Friday, December 31, 2010

Post-WSU interviews

Preview of Howland interview

By Jon Gold on December 28, 2010 5:45 PM
Inside UCLA, The Los Angeles Daily News

I had a long one-on-one interview with Ben Howland, who really opened up about the last few years of UCLA basketball, including this quote that caught me just a bit off guard...

Me: So if you guys get hot, play well in conference, get a couple tournament wins, finish with 22, 23 wins...

Howland: "God, I'd kiss you right now. I swear to God. I would come over there and I'd kiss you if we got 23, 24 wins. Are you kidding me? I'd be so happy. Are you kidding? That's so nice to even project that possibility."

More from the interview over the next couple days, and a ton of press conference videos. Stay tuned.

And with that...

Coach Howland Part 1

Coach Howland Part 2

Coach Howland Part 3

Player interviews

Reeves Nelson

Malcolm Lee

Thursday, December 30, 2010

UCLA rallies to beat Washington St.

updated Dec 30 2010 6:43 pm CA

Great first PAC-10 game for Zeke Jones, who finishes with a double-double, 10 pts, 11 assists (1 turnover). Malcolm Lee scores 21. Both Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith were hampered by foul trouble throughout most of the game but Reeves finishes with 21 pts, 11 rbds and Joshua with 8 pts, 6 rbds, 2 steals and a block. Tyler Honeycutt chips in 14 pts, 9 rbds with one Kevin Love/Ed OBannon-esque length of the court pass to Reeves for the basket.

UCLA rallies to beat Washington St.
Published: Dec. 29, 2010
Updated: 11:02 p.m.

LOS ANGELES – UCLA extended its winning streak to six games with an 80-71 comeback victory against Washington State in the teams' Pac-10 opener Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.

UCLA's Reeves Nelson dunks after a fast break in front of Washington State's Abe Lodwick during the first half at Pauley Pavilion Wednesday night.KEVIN SULLIVAN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

The Bruins' big three — forwards Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt and guard Malcolm Lee — combined for 33 points in a second half in which UCLA (9-4 overall, 1-0 Pac-10) overcame a significant first half deficit and then pulled steadily away from the Cougars (10-3, 0-1).

Having trailed by 11 points in the first half, UCLA opened the second half with a 24-12 run. Lazeric Jones' 3-point jumper gave the Bruins the lead first good with 14:40 left. Thirty-seconds later Lee tossed in another 3-pointer.

UCLA's Malcolm Lee tries to get a shot off under pressure from Washington State's DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson as Joshua Smith look on at right during the first half at Pauley Pavilion Wednesday night. KEVIN SULLIVAN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Lee finished with 21 points, equaling the team high with Nelson, but his biggest contribution came on the defensive end shadowing WSU's All-America candidate guard Klay Thompson. Thompson, the former Santa Margarita High standout, finished with a game-high 26 points, but was held by Lee and Co. to 6-of-17 shooting from the field, 3 for 11 in the second half.

Honeycutt, playing with a sore right shoulder, added 14 points for UCLA, 12 in the second half.

UCLA now plays host to preseason Pac-10 favorite Washington. The Huskies needed overtime to hold off USC, 73-67, Wednesday night.

UCLA started strong, then struggled through the latter stages of the first half, before finally putting the game out of reach with a strong performance on both ends in the second half.

The Bruins shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, including going 4 for 7 from behind the 3-point line.

UCLA went up, 18-12, on Tyler Lamb's 10-foot jumper with 13:32 left in the first half but the Cougars outscored the Bruins, 25-11, the rest of the half to take 37-29 lead at halftime.

After hitting their first three shots out of the gate, the Bruins were 9 for 27 from the field the rest of the half and just 2 for 11 from behind the 3-point line overall for the first half.

Washington State meanwhile was shooting 51.9 percent from the field, hitting 3 of 4 3-point attempts. After being shut down by UCLA early, Thompson piled up 14 points by halftime.

With Bruins freshman center Joshua Smith limited to just nine minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Washington State dominated the boards, 20-12.

Nelson, Lee score 21 as UCLA wrestles win from Washington State
By Jon Gold, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/29/2010 10:31:04 PM PST
Updated: 12/29/2010 11:34:10 PM PST

Going from a last-place finish last season to a 10-2 start this season, Washington State became the new darling of the Pacific-10 Conference, with some saying the Cougars could even compete for the championship.

Meanwhile, the UCLA basketball team was chided despite an 8-4 start, relegated to also-ran status because of a loss to Montana and less-than-convincing wins over UC Irvine, UC Davis and Pepperdine.

Perhaps the pundits were premature.

UCLA led early, stumbled a bit and then picked it right back up, breaking away from the Cougars late with an 80-71 victory Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion in both teams' conference openers.

"I'm really proud of our team, the way we showed the character to fight back," Howland said of the Bruins, who shot 61 percent in the second half to the Cougars' 38 percent. "We really fed off the crowd in the second half."

After losing an early lead and then some, a two-point advantage becoming an 11-point deficit in less than three minutes, UCLA wrested control back from Washington State early in the second half, Pauley Pavilion rocking once more, louder than it has been in two years.

All it took to wrestle back the lead? A little wrestling.

The Bruins retook control in the second half after a 3-point barrage by Tyler Honeycutt, Lazeric Jones and Malcolm Lee put the team on top by four with 13:34 remaining, before sophomore forward Reeves Nelson took to the mat.

Nelson had nine of UCLA's next 13 points as the team stretched the lead to nine.

Nelson and Lee each finished with 21 points and Honeycutt added 14 for the Bruins, who got their sixth straight win.

"I like when it's distributed, like (it was against) BYU," Honeycutt said. "Our whole starting five is in double-figures, which is a good thing. We can hurt you in many different ways. It's not like there is one key guy you can key in on."

The same can't be said about Washington State and junior guard Klay Thompson, who leads the Pac-10 in scoring, and finished with a game-high 26 points.

Thompson hit a out-from-nowhere running 3-pointer to give the Cougars' their first lead at 23-22 with just under seven minutes left in the first half, after the Bruins maintained a steady lead early. Thompson would add another 3-pointer and four free throws and backup Faizel Aden hit back-to-back deep shots, including a 3-pointer, during a 19-9 run to end the first half.

"They went on a little run there to close the first half, and we all rallied in the locker room together," Nelson said. "We talked over what we needed to do, and mainly we started with stopping them in transition."

