Monday night was not playing him more minutes."

UCLA basketball: Media day
by David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 19, 2009 | 2:35 pm

Nothing mysterious or unexpected about the focus of UCLA practices this week.

In two words: Shot selection.

Coach Ben Howland, meeting with reporters today, is still upset that his team took 84 shots in a double-overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton on Monday -- and made only 31% of them.

"We took so many bad shots," he said. "We were really hurried."

The coach would rather see his players be more patient, make extra passes and wind up in the neighborhood of 60 shots for Friday night's game against Cal State Bakersfield.

UCLA basketball using defeat as motivational tool
By Jon Gold Staff Writer
Los Angeles Daily News
Updated: 11/19/2009 10:53:11 PM PST

After a crushing loss, a team has two options: Live and learn from the game, taking away lessons to be applied the next game, or simply erase the memory.

Sometimes it is best to completely forget about a loss, to chalk it up to a fluky off-night or just bad chemistry.

UCLA will not forget.

The Bruins are still reeling after their 68-65 double-overtime loss to Cal-State Fullerton in the season-opener.

UCLA sophomore forward Drew Gordon said the team had "the most intense practice we've had this year" on Wednesday, and that the Bruins had watched game film several times.

"It's a good sign that the players responded to the loss," Gordon said. "We got after it. I think we're realizing that every game we play is going to be tight. We need to focus on improvement if we're going to have the season we want to have."

The first glimpse of things to come came in the team's first exhibition game, a one-point victory over Concordia. A 17-point win over Humboldt State in the second exhibition reminded the Bruins of their talent level, and they shook off the Concordia game.

Then the ceiling came down in Monday's 26-for-84 shooting performance against the Titans, and now UCLA is taking the season a little more seriously.

Step one: Eliminate the bad shots.

"You make good shots if you take good shots," sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson said. "You get a good pass, and you usually make a good shot. But shooting always has to do with mechanics, whether you're contested or uncontested. We had a lot of uncontested shots we missed, and that's all mechanics.
"As the season goes on, we'll shoot a lot better."

As long as teams keep throwing the zone at them, they'll at least have to work for it.

The Titans fooled the Bruins with a rotating zone defense, daring UCLA to shoot from outside. The Bruins often missed.

"Especially in the second half, that zone was kind of deceiving," sophomore guard Malcolm Lee said. "It was real packed in, so it kind of made it seem like you were open, but you really weren't. They were playing the shot to us and using their length. That messed up our timing."

First-half Nelson

UCLA coach Ben Howland admitted that not playing freshman forward Reeves Nelson more in Monday's loss was his biggest regret.

Nelson had 11 points and sixrebounds in 12 minutes, making 4-of-6 shots, while playing in the first half.

"Reeves Nelson was really dominant (in that game)," Howland said. "The biggest mistake I made Monday night was not playing him more minutes."

Bumps and bruises
Lee was sidelined during the game with leg cramps, something he has dealt with in the past.

He is still sore, but should be fine for today's game.

"I have to manage my body better," Lee said. "I used to catch full-lock body cramps in AAU basketball in every tournament. It's something I have to manage better now in the college level, especially because I'm going to be playing more."

Men’s basketball must improve shots in game against Cal State Bakersfield tonight
By Eli Smukler
The Daily Bruin
Nov. 20, 2009 at 1:03 a.m.

It was clear to everyone associated with the UCLA men’s basketball team that bad shooting was the cause of its season-opening loss Monday night against Cal State Fullerton. This point was no more obvious to anyone than the players themselves.

“We just got to make some shots,” sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson said.

The Bruins (0-1) seemed to miss just as many open shots that night as they did contested ones and have a chance to improve tonight against Cal State Bakersfield (1-1).

Coach Ben Howland said the 84 shots his team took exceeded the UCLA record during his tenure by 14. Sophomore guard Malcolm Lee set the individual mark in that time span with 23 by himself.