That all started with stopping point guard Reggie Moore, and unlike last season, the Bruins actually did that.

After scoring 24 points at Pauley Pavilion in a 74-62 UCLA win on Jan. 23 last season, Moore had just five on Wednesday as Jones forced him into 1-for-7 shooting.

"I'm shocked he only had five," Howland said. "Is that right? That's a heck of a job. Reggie Moore is a really good player. That's a great job."

Jones' offensive effort, though, was more impressive, as he added 10 points and a career-high 11 assists, with just one turnover, while Moore picked up four fouls.

The Bruins were in a more precarious foul situation toward the end of the game, though, as Nelson, Lee and freshman center Joshua Smith each had four fouls. Howland didn't panic, however, letting Nelson and Lee play it out while re-inserting Smith back into the game with just more than seven minutes left, then rotating the big man with sophomore forward Brendan Lane on defense.

Smith said he was surprised when Howland called his number so early in the game despite the foul trouble, but believes his coach is developing trust in his ability to play with care.

"I have to be ready at all times," Smith said. "I picked up my fourth foul with 13 minutes left, and coach was telling me to be positive. I really got down on myself on that fourth foul, and I honestly didn't think I'd play until toward the end. He had trust in me, my teammates had trust in me, and I had trust in them."

UCLA beats Washington State, 80-71, in Pac-10 opener

The Bruins rally for a victory over the Cougars, with sophomore forwards Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt leading the charge.

By Ben Bolch
The Los Angeles Times
11:50 PM PST, December 29, 2010

The start of the "season within a season," as UCLA Coach Ben Howland likes to call Pacific 10 Conference play, had an unfamiliar feel to it.

And that was a good thing for the Bruins.

UCLA was the team putting together the inspired comeback and playing crisply in the final minutes for a change, rallying for an 80-71 victory over Washington State on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.

Sophomore forwards Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt led the charge for the Bruins, who used a 20-6 spurt at the beginning of the second half and some stingy defense over the final 20 minutes to pull out their sixth consecutive victory.

"I'm really proud of our team, the way we showed the character to fight back," said Howland, whose team had been on the other end of recent rallies by Montana State and UC Irvine. "This is a huge win for us."

Nelson finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds and Honeycutt had 14 points and nine rebounds in his return from a sprained right shoulder. The pair did most of its damage after a halftime locker room discussion among the Bruins, who then trailed by eight points.

"We're a team and we like to talk, so that's what we did," said Nelson, whose 13 second-half points were one more than Honeycutt scored over that span.

The duo hooked up on the play that seemed to seal the Cougars' fate. Honeycutt secured a rebound and fired a long outlet pass to Nelson, who bulled his way toward the basket for a layup that gave the Bruins a 62-54 lead with 6½ minutes to play.

"I just hope Coach [Rick] Neuheisel wasn't at the game," Nelson said, referring to the Bruins' football coach who was indeed in attendance. "He might need a new quarterback and receiver with me and Tyler."

Malcolm Lee provided a two-way threat, scoring 21 points and playing admirable defense on Washington State guard Klay Thompson. The Pac-10's leading scorer had 26 points but made only six of 17 shots, crediting the Bruins with changing their defensive approach on him in the second half.

"They stopped me from getting to the rim and made me pull up more," Thompson said.

The Bruins (9-4, 1-0) held Washington State (10-3, 0-1) to 37.9% shooting in the second half while making 60.7% of their shots.

The way UCLA opened the second half prompted the same fans who had verbally chastised the Bruins in the first half to suddenly rise to their feet in applause.

Honeycutt scored eight points during the 20-6 run, including back-to-back three-pointers, and Lazeric Jones and Lee each added a shot from beyond the arc to give UCLA a 49-43 lead.

"I haven't seen our crowd that loud in a long time," Honeycutt said.

Jones finished with 10 points and a career-high 11 assists, with only one turnover. Nelson and UCLA center Joshua Smith both managed to avoid fouling out after Smith picked up his fourth foul with 10:16 to go and Nelson with 9:10 remaining.

"You don't want to foul out," Nelson said. "You have to be less aggressive and be smarter about how you play."

Honeycutt was far more assertive in the second half, taking seven of his 11 shots as UCLA won for the first time in five games this season when trailing at halftime.

"We were having fun out there," Honeycutt said. "The momentum was flowing for us and we were playing well defensively as well."

Bruins Beat Cougars in Pac-10 Opener, 80-71

Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee scored 21 points apiece for UCLA.

from The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
Dec. 30, 2010

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee scored 21 points apiece to lift UCLA to a come-from-behind 80-71 victory over Washington State Wednesday night.

Nelson and fellow sophomore Tyler Honeycutt, who finished with 14 points, did most of their damage in the second half, after the Bruins found themselves training by eight points at halftime in the Pac-10 opener for both schools.

Nelson was held to eight points in the first half and Honeycutt, back from a one-game absence because of a sprained shoulder, scored 12 of his points after the break.

Honeycutt, UCLA's leading scorer, ignited a 20-6 run that brought the Bruins (9-4) back from a 37-29 halftime deficit. Honeycutt scored eight of the Bruins' 20 points during that run, with six coming on two 3-point baskets.

Washington State (10-3) lost its second in a row.

The Bruins connected on their first five field goals, but the Cougars stayed close before scoring 13 straight points to turn a two-point deficit into a 33-22 lead. Klay Thompson connected on two 3-point baskets during the spurt.

Faisal Aden contributed with a couple of jumpers, one from 15 feet out and the other from beyond the 3-point mark.

The Bruins did their best to clamp down defensively on Thompson. The Cougars' leading scorer scored 14 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 26 points.

Aden finished with 19 points, but the Cougars were unable to match the 52 percent shooting percentage that they had in the opening 20 minutes. Washington State connected on just 11 of its 29 field-goal attempts -- 38 percent -- in the second half.

UCLA rallies to beat Washington State 80-71, Yahoo
8 hours, 25 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES (AP)—Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee scored 21 points apiece to lift UCLA to a come-from-behind 80-71 victory over Washington State Wednesday night.

Nelson and fellow sophomore Tyler Honeycutt, who finished with 14 points, did most of their damage in the second half, after the Bruins found themselves training by eight points at halftime in the Pac-10 opener for both schools.

Nelson was held to eight points in the first half and Honeycutt, back from a one-game absence because of a sprained shoulder, scored 12 of his points after the break.

Honeycutt, UCLA’s leading scorer, ignited a 20-6 run that brought the Bruins (9-4) back from a 37-29 halftime deficit. Honeycutt scored eight of the Bruins’ 20 points during that run, with six coming on two 3-point baskets.

Washington State (10-3) lost its second in a row.

Click on boxscore to enlarge

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Washington Huskies are top dog in watered-down Pac-10 men's basketball

Washington Huskies are top dog in watered-down Pac-10 men's basketball

By Jeff Faraudo
Silicon Valley Mercury

Posted: 12/28/2010 07:53:20 PM PST
Updated: 12/28/2010 10:27:09 PM PST

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said it was flattering two months ago when his Huskies were picked for the first time to win the Pac-10 basketball title.

"That's all it is," he said. "You've still got to win the games."

The Huskies get to work on that part of the equation tonight when the Pac-10 schedule begins. If anything, UW appears somewhat more vulnerable after falling short in its only three high-profile nonconference games.

A year after the Pac-10 finished the season with only two entries in the NCAA tournament and no representatives in the final Associated Press Top 25 (for the first time since 1949), the conference seems only marginally better.

"I think our league is going to be pretty good by the end of the year," USC coach Kevin O'Neill said.

USC and Washington State could have much to say about that, provided they add to some encouraging recent performances. But the league is young -- with no seniors at UCLA, Stanford or WSU -- and Pac-10 teams are just 5-13 against Top-25 opponents.

Cal coach Mike Montgomery rates Washington and Arizona as the league's elite.

"After that I think there's a bunch of hopefuls, really," he said. "Everybody has had a loss or two that would raise an eyebrow."

Here's how we see it unfolding:

1. Washington

Coach: Lorenzo Romar (ninth season)

Nonconference record: 8-3

Outlook: The Huskies are the deepest and most explosive team in the conference. Led by guard Isaiah Thomas, UW has topped 100 points four times. But in losses to Kentucky, Michigan State and Texas Tech, it was held to an average of just under 67 points. Nearly unbeatable at home, the Huskies and their reliance on the 3-point shot haven't always traveled as well.

2. Arizona

Coach: Sean Miller (second season)

Nonconference record: 11-2

Outlook: Sophomore forward and Pac-10 player of the year candidate Derrick Williams is an efficient scorer who has added a new wrinkle to his game: He leads the league in 3-point accuracy. The Wildcats have improved their depth, rebound well and have made as many or more free throws than five Pac-10 teams have attempted. They need more consistent play from guards MoMo Jones and Kyle Fogg, who are shooting a combined 30 percent from 3-point range.


Coach: Ben Howland (eighth season)

Nonconference record: 8-4

Outlook: The Bruins boast the league's most imposing frontcourt. The sophomore forward tandem of Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson generates 29 points and 16 rebounds per game, and if 6-foot-10, 305-pound freshman center Joshua Smith can limit his fouls he can become a monster inside. The key will be guard play, so erratic last season that Howland brought in JC transfer Lazeric Jones to play the point. Progress? The Bruins won their final five nonconference games after a stunning home loss to Montana.

4. USC

Coach: Kevin O'Neill (second season)

Nonconference record: 8-5

Outlook: The Trojans absorbed a surprising 20-point home loss to Rider in mid-November but won four of five entering the conference, dropping only a last-second decision at Kansas. They own wins over Tennessee and Texas and have toughened themselves with four true road games. Transfer point guard Jio Fontan provides stability and scoring, and Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson are ranked 1-2 in the Pac-10 in rebounding. The Trojans look like a contender.

5. Washington State

Coach: Ken Bone (second season)

Nonconference record: 10-2

Outlook: The Cougars, with victories over Gonzaga, Mississippi State and Baylor, appear to be legit. They are improved at both ends of the floor and their depth is substantially better, in part because of JC arrival Faisal Aden, who is contributing 16.1 points per game. Junior wing Klay Thompson, who leads the conference at 22.3 points per game, continues to add to his game. One concern: Can the perimeter-oriented Cougars battle the big guys inside?

6. Cal

Coach: Mike Montgomery (third season)

Nonconference record: 6-5

Outlook: The Bears are playing capably on defense, but they rank at the bottom of the Pac-10 in scoring, shooting and 3-point accuracy. They have been held to 57 points or fewer in five games, and freshmen starting guards Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin entered Tuesday's game shooting a combined 26.7 percent from 3-point range. Montgomery hopes playing the league's toughest nonleague schedule pays off.

7. Arizona State

Coach: Herb Sendek (fifth season)

Nonconference record: 7-4

Outlook: There is little that jumps out about the Sun Devils, who entered the conference schedule with four straight wins over teams with losing records. But Sendek's teams play defense, dictate tempo and rarely fail to produce an upset or two. Keep an eye on freshman forward Kyle Cain, who has three games with at least 14 rebounds.

8. Stanford

Coach: Johnny Dawkins (third season)

Nonconference record: 6-4

Outlook: The Cardinal is very young and showed that inexperience in its first two road games of the season, losing by a combined 44 points at Butler and Oklahoma State. Stanford allowed an average of 81 points in those games and shot just 25 percent from the 3-point line. Junior Jeremy Green is dependable, but the Cardinal needs contributions from its freshmen, especially Dwight Powell and Aaron Bright.

9. Oregon

Coach: Dana Altman (first season)

Nonconference record: 7-5

Outlook: The Ducks were competitive in a home loss to Missouri, but their wins came against teams whose combined record is 18 games under .500. Forwards Joevan Catron and E.J. Singler have combined to produce 30 points and 13 rebounds per game, but they don't have much help. The Ducks could get an emotional lift with the Jan. 13 opening of the new Matthew Knight Arena.

10. Oregon State

Coach: Craig Robinson (third season)

Nonconference record: 5-6

Outlook: It's hard to believe the Beavers aren't better than this, but there is little evidence to prompt optimism. OSU lost at home to Utah Valley and Texas Southern, and its five wins came over teams with a combined record of 21-38. Sophomore guard Jared Cunningham (San Leandro High) averages 13.9 points per game and leads the Pac-10 in steals, but OSU is the league's worst rebounding team and shoots poorly from the 3-point line.