Lee said that the 3-2 zone that Fullerton implemented halfway through the contest was deceiving, which led to overall bad shot selection.

“It was real packed in, so it kind of made it seem like you were open,” he said. “But then you really weren’t because ... they were playing the shot attempt. They were using their length.”

Howland added another rationale.

“We were just very anxious, very amped up,” he said. “We’ve got to be more patient.”

Citing guard Michael Roll and forward Nikola Dragovic – two seniors that have proven themselves from long range over the years – Howland said he thinks this team has the potential to be a shooting threat. On Monday though, that aspect of the offense just wasn’t there, especially with Dragovic, who shot just 2 for 14.

“When you go back and watch (the game on film), when we were patient, we got Mike Roll some nice open looks; we got Nikola some nice looks,” said Howland, who claimed to have watched the film five times already.

Two days after the defeat, though, the team was apparently trying to turn over a new leaf in its first practice back after the loss.

“I think we had the most intense practice we’ve had this year,” senior forward and team captain James Keefe said. “It’s a good sign that players responded to the loss.”

With extra sessions before practice, the team, Howland said, has been practicing shooting a lot this week.

“Our practice (Wednesday) was geared totally toward us and our execution and the things that we need to do,” he said.

And tonight in Pauley Pavilion when UCLA hosts Cal State Bakersfield, the Bruins will have their second attempt at beating an up-and-coming in-state team. In their second year in Division I, the Roadrunners already played Santa Clara to within three points in their season-opener.

“They have, like Fullerton, a lot of kids from the L.A. area,” Howland said. “Playing in Pauley, they have an opportunity to play against and beat UCLA. It’s got to be high on their list of things they want to accomplish. They’ll have a lot of family and friends here, so they are going to be up for the game.”

It’s an opportunity for the Bruins as well, who hope they can gain confidence with a win.

“We’re just ready to get things going and get some W’s on our board,” Lee said.

UCLA signs two top recruits

The Bruins continued their reputation as California’s premier college basketball recruiting powerhouse this Wednesday as they signed two of the nation’s top prep stars. Center Josh Smith (Kentwood High) from Covington, Wash. and point guard Tyler Lamb (Mater Dei) from Santa Ana both signed their National Letters of Intent.

At 6 feet, 10 inches, and weighing 280 pounds, Smith has been rated the No. 1 center in the country by ESPN and is expected to compete for a starting spot on next year’s team.

Lamb has been ranked by ESPN as the top California shooting guard.

Bruins want to take their best shots against zones

Players know they'll see a lot of them after struggling with Fullerton's 1-2-2 zone in season-opening loss.

By David Wharton
November 20, 2009
The Los Angeles Times

If UCLA forward Drew Gordon were preparing to play his own team, he knows what kind of defense he would run.

"Yep," he said. "I'd play zone."

This after the Bruins struggled against Cal State Fullerton's 1-2-2 zone in a season-opening loss on Monday, a game in which they hurried through 84 shots, making only 31%.

So it's no surprise the team expects to work on attacking the zone before tonight's game against Cal State Bakersfield. Or that UCLA Coach Ben Howland wants more passing and better selection to whittle the total shots to about 60.

"We were just very anxious, very amped up," he said. "We've got to be more patient."

With UCLA needing to show quick improvement, expect other changes.

The big men have vowed to work harder at setting screens and Howland said he would use his bench more freely to avoid another situation such as Monday's when starter Michael Roll played 49 of a possible 50 minutes.

Also, every player reported for 30 minutes of shooting before the regular practice on Thursday.

"You've always got to make some shots for a zone to get stretched out and then have more driving lanes and more post opportunities," point guard Jerime Anderson said. "I think we'll do a little bit better against the zone this game coming up."

To the point

Anderson shouldered much of the blame for his team's sluggish start.

"I know what I did in that game and I know what I didn't do well," he said. "I feel like for our team to be successful, I've got to be a little more successful."