The Fabulous Forum
The who, what, where, when,
why — and why not — of L.A. sports

Pac-10 basketball roundtable: What to look for the rest of the season
The Los Angeles Times
December 27, 2010 | 12:37 pm

Recently, five writers from around the Pac-10 basketball conference gathered digitally for a roundtable, answering five pertinent Pac-10 questions before the start of conference play on Wednesday, when UCLA plays host to Washington State at Pauley Pavilion and USC plays host to Washington at the Galen Center. The writers: Ben Bolch (Los Angeles Times), Percy Allen (Seattle Times), Bob Clark (Eugene Register Guard), Jeff Faraudo (Contra Costa Times) and Doug Haller (Arizona Republic).

1. At this point in the non-conference season, what's surprised you most?

PERCY ALLEN: Regardless of what the coaches may say, I'm surprised the conference hasn't improved from last season. The scarcity of meaningful non-conference wins is alarming and suggests we're looking at another year when the Pac-10 sends just two teams -- if that -- to the NCAA tournament. At this time (Dec. 14), there's not a Pac-10 team that's ranked, and I don't know when that will change. I wouldn't be surprised if we went through the Pac-10 season without a team in the polls.

BEN BOLCH: Oregon’s not-so-terrible start. Having been picked by the media to finish last in the Pac-10, the Ducks didn’t figure to have much to showcase when they opened Matthew Knight Arena next month. But Oregon has won pretty much every game it should have won and nearly upset ninth-ranked Missouri. Senior forward Joevan Catron has blossomed into one of the better big men in the conference, and sophomore forward E.J. Singler has stepped up as a formidable rebounder. Coach Dana Altman appears to have the Ducks poised for a run at the middle of the Pac-10, and that’s saying something in the wake of the mess left by predecessor Ernie Kent.

BOB CLARK: Faisal Aden. I thought he was supposed to be a backup for Klay Thompson. He's the third-leading scorer in the league. He's making 43% of his threes. His addition has me wondering if the Cougars can go from last in the league to contending for first. Next up might be Cal's competitiveness, ignoring that five-point first half. I didn't see how the Bears would score points, but maybe that was discounting the coaching of Mike Montgomery. On the other end, I thought both Oregon State and Arizona State would be better than they've shown. I know they're both counting on a lot of new players, but some of those results have been mystifying. And disappointing.

JEFF FARAUDO: Probably the fact that Oregon is better than I expected, and Oregon State is worse. Not sure why, especially with regards to the Beavers. But they have been awful against an awful schedule.

DOUG HALLER: Washington State. I picked them sixth in the preseason media poll, partly because of how they finished last season (last in the Pac-10) and also because I didn't know what junior-college transfer Faisal Aden would bring. As it turns out, the Cougars are much improved, especially on defense, and Aden is one of the Pac-10's top scorers. Add in Klay Thompson, who's playing at an All-American level, and Reggie Moore, possibly the conference's top point guard, and the Cougars are a conference contender.

2. Is Washington still the overwhelming favorite?

ALLEN: No. The Huskies have shown they have problems winning on the road against big, physical teams. Granted, there are not a lot of those in the Pac-10, but UW hasn't shown the maturity to win on the road.

BOLCH: Yes. The Huskies have too much talent, too much depth and too good of a coach not to finish atop the Pac-10 during another down year for the conference. The Huskies have so many options that senior guard Venoy Overton ranks among the conference’s leaders in assists -- and he comes off the bench. Junior guard Isaiah Thomas continues to cement his legacy as one of the best players in school history, senior forward Justin Holiday is an explosive scoring threat, and sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy is significantly improved from a year ago. What’s not to like?

CLARK: That might depend on your definition of overwhelming. I'd say solid favorite, but the Huskies are going to need to win a few games out of Seattle, and they can't count on scoring 100 points very often against Pac-10 defenses, which is how they've won so far. But, yes, they have a lot of what is needed to win a title: experienced guards, some options on the inside and a bunch of people with the ability to score. And who has the overall depth of the Huskies?

FARAUDO: The favorite, yes. Overwhelming? Not sure I'd categorize it that way. The Huskies must demonstrate they can beat good teams. They have been competitive with the best opponents on their schedule but haven't gotten over the hump. We also need to see how they fare on the road, because that's been an issue for them in recent seasons, and teams that rely so heavily on three-point shooting sometimes don't travel well. At home, with that crowd, they are virtually unbeatable.

HALLER: Yes, it's just a matter of how quickly the Huskies put it together. They have all the pieces: experience in guards Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton. An inside presence in Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Justin Holiday is one of the Pac-10's more complete players, and C.J. Wilcox might be its best shooter. On top of all that, they have the best depth in the conference. For some reason, Washington still struggles away from home (losses to Kentucky, Michigan State and Texas A&M), but last season's team took a while to gel before making a Sweet 16 run. I think this one will do the same and maybe advance a step further.

3. Which team might surprise?

ALLEN: By surprise I'm assuming you're talking about a team outside the top five in the preseason media poll. In that case, I'll say USC. Not sure if transfer guard Jio Fontan is the real deal or not, but coach Kevin O'Neill believes he is. O'Neill said he's the team's best player, which is high praise because forward Nikola Vucevic may play in the NBA someday, and Alex Stepheson is one of the top post players in the conference.

BOLCH: USC. The Trojans are going to be Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates in that you never know what you’re going to get. They will pull off some upset victories (see Texas) and suffer a few bad defeats (see Rider). The addition of junior transfer Jio Fontan should help stabilize the Trojans’ inconsistent ways and could thrust them into the Pac-10 title race. Coach Kevin O’Neill’s signature stingy defense will also help USC win some games it probably shouldn’t given that the Trojans don’t boast overwhelming talent and often appear lost on offense. But their front-court tandem of Alex Stepheson and Nikola Vucevic is probably better than anyone else’s in the conference except the UCLA duo of Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith.

CLARK: Honestly, if the Cougars do stay healthy and out of foul trouble, might they end up in the NCAA tournament? They've got that win over Gonzaga, which will become more important as the season goes on, and a close loss to Kansas State won't hurt the view of the selection committee. That tournament in Honolulu could play big, if WSU could beat a Mississippi State and a Baylor, and those teams went on to play well in their own leagues. And then there's this -- laugh if you want, but Oregon may surprise a team or two, on a night when the Ducks shoot well, and their full-court pressure wears down the ball handlers on another team.

FARAUDO: USC, without a doubt. The Trojans own perhaps the Pac-10's two best non-conference victories so far -- at home versus Texas and on the road versus Tennessee. They have two big, physical front-court players in Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson, good young guards and a newcomer in point guard Jio Fontana who coach Kevin O'Neill says is his best player in every way. At this point, USC will be a disappointment if it doesn't finish in the top three or four in the conference.