The sophomore shot one for 11 and had three turnovers against three assists.

Howland stuck by his starter, pointing out that Anderson missed a large chunk of the preseason because of a lingering groin injury.

"He's still catching up conditioning-wise, skill level-wise from missing those five weeks," Howland said.

"If he's able to stay healthy and work hard, he's going to continue to improve throughout the year."

New face

Among the players who figure to see more playing time tonight is forward Reeves Nelson, who impressed with 11 points and six rebounds in 12 minutes on Monday.

Several times this week, Howland has expressed regret at not using him more.

"I'll do pretty much whatever it takes for the team to win," Reeves said.

"And if that's what I have to do, come off the bench and have some hustle play and score some points and get the rebounds, that's what I'll do."

Drink up
Guard Malcolm Lee said he was paying more attention to fluid intake and eating bananas.

Against Fullerton, his shooting percentage dropped from 50% to 15% after he began suffering cramps in the second half. It is a condition he has battled since his AAU days.

"I'm just trying to prepare myself for all these minutes I'm about to play," he said.

"I've got to keep hydrating myself and make sure my muscles have all the stuff they need so they won't cramp up."

UCLA basketball: Ben Howland on recruits

UCLA basketball: Ben Howland on recruits
by David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 18, 2009 | 3:53 pm

Coach Ben Howland spoke out today about Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb, who signed national letters of intent with UCLA during the early period.

Smith, who ranks among the top big men in the nation, averaged 26.8 points and 13.5 rebounds last season at Kentwood HIgh in Washington. Howland praised the 6-10 center's ability to play with his back to the basket.

"He is an outstanding athlete and has good leaping ability and quick feet for his size," the coach said. "He has a very bright future ahead of him and he'll make an immediate impact at UCLA."

Lamb is a 6-4 guard from Santa Ana Mater Dei who averaged 14 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.3 steals.

"He's very athletic and is going to be an outstanding player that can play multiple positions," Howland said. "He is a very good defensive player and has been a part of one of the best high school programs in the country."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's Official!!! Josh Smith signs on dotted line!!!

UCLA basketball: Early signing period
by David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 18, 2009 | 9:19 am

The early signing period for college basketball ends today and, by the looks of things, UCLA will have plenty of work to do before spring.

The Bruins signed two of their top prospects: big man Josh Smith from Washington and Mater Dei guard Tyler Lamb.

But guard Trey Zeigler from Michigan has said that he wants to wait until the spring period before announcing his decision.

There are still a few hours left, but at this point it's growing more likely that two other UCLA targets -- Ray McCallum and Terrence Jones -- will do the same.

McCallum, a point guard from Michigan, recently made an official visit to Florida. Multiple sources have said that Jones, a forward from Oregon, is leaning toward sticking close to home at Washington or Oregon.

UCLA young guns can't shoot down CSU Fullerton

Well, the first game of the season was a long drawn-out bust. UCLA drops the season opener at Pauley Pavilion on Monday night, losing, 68-65, in double overtime to Cal State Fullerton.

The UCLA basketball faithful knew going in that this would not be a pretty season. But this ugly? CSU Fullerton came into Pauley and put the hurt on our young'uns.

Highest returning scorer, Nikola Dragovic stunk it up on the offensive end, going 2-14 (0.143) on the floor, and 1-9 (0.111) beyond the 3-point line, although he did pull down 14 rebounds. Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll each had 17 points. Drew Gordon almost had another double-double, finishing with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Point man Jerime Anderson was all 3's across the board: 3 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers. He hit 1 of 3 free throws for 0.333. Freshman Reeves Nelson had 11 points and 6 rebounds although, curiously, did not play much after half-time. As a team, UCLA made 8 of 17 free throws for a paltry 0.471.