HALLER: USC is the easy answer, but UCLA could surprise by challenging Washington. The Bruins have the Pac-10's best front line in Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith. Problem is, you never know what you're going to get with the Bruins. The team that took Kansas to the wire and beat BYU or the team that lost to Montana at home.

4. Your pick for Pac-10 player of the year?

ALLEN: I think it's a two-man race between Arizona's Derrick Williams and Washington State's Klay Thompson. We've seen in the recent past the player with the best statistics doesn't always win this award, and the coaches sometimes give a vote to the best player on the best team. For my money, Williams and Thompson have separated themselves from everyone in the league right now. They're playing at a high level.

BOLCH: Isaiah Thomas, Washington. Klay Thompson will score more points. Nikola Vucevic will grab more rebounds. But in terms of making a difference, no one will eclipse Thomas. He is the leader of one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, a player equally comfortable passing and shooting. In fact, he is so unselfish that his scoring average was down a bit from last season in the early going. But whether he adapts to whatever opening an opponent presents by scoring 25 points or getting 12 assists, no one can match his impact.

CLARK: I don't think one Husky will stand out from the others enough, so I'd look to Klay Thompson of WSU or Derrick Williams of Arizona. Yes, I know, all I'm doing there is pointing out the league's top two scorers (at this date). But Thompson also leads in assists, and Williams is close to the lead in field-goal percentage and rebounds. Very nice all-around players. And if one of them leads his team to the title, or at least is in contention to the final week, he'll have the edge.

FARAUDO: Arizona's Derrick Williams is the best and most efficient player in the league. He can score without hogging the ball because he gets to the free-throw line so often. Plus he's added three-point shooting range from a year ago when he was primarily a low-block player. He means more to his team's success than perhaps any other player in the Pac-10.

HALLER: Klay Thompson. His maturity has elevated the Cougars. Example: In Washington State's win over Gonzaga on Dec. 8, Thompson scored just three points in the first half. Last season, this would've bothered him. This season, he stayed patient, using his defense to trigger his offense. He found an offensive rhythm in the second half, finishing with 24 points, six rebounds, six assists and seven steals.

5. Your pick for Pac-10 freshman/newcomer of the year?

ALLEN: Talk about a void of talent. Everyone likes to talk about the dearth of seniors in the Pac-10, but where are the outstanding freshman? Simply put, there aren't many. There's not a freshman currently among the top 20 scorers in the league. I say, when it's all said and done, UCLA big man Josh Smith will stand taller than anyone else.

BOLCH: Joshua Smith, UCLA. The arrival of the super-sized McDonald’s All-American in Westwood was a big deal not just because Smith tipped the scales at well over 300 pounds (don’t believe his listed weight of 305). The 6-foot-10 freshman can score, rebound, move people out of the way as if they’re made of straw and has some of the best hands for a big man Coach Ben Howland has ever seen. After a slow start plagued by foul trouble, Smith started to show the difference he could make with a double-double against Kansas. But you have to check some more obscure stats to fully appreciate Smith’s impact. He helped the Bruins upset Brigham Young by taking a charge and is the runaway leader on his team in that category. Smith will be in the middle of everything UCLA does as it tries to get back to the NCAA tournament.

CLARK: WSU's Faisal Aden is the best newcomer right now, but I've never seen Jio Fontan play. USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said Fontan will be his best passer, defender, scorer and leader, which is a lot to put on a transfer before he's seen any action. If he does all that and turns the Trojans into a first-division team, then he'll be pushing Aden for best newcomer. Just one question, though: How did a player that good end up at Fordham? And nobody between New York and Los Angeles tried to land him before the Trojans welcomed him across the country?

FARAUDO: I'm going with (real) big Joshua Smith of UCLA. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he should produce good numbers on a front line with two excellent forwards in Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson. Smith seems to have a better skill set than I had imagined. And at 6-foot-10, 305 pounds, he's gigantic.

HALLER: Smith is the freshman favorite, and with his size, he could develop into a real force as the season progresses. But Arizona State's Kyle Cain can make this an interesting race. Yes, he's raw offensively, but he could possibly lead the conference in rebounding. He already has games of 17, 16 and 14 boards. Outside of those two, no other freshman has really emerged.

Pac-10's basketball image remains cloudy
By Jack Magruder

The Pac-10 made strides in burnishing its basketball image during the pre-conference season, but work remains to be done if it is to return to center stage.

USC provides the textbook example.

The Trojans had two of the league’s signature victories in December, hammering Texas by 18 points Dec. 5 as part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series before beating Tennessee in Knoxville two weeks later, Kevin O’Neill getting some payback against the Vols. At the same time, Rider and Nebraska handed USC two of its four defeats.

Those results are symptomatic of the inconsistent non-conference play that doomed the Pac-10 last March, when a record-low two conference teams made the 65-team NCAA field.

It's unclear whether things will change, but the conference is trying. Arizona State, which was left out of the NCAAs despite finishing second in the regular season last year, was among the teams that beefed up its non-conference load in an attempt to add quality wins and boost its RPI.

USC is not the only team that has stepped up in the preseason. UCLA beat scoring machine Jimmer Fredette and BYU, which handed Arizona one of its two losses. California topped Big East foe Notre Dame. Washington State beat a very athletic Baylor team in the Diamond Head Classic semifinals last week, and also dominated Palouse pal Gonzaga on Dec. 8.

Other preseason tournaments did not go as well. League favorite Washington showed poorly in Maui, although two of its three losses were to Kentucky and Michigan State. Stanford was swept in the Anaheim Classic, and UCLA was 0-2 in the preseason NIT, losing first to Villanova.

As league play commences Wednesday, the best thing that could happen, in terms of national prestige, would be if three or four teams emerged as clear top dogs, making the NCAA selection committee’s job a little easier. It did not help when Cal won the Pac-10 with five losses and only four teams finished above .500 in league play last season.

Not that anyone will volunteer to lie down, of course, and the parity appears such that the race will go down to the last weekend again this year.

Here's a glimpse of what we have learned about the teams so far, in order of predicted finish:

Washington (8-3) — Isaiah Thomas is still the most disruptive force in the league, combining his quick penetrations with a midrange jumper that keeps defenses off balance. A replacement for go-to Quincy Pondexter has not been identified, but with Thomas’ drive-and-kick style, the Huskies may play more on the perimeter. They have four players shooting at least 43 percent from three-point range.