One consistent thing, we still struggle against the zone. CSU Fullerton's 1-2-2 zone that collapsed into the post had UCLA stymied. The Bruins, forced to take outside shots, were a dismal 5-29 from 3-point range for the night.

Talk about growing pains. This hurts.

Another obvious reason for the loss was that CSUF was a good team. Much credit to the Titans.

Fishwrap writeups on the debacle follows.

It could be open season on Bruins
UCLA loses opener in two overtimes, doing little to refute notion that young team may be in for a long winter.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
Nov 17, 2009

Gazing into the future – looking at what could be a very long season – James Keefe offered his UCLA teammates a warning.

"We can't take nights off," the veteran forward said. "We don't have the skill or the players to walk through games."

Not with a young team that has yet to find any sort of offensive rhythm. Or exert its presence on the boards. Or comprehend Coach Ben Howland's brand of defense.

So it makes sense that the Bruins had a struggle on their hands against Cal State Fullerton in the season opener at Pauley Pavilion on Monday night, losing, 68-65, in double overtime.

When asked what happened, a dazed Malcolm Lee said: "To tell you the truth, I don't know."

The final statistics told much of the story. The Bruins suffered a terrible shooting night that only got worse when Fullerton shifted mainly to zone in the second half, packing the paint.

The result? UCLA rushed its way through 84 shots, making only 31%, including five of 29 from three-point range. (To read on, click here).

Titans work late, top Bruins
November 17, 2009 6:00 AM

LOS ANGELES – Almost everyone is familiar with the problems that the UCLA men’s basketball team has faced in the preseason.

Cal State Fullerton was the first team to take advantage of it.

Jacques Streeter hit a 3-point basket to give the Titans the lead in double-overtime, then sank a free throw with 12.7 seconds remaining to secure a 68-65 victory over the Bruins, Monday night at Pauley Pavilion.

The victory was the first in 10 games for the Titans at Pauley Pavilion.

The loss was the first on opening day for the Bruins since the 2002-03 season, when they lost to San Diego in overtime.

UCLA has been plagued injuries this season and looked more like a team still trying to find its rhythm.

“It feels real good because not too many teams come in here and beat UCLA at home,” Streeter said. “It’s a real big win for us. It’s a real big statement that we wanted to make and hopefully we’ll win our Big West (conference) championship.”

That feeling might not be as good when the Titans watch the game film.

Both teams struggled in one area of the game or another.

The Bruins connected on five of 29 shots from 3-point range and were 8 of 17 from the free-throw line.

The Titans had 19 turnovers and weren’t able to put the game away when they had the chance.

“We’re shooting foul shots, 8 for 17,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “I’m responsible for playing our guys too many minutes. I have to force myself to play (freshman forward Mike) Moser more. We need to play Reeves (Nelson) more; he did a good job.”
(To read on, click here).

Bruins-Titans: The morning after
November 17th, 2009, 1:29 am posted by Mark Whicker,

– Wonder if the chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee was impressed with UCLA’s double-OT loss to Cal State Fullerton Monday night? That person, of course, is UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero.

– Ray of hope: It doesn’t appear many of these Bruins will be leaving early for the NBA.

– And did you ever dream the Bruins football team might be better than the basketball team?

– Over-reaction is never advisable but it’s a bit hard to avoid after this performance, when the Bruins shot 31 percent from the floor, 8 for 17 from the foul line and 5 for 29 from the 3-point line.

– All those stories about Jerime Anderson being UCLA’s one and only option at point guard seem a little ominous now. Anderson was outplayed by Cal State Fullerton’s Jacques Streeter, as a lot of point guards will be. He was tentative and inefficient. You don’t know if Malcolm Lee is a better option, but Lee did bring more energy, even though he couldn’t shoot either.

– Ben Howland criticized himself for not substituting enough and playing Michael Roll 49 minutes. He said freshmen Reeves Nelson and Michael Moser will play more. Nelson certainly should. He came in with a reputation for manic physicality but he showed here that he also knows how to play.