Arizona (11-2) — Sean Miller is getting his feet on the ground in Arizona after replacing legend Lute Olson last year, and forward Derrick Williams — the only freshman on the All-Pac-10 team last year — is a lock to make it again this season. Williams, 6-foot-8, has increased his range and already has more three-pointers (13) than he had all last year (four).

Washington State (10-2) — J.C. transfer Faisal Aden, a 6-foot-4 guard, and 6-10 Australian native Brock Motum have blossomed — Aden as a scorer to complement star Klay Thompson, and Motum as an interior piece to pair with DeAngelo Casto. Fearless lead guard Reggie Moore was a member of the league’s all-freshman team a year ago.

USC (8-5) — Twin 6-10 inside players Alex Stephenson and Nikola Vucevic are 1-2 in the Pac-10 in rebounding, indicative of the way O’Neill likes to play — a patterned, precise offensive attack that includes relentless board play. He is building with three new starters.

UCLA (8-4) — Super 6-8 sophs Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt have seamlessly continued their ascent this season after starting about half the time last year, and each ranks in the top 10 in the league in scoring. The Bruins are still feeling the effects of the early defections of Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday, however, and their point play is up and down.

Arizona State (7-4) — The Sun Devils bit off a devil of a non-conference schedule, including games at New Mexico and Baylor, and their record has felt it. The Sun Devils will bomb from the perimeter with Rik Kuksiks and Ty Abbott, seniors who recently joined the 1,000-point club. Freshman center Kyle Cain has provided a strong rebounding presence.

California (6-5) — No team was hit harder by graduation than the Bears, who lost 2010 Pac-10 player of the year Jerome Randle, shooter Patrick Christopher, scorer Theo Robertson and big man Jamal Boykin. Knowing Mike Montgomery, however, the newcomers will (1) compete and (2) hit the glass. Glue guy Jorge Gutierrez is off to a good start.

Stanford (6-4) — Guard Jeremy Green is still scoring 16 points a game, as he did as a freshman last year, but without running buddy Landry Fields — 22 points per game, 36.3 minutes per game — the Cardinal is in transition.

Oregon State (5-6) — Is this the season the Beavers outsmart teams with the finer points of the patient Princeton offense that coach Craig Robinson brought with him from Brown in 2008? Seth Tarver and Roeland Schaftenaar have been missed, but Jared Cunningham is stepping up.

Oregon (7-5) — New coach Dana Altman has a solid resume after winning coach of the year honors in the three conferences — the Missouri Valley (Creighton), Big Eight (Kansas State) and Southern (Marshall) — but the cupboard is thin after the loss of lead guard Tajuan Porter. Even with E.J. Singler and Joevan Catron, this year will be a challenge.

UCLA Opens Pac-10 Play with Washington State on Dec. 29

Tyler Honeycutt will be ready to go tomorrow when the Bruins open Pac-10 play against Washington State.Photo Daily Bruin.

UCLA Opens Pac-10 Play with Washington State on Dec. 29

The Bruins lead the all-time series with Washington State 97-14 and have won 52 of the 54 meetings in Los Angeles.

Dec. 28, 2010
The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website


DATE: Dec. 29, 2010
SITE: Pauley Pavilion (12,819)
TIP-OFF: 8:06 p.m. (PT)
TALENT: Steve Physioc (play-by-play), Marques Johnson (analyst) and Rebecca Haarlow (reporter)
TALENT: Chris Roberts (play-by-play) and Tracy Murray (analyst)
SERIES: UCLA leads 97-14

UCLA is unranked in the AP Top 25 and the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll (Dec. 27). The Washington State Cougars (10-2) are unranked in both polls, but received four votes in the AP poll and seven votes in the Coaches poll.

This is the 112th meeting between UCLA and Washington State with the Bruins leading the series 97-14 (.874). UCLA is 52-2 (.963) against the Cougars in Los Angeles and has won 33 of the last 35 overall meetings. UCLA won last year's meeting in Pauley Pavilion 74-62 on Jan. 23, 2010. Reeves Nelson led a trio of Bruins in double figures with 19 points, followed by Nikola Dragoviæ with 18 points and Michael Roll with 11 points. Reggie Moore led WSU with a game-high 24 points on 6-of-10 shooting from downtown. UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland is 13-2 against Washingon State.

Sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt has a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. He sustained the injury in the second half of the Bruins' win over Montana State on Dec. 21, 2010. He did not play in the Bruins' 74-73 win over UC Irvine (Dec. 23) and is day-to-day. He practiced yesterday and will play against Washington State on Dec. 29, 2010.

UCLA is 22-10 (.688) in Pacific-10 Conference openers (since 1978-79). UCLA is 28-4 (.875) all-time in Pac-10 home openers. This is the fifth time (3-2) the Bruins have opened Pac-10 play with Washington State and the third time they have done so at home (2-0, last was on Dec. 28, 2006 when then-No. 1 UCLA defeated WSU 55-52).


Cougars Open Pac-10 Play Wednesday at UCLA

Washington State is 2-51 all-time at UCLA.

from Washington State Men's Basketball Home
Dec. 28, 2010

COUGARS OPEN PAC-10 PLAY AT LOS ANGELES: Washington State University men's basketball (10-2) concludes its six-game road trip as it heads to Los Angeles to open up Pacific-10 Conference play beginning with UCLA (8-4), Wednesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. The game can be seen live on Fox Sports Net.

• Washington State is coming off a second-place finish at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at Honolulu.
• At the tournament the Cougars went 2-1, including victories over Mississippi State and then-No. 15 Baylor...WSU fell to Butler in the championship game Christmas Day.
• WSU is 10-2 overall and receiving votes in the Associated Press Poll and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.
• The Cougars have played two road games this season, at Fresno State (11/26) and at Santa Clara (12/19) and are 2-0 on the road and 3-1 in neutral-site games.
• WSU is 4-1 at home (wins against Southern, Idaho, Sacramento State and Gonzaga; loss to Kansas State) and 1-0 at neutral-site games.
• Juniors Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden are sharing the scoring load, averaging 22.3 and 16.1 points per game, respectively...the sharpshooting duo account for two of the top five scorers in the Pac-10.
• Thompson leads the team and is third in the league in assists per game with 5.3...he dished out a career-high nine assists against Idaho (Nov. 16).
• Thompson is second in the league with 2.3 steals per game and third in 3-point field goals made with 34 total and 2.8 per game.
• Sophomore forward Brock Motum ranks fourth on the team with 8.9 points per game, while leading the league in field goal percentage with a .652 mark (45-for-69).
• DeAngelo Casto, who missed two of the Cougars' games with a sprained foot, is adding 9.3 points and 6.1 rebounds an outing, while Reggie Moore scored 10 points in his first outing of the season against K-State (Dec. 3)...Moore is averaging 8.1 points a game.