– The Bruins had their customary problems dealing with a zone defense, and CSF coach Bob Burton says he’ll use it frequently this year “because we’ve got some size, finally.” (To read on, click here).

UCLA falls to Cal State Fullerton
Cold shooting leaves Bruins with their first season-opening loss since 2002-03
By Jon Gold Staff Writer
Los Angeles Daily News
Updated: 11/17/2009 02:07:53 AM PST

The prevailing thought in basketball is simple: Live by the 3, die by the 3.

A UCLA team trying to find its identity in this brand-new season might know where to look now.

The Bruins dropped their first season opener since 2002-03 with a 68-65 loss in double-overtime to Cal State Fullerton on Monday night, shooting 1 for 6 from 3-point range in double overtime.

"To me, every loss is a shocking loss," said Bruins sophomore center Drew Gordon, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. "I feel like every time we lose, a little piece of me dies inside. It's competition for you; you win some, you lose some. It's not necessarily shocking as it is hurtful."

Gordon might not be hurt if the Bruins didn't shoot themselves in the foot.

UCLA's poor shooting did not start at the end - the Bruins shot 5 for 29 from 3-point line and 26 of 83 overall - but the problem was certainly exacerbated.

Against a Cal State Fullerton 1-2-2 zone that caved in the post, UCLA did not so much settle for the 3s as much as they were forced into them. And when the ball went up, it crashed back down, thudding off the rim and into the arms of the Titans (2-0).

"Our 1-2-2 zone is designed for shooters to think they have a wide-open shot, but they really don't," Cal State Fullerton point guard Jacques Streeter said. "We did a good job of talking in it and getting out on the shooters." To read on, click here).

Friday, November 13, 2009

Next up: Cal State Fullerton

Cal State Fullerton visits Pauley Pavilion and Nell & John Wooden Court on Monday, November 16. Some articles to whet the appetite.

UCLA basketball: A few media day thoughts
David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 12, 2009 | 2:37 pm

Speaking to reporters today, UCLA Coach Ben Howland placed the emphasis on defense -- big surprise -- as his team prepares for its opener against Cal State Fullerton on Monday night.

"We're still having problems defending the dribble," Howland said after watching film of the recent victory over Humboldt State. "There were a number of times we were getting beat off dribble penetration, which is something we want to cut down on."

With so much youth on the roster, and so many preseason injuries, the Bruins had not been double-teaming in the post or on screens, traditionally a staple for Howland teams. They planned to start installing those rotations at practice today.

Freshman forward Mike Moser suspects there is a lot to learn in the next week and beyond.

"It's time to put the thinking cap on," he said.

From today's hoops conference
By Jon Gold
Inside UCLA Los Angeles Daily News
November 12, 2009 2:21 PM

from Coach Ben Howland:

On Humboldt State:
"We're still having a problem defending the dribble. There were a number of times where we were getting beat off dribble penetration. That's an important thing, especially when you go into a Fullerton game where they have a bunch of athletes who can break you down of the dribble."

On offensive rebounding:
"There were nine minutes where we didn't have a player with an offensive rebound in the first half. We've got to get the guys who are supposed to be on the glass to get on them better. Second half, Malcolm did a good job on the glass. But it's not going to be often where we use him in that capacity."

On Nikola Dragovic
"He's 6-for-23 so obviously he hasn't shot it well. I think his defense had something to be desired in the second game. He's got to definitely play better for us to have some success. We're asking him to do something we didn't ask him to do at all last year, and that's play the three, but it's a necessity for us. It's just unfortunate that Honeycutt started the game before and now he's off for three weeks or a month."

On Reeves Nelson:
"I thought Reeves Nelson had a good half in the first half. He has the ability to be a consistent rebounder as he has in practice every day. I just want those freshmen to come in and play good defense and let the offense come to them naturally."