• The Cougars trail the all-time series 14-97 and 2-51 on the road...WSU is 2-43 all-time against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
• WSU has won just two games over UCLA since the 1993-94 season, both of them on the road.
• The Cougs' only two wins at Pauley Pavilion have come in the last seven seasons under Dick and Tony Bennett.
• The Cougars defeated the No. 20 Bruins, 82-81, Feb. 21, 2009 and 55-48, Feb. 4, 2004.
• Last season WSU was swept by UCLA including a 74-62 loss at Pauley Pavilion, Jan. 23.
• Reggie Moore scored a career-high 24 points in the game.

• The Cougars are 11-21 all-time in Pacific-10 Conference openers (beginning in the 1978-79 season).
• WSU is 2-13 when opening Pac-10 play on the road (won at Washington in 1987-88 and 2007-08).
• WSU is 2-4 when beginning with UCLA, last opening Pac-10 play at UCLA, Dec. 28, 2006...the Bruins were ranked No. 1 at the time and WSU fell 55-52.
• The Cougs are 1-4 in their last five Pac-10 openers, defeating Washington in 2007-08.
• This season marks the ninth time WSU will open Pac-10 play in December and the second-straight year.

• Over the last four seasons (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10) the Cougars have the second most overall and fourth most conference wins among Pac-10 schools.
• WSU is 95-50 (.655) overall and 38-34 in conference play over the last three years and this season.
• UCLA has the best four-year record at 112-41 (.732) overall and 53-20 in league play.
• The Cougars need just one win to catch up to second-ranked Washington and two conference wins to jump USC and tie with Washington for second.

• For the second year in a row, Klay Thompson captured Pac-10 Player of the Week honors for the week of the Thanksgiving holiday...this year the week was Nov. 22-28.
• For the week, he averaged 28.5 points, while shooting 21-of-33 (.636) from the field, 5-of-10 (.500) from three-point range, and 10-of-12 (.833) from the free throw line...he also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the two contests.
• This is the third honor for Thompson who becomes the first Cougar to earn a Player of the Week honor three times in his career...last year he became the first Cougar to earn the honors in back-to-back weeks as he was Pac-10 Player of the Week Nov. 23 and Nov. 30.
• Four WSU student-athletes have earned the honor twice in their careers.

• For the second time this season and the fourth in his career, Klay Thompson has been named the Pacific-10 Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week for the week of Dec. 6-12.
• The junior guard helped lead the Cougars to wins over Gonzaga and Texas-Pan American last week.
• For the week, he averaged 19.5 points, 5.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 3.0 rebounds.

• Washington State concluded nonconference action at Honolulu, Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic, finishing second in the tournament.
• The Cougars fell to the Bulldogs of Butler in the championship game, 84-68.
• Klay Thompson was the lone Cougar to score in double figures with 31 points.
• The Cougars have appeared in the championship game in each of its last five nonconference tournament.
• Klay Thompson appeared on the Diamond Head Classic All-Tournament Team...he has been on the all-tournament team in all three of the regular season tournaments he has played as a Cougar.
• Thompson is averaging 27.4 points per game in those three tournaments, eight games.
• Thompson set a tournament record with 79 points in his three games...the previous high was Dwain Williams of Hawai'i who had 67 in the first season of the tournament last year.
• Butler set a season high by a WSU opponent with 84 points and shot a best .500 (28-for-56).
• The Cougars end the nonconference season 10-2 for the second-straight season.

• WSU defeated No. 15 Baylor, 77-71 Dec. 23 in the tournament semifinals.
• WSU got its first win over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 14 Arizona State, 51-49 in OT, Feb. 28, 2009.
• The Cougars improve to 46-209 all-time against ranked opponents and 19-155 against the AP top-15.
• WSU improves to 3-1 all-time against Baylor.
• Reggie Moore grabbed a career-high six rebounds...previous high was five done twice last season.
• The Cougars had a season-high five players score in double figures (Thompson-20, Moore-12, Aden-13, Motum-12 and Casto-12).
• The Cougars defeated Mississippi State, 83-57, in the tournament semifinals Dec. 22.
• WSU is 11-1 in its last five tournaments (including the Diamond Head Classic) and improves to 2-0 against Mississippi State.
• The Cougars will play the winner of the Baylor/San Diego game which takes place following the Cougars' game.
• Abe Lodwick scored a season-high nine points and tied his career high of three 3-pointers made (3-for-5).
• For the first time this season WSU has trailed at the half in back-to-back games.
• WSU outrebounded its opponent for the first time since a +11 rebound margin against Sacramento State (Nov. 30)...WSU had 42 rebounds to Mississippi State's 29.
• WSU got 24 points off of MSU's 21 turnovers compared to just four for MSU off of WSU's 12 turnovers.
• The Cougars have scored 80 or more points in seven of their 10 games this season, while holding their opponent under 60 six times.

• Washington State is looking like the team from two years ago that captured the NCAA field goal percentage defense crown.
• This year the Cougs lead the conference in field goal percentage defense and rank second in points allowed per game.
• WSU also ranks first in 3-point field goal percentage defense.

• The Cougars lead the conference in field goal percentage and are third in scoring offense.
• WSU is also second in 3-point field goal percentage.

• With 22 points at Oregon last season, Klay Thompson surpassed the 1,000-point for his career...he finished the season with 1,023 points.
• He now has 1,291 points and currently ranks 11th on the Cougar all-time scoring list.
• Thompson became the 31st Cougar to reach 1,000 career points and the third-fastest, accomplishing the feat in his 63rd career game.
• The only two Cougars to do it faster than Thompson were Steve Puidokas (52 games) and Jim McKean (57 games)...Thompson surpassed Larry Beck who was previously third as he did it in 66 games.
• If Thompson continues to average 22.3 points again this season, he will finish his junior year with at least 1,685 points, making him the third-leading scorer in Washington State history....Isaac Fontaine holds the school record with 2,003 points, while Steve Puidokas scored 1,894 in his career.