On Brendan Lane:
"He only had five practices, and the last practice I thought he'd be out on Monday. I think he's practiced six out of the 19. He's catching up in terms of conditioning. His ankle is getting better. The one thing about Brendan I like his he has a good feel from the game. As he gets bigger and stronger, he's going to be more and more effective."

Ben Howland puts focus on defense

The Bruins have yet to adopt the coach's trademark pressure defense but plan to incorporate double teams as it prepares for its season opener against an athletic Cal State Fullerton.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 13, 2009

Defense has always ranked among Ben Howland's favorite topics, so it makes sense to hear the UCLA coach talk about double teams and help-side rotation leading up to the season opener.

"We're still having a problem defending the dribble," he said Thursday after watching film of a recent victory over Humboldt State. "There were a number of times we were getting beat off dribble penetration."

This is a young team that has yet to adopt Howland's trademark pressure defense. He expressed concern about an athletic Cal State Fullerton visiting Pauley Pavilion on Monday night.

"A bunch of really good athletes who can really break you down on the dribble," he said. "So that's something we'll be working on."

The Bruins planned to install double teams -- something new for the freshmen -- at Thursday's practice.

"It'll take a little bit of time to develop," senior James Keefe said. "I think it's going to be a team defense that's going to make us go."

Learning curve
The Bruins are looking for more good things from freshman Reeves Nelson, who had four points and two rebounds in 11 minutes against Humboldt State.

"We need to keep bringing Reeves along because Reeves is a good rebounder," Howland said.

Another freshman, Mike Moser, played well his first time on the floor, then came back with a pair of quick misses. The message from coaches: patience.

"College games are a lot faster than high school games were," Moser said. "I need to just really take my time and really get warm before I try to take any tough shots."

Senior service
The Bruins have not seen the performance they expect from senior Nikola Dragovic, their only returning starter, who is shooting six of 23 in two games.

"Obviously he hasn't shot it well," Howland said. "And I thought his defense left something to be desired in the second game against Humboldt."

With freshman Tyler Honeycutt injured, Dragovic has been asked to play more minutes at small forward, a change that pits him against smaller, quicker opponents.

UCLA basketball: A tale of two friends
David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 12, 2009 | 7:50 pm

UCLA Coach Ben Howland and Cal State Fullerton Coach Bob Burton, who face each other in the season opener at Pauley Pavilion on Monday night, happen to be good friends.

Burton is known for his wisecracks, always the highlight of the preseason luncheon at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, but is also a sharp basketball mind who has revitalized the Titans.

"He's a funny guy," Howland said. "It's not fun playing against them."

This respect does not extend to a hobby the pals share -- their summertime fishing trips.

"He's a terrible fisherman," Howland said.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Close to full strength, UCLA dispatches of D2 Humboldt State, 74-57

UCLA guard Michael Roll draws a crowd of Humboldt State defenders as he drives down the lane during an exhibition game Tuesday night. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Michael Roll goes off for 17 points in his 2009 debut. Jerime Anderson working out kinks...Drew Gordon chalks up another double-double (11 pts, 10 rbds)...Tyler Honeycutt sits this one out with a "stress reaction" (???). Next up, Cal State Fullerton.

Bruins look better in final exhibition

UCLA beats Humboldt State, 74-57, as Michael Roll scores 17 points. Bruins open the season Monday against Cal State Fullerton.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 11, 2009

After last week's scare against Concordia, UCLA Coach Ben Howland was searching for signs of improvement from his team.

On Tuesday night, he got a few.

With a healthier Jerime Anderson and Michael Roll in the lineup, a calmer and more organized-looking Bruins team cruised past Humboldt State, 74-57, in the final exhibition before next week's season opener.

"A lot of people might be second-guessing us after last week," Roll said. "We wanted to play better."

The senior guard led his team with 17 points, one of four Bruins in double figures before a crowd of 6,852 at Pauley Pavilion.

Forward Drew Gordon had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Anderson, sidelined by injury for much of the preseason, played 29 minutes battling leg cramps.

While the offense looked smoother, the defense again struggled to stay in front of the ball, there was no double-team in the post and Humboldt State won the rebounding battle, 46-38.

"Obviously we're concerned about the rebounding," Howland said. "Our offensive rebounding's just not very good right now."

Humboldt State did not look as quick or as confident as Concordia. The Lumberjacks, ranked 21st in the Division II Coaches Poll, were led by Brian Morris' 19 points and Kyle Baxter's 15.

Starting with the opener against Cal State Fullerton on Monday night, UCLA faces a stretch of six games in two weeks, a point that Howland made clear to his players in the locker room.

"We'd better be ready," the coach said, "because it's coming."

Trip West

Harrison Barnes
, the top-rated prospect in the nation, is not expected to choose UCLA when he announces his decision on Friday, but he apparently enjoyed his recent visit with the Bruins.

In a diary at, the 6-foot-7 forward from Ames, Iowa, talked about staying at the Century Plaza, walking around Santa Monica and having dinner at Howland's home.

"I have to say that he knows his way around the grill," Barnes wrote. "He made a very good steak!"

But the recruit said the highlight of his trip was breakfast with John Wooden.

"That was an unreal experience!" he wrote. "Just sitting in front of Coach Wooden, who in my opinion is the greatest coach in sports history, was awesome. I was just listening to him quote literature and quote other great leaders . . . it was exciting."

Best wishes

UCLA officials responded to news that former Bruins star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has been diagnosed with leukemia.

Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the university was shocked to hear about the illness. Howland sent along his best wishes.

"Kareem is the ultimate competitor and with the fight he has, he'll beat this thing," the coach said in a statement.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Honeycutt out after stress reaction in leg
The Orange County Register
2009-11-09 20:45:06

The UCLA basketball team thought its health problems were in the past until Tyler Honeycutt started feeling pain in his right leg this past weekend.

Further examination revealed a stress reaction in the tibia. The Bruins shut down the freshman forward and don't expect to see him back on the practice court for at least two weeks.

"It's a precursor to a stress fracture," Coach Ben Howland said of the injury. "If he were to continue to play on that without taking time off, it would eventually become a stress fracture.

"We had one of these happen to (former Bruin) Arron Afflalo. He had a stress reaction because of the kind of shoe he was wearing, but it was in the summertime. He had to miss six weeks, but we were able to be real conservative because there was no season to return to."

The Bruins won't know the severity of the injury until Honeycutt sees a doctor, which he was scheduled to do later Monday.

"It's like shin splints," Howland explained. "It's just a lot of pain in one area."

Honeycutt played 21 minutes in Wednesday's exhibition game against Concordia, recording three rebounds and three assists. Howland was pleased with Honeycutt's passing in the 62-61 victory. (Read more at The Orange County Register).

Drew Gordon trying to get some finesse
By Jon Gold
LA Daily News
November 11, 2009 11:10 AM

UCLA center Drew Gordon has long maintained a reputation as an enforcer. A 6-foot-9, 230-pound, broad-shouldered totem pole, Gordon had back-to-back double-doubles in the Bruins' two exhibition games.

Coming off the bench in a 62-61 win over Concordia, Gordon had 17 points and 11 rebounds; starting against Humboldt State, he had 11 points and 10 boards.

Against the Lumberjacks, Gordon displayed both tremendous power in the paint, at one point backing down Humboldt State's adept center Brian Morris for an inside layin. At another, Gordon went up for a rebound came down with it and immediately leapt back up.

"That's what this season is about - trying to find that fine line between being the enforcer and getting that finesse game,"Gordon told me after the post-game press conference. "I want to definitely improve on that finesse game, but I've made my name as the enforcer. I'll probably ease up on that a little bit, try to get around people instead of go through people. But it's my game. It's who I am. It's who I would be.

"It's going to be a fine line, and I'm eager to find out how it plays out."
So is Ben Howland.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

LA Times: Ben Howland's challenge

Ben Howland's challenge: Turning cubs into Bruins

With one exhibition game remaining, the UCLA coach faces the prospect of molding a team out of many freshmen and sophomores. 'We're behind right now,' Howland says.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 10, 2009

His voice carries above the squeak of sneakers, the chatter of players, echoing into the corners of a mostly empty Pauley Pavilion.

"Make those cuts hard," he barks. "Hard."

This is what Ben Howland lives for, the hard cut and the hedge, the close-out and the jump stop, fundamentals of the game.

Watch him at UCLA practice, clutching his notes, stopping mid-drill to nudge one of his guards aside and personally demonstrate defensive technique. A 52-year-old man in shorts, he crouches low.

"One hand up," he says. "One hand down."

This could be a long season for the Bruins, precious few upperclassmen sprinkled among a preponderance of freshmen and sophomores, no proven floor leader. They looked utterly rattled during much of last week's narrow victory over an NAIA opponent, Concordia.

If Howland is a teacher at heart, he faces the challenge of his career. And class is back in session tonight with a final exhibition against Humboldt State before the regular-season opener against Cal State Fullerton on Monday.

"We're behind right now," he says tersely.

Coming into this season, UCLA's predicament was no secret. So much talent has jumped to the NBA in recent years that Final Four appearances are but a memory, the Bruins nowhere to be found in most preseason top 25s, picked to finish third in the Pacific 10 Conference.

"I think the biggest thing is the reloading process," Oregon Coach Ernie Kent said. "They've got some excellent talent in their program."

Through the preseason, the three seniors on the team have noticed an unmistakable "back to basics" theme.

Most important, Howland needs to mold sophomore Jerime Anderson into a reliable point guard, filling the void left by Darren Collison's graduation, but there are other pressing issues.

Guard Malcolm Lee must hone his shooting technique to provide much-needed offense, and forward Drew Gordon must control his emotions to become a consistent presence inside. UCLA needs immediate contributions from its freshman class.

"Basketball is a game of habits," Howland said. "In order to get good at something, you need a lot of different opportunities to get repetitions."

During a recent practice -- the one session each year that outsiders are allowed to watch -- the coach put that philosophy into action.

Shooters were lectured on keeping their balance, jumping straight up and down, holding form. Big men were coached on setting the double-screen, shoulder-to-shoulder, timing it just right.

An inveterate worrier, forever sweating the details, Howland overlooked nothing.

"What do you say in the post?" he called to center Anthony Stover. "Ball, ball, ball."

The freshmen had been warned by older players to expect a lot of coaching, not always delivered in a gentle tone of voice.

"He's tough," Reeves Nelson said of Howland. "He'll definitely get in your face."

The big forward, accustomed to working inside, is learning to defend on the perimeter. His classmate, Mike Moser, faced a tough week after allowing Concordia players to penetrate repeatedly, thereby breaking a tenet of UCLA's defense: Stay in front of the ball.

The coach was not happy, saying, "We've got to have better practices and understand how hard it's going to be."

Seniors such as Michael Roll and Nikola Dragovic are not exactly thrilled about the remedial work, but they see value in it, even for themselves.

"Maybe none of us have really done it over the summer, you know, the close-out drills or box-out drills," Roll said. "They just kind of sharpen up your skills."

This is not the first time Howland has encountered a dearth of experience -- he recalls a similar squad during his early coaching years at Northern Arizona.

It was suggested that, as a teacher, he might actually enjoy the task.

But mentoring a young team in Flagstaff isn't like undertaking the same job under a microscope in Westwood. And, given last Wednesday night's performance, all the work yet to be done, Howland is hardly jubilant.

"It's different, it's not fun," he said. "I wouldn't describe it as fun."