• Through the first five games of the season Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden held the third and fifth-best scoring out puts by a Cougar in his first five games of the season since the 3-point line in 1986-87.
• Thompson also holds the second spot after scoring 127 in the first five games of his sophomore season.
• Aden has the second-most points by a Cougar in his first five games of his career, second to Neil Derrick who scored 111 in his first five games after transferring prior to his junior year.

• With its win Nov. 30, WSU finished the month 40-0 all-time in the month of November at Friel Court.
• The Cougars have won 40-straight November games in Pullman and are 42-1 (the loss came before the Cougars moved into Beasley Coliseum).
• WSU's only loss in Pullman in November came against Colorado State, Nov., 30, 1962, by a score of 77-47.

• The Cougars opened the game with a 27-0 run as they defeated Sacramento State, 84-36 Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Beasley Coliseum.
• WSU held Sacramento State to .319 (15-for-47) shooting from the field and .067 (1-for-15) from beyond the 3-point arc.
• WSU's 48-point margin of victory ties for third most since 1945...the largest was 54 points against Delaware in 1989.
• Sacramento State's 15 first-half points are tied for 15th fewest points in a half (first or second half) since the 1968-69 season (when WSU joined the Pac-8).

• Before falling Friday, Washington State was the last undefeated Pac-10 team with a 5-0 start.
• Arizona suffered its first loss of the season Nov. 27 when it fell to Kansas...the Wildcats were 5-0 before suffering their first setback....Arizona is the only other one-loss team in the Pac-10.
• WSU was one of 22 undefeated teams in the country as of games Dec. of Dec. 5 19 undefeated teams remained.

• WSU was chosen to finish fifth in the Pacific-10 Conference in 2010-11, according to a poll of media members who cover Pac-10 basketball.
2010-11 Pac-10 Men's Basketball Media Poll
1. Washington (33) 348
2. Arizona (1) 296
3. UCLA (1) 281
4. Arizona State 215
5. Washington State 191
6. USC 178
7. California 151
8. Oregon State 120
9. Stanford 98
10. Oregon 47
First place votes in parentheses


Thanks to yapil75 for posting on Bruin Zone.

Klay Thompson played at Santa Margarita High with former UCLA player James Keefe. Photo AP Photo/Eugene Tanner.

The one that got away

December, 28, 2010 3:47PM PT
By Blair Angulo
UCLA Report, ESPN Los Angeles

A local product figures to be the best player on the floor when UCLA and Washington State start Pac-10 play Wednesday night.

The thing is, Klay Thompson (Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic) plays for the Cougars.

Thompson, a junior guard, leads upstart Wazzu (10-2) with averages of 22.3 points and 4.3 assists per game. He is shooting a blistering 42 percent from three-point range and is listed at No. 25 in Chad Ford's latest NBA Draft Top 100.

UCLA coach Ben Howland saw Thompson plenty in high school (Thompson and former Bruin forward James Keefe were teammates). But Howland noted that early commitments from guards Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson -- along with the long courting of Jrue Holiday -- made it impossible to add Thompson to UCLA's touted 2008 recruiting class. The now-gone duo of Drew Gordon (New Mexico) and J'mison Morgan (Baylor) were part of the same group.

"Believe me, I kick myself in the head any time I think about it," Howland said.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

UCLA 88-game winning streak ends

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, left, holds the game ball as he leads his players off the floor after
beating Notre Dame for a record 61st win in South Bend, Ind., Jan. 27, 1973. At right is UCLA's Larry Farmer and center is Larry Hollyfield. The Bruins won
82-63. (The Associated Press)

STREAK: Iconic run of 88
took Bruins and the
nation on a roller-
coaster ride

By Tom Hoffarth and Jill Painter, Staff Writers
The Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/19/2010 12:12:38 AM PST
Updated: 12/19/2010 08:09:30 PM PST

It was March 1, 1971. Win Number 8 in a
remarkable, iconic streak of 88.

UCLA's top-ranked basketball team had somehow escaped with a victory at the University of Washington -- Curtis Rowe's jumper over Louie Nelson with 29 seconds left put the Bruins on top, and then Nelson missed a driving layup with less than two seconds left.

UCLA prevailed 71-69.

"Damn," said Huskies coach Tex Winter. "How can those people continue to be so lucky?"

It had nothing to do with luck, according to Larry Farmer, who, with Larry Hollyfield, won 89 of their 90 games at UCLA during their playing career.

"Luck happens when perspiration and preparation meet opportunity," said Farmer, the
former Bruins head coach from 1981-84, now an assistant at Western Michigan, using a John Wooden maxim to illustrate his point.

"My junior year we won every game by 30.3 points a game. The next year the games were closer, we were undefeated. I don't know how you can attach luck to that.

"You're going to get every team's best shot. Of all the games on their schedule, that will stand out the most with all of the special things going on. There was a level we knew we had to play at every time. I was part of winning 75 of them and
it wasn't a lot of luck. It was a lot of hard work. We were pretty good."

A streak that spanned four rosters, three national titles, two All-American centers and the "The Walton Gang" era has to have more than just some fortunate bounces.

The fortunes of a streak book-ended in history by painful losses to rival Notre Dame has become the standard by which so many things in sports are measured.

The Sports Illustrated cover for the week of Feb. 5, 1973 featured UCLA and breaking the Div. I basketball consecutive winning streak of 60, held by the University of San Francisco Dons. (Sheedy & Long)

The current winning run by the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team could match UCLA's 88 straight victories with a win over Ohio State today in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. And Tuesday, UConn could own the longest consecutive win streak in college basketball at 89 with a victory over Florida State in Hartford, Conn.

Whether the two somewhat ridiculously difficult streaks are comparable is a hotly contested debate between genders and generations. But looking back at it nearly 40 years later, it continues to be a remarkable achievement that has more than withstood the test of time, and a measure of historical significance.

Wooden's teams were the envy of every other college basketball coach in the country. Even when the streak ended.

"The only thing my dad ever said about it was that it was a relief when it was over,"' said Nan Muehlhausen, Wooden's daughter. "That's the way he felt. It builds and builds and builds. It was a relief. It gets to be more and more of a burden.
It was like, `It's OK. We'll start it all over again."'

UCLA played in the rugged Pacific-8 Conference. And the Bruins never avoided playing top-ranked opponents - there were 10 of them during the run, including a couple of No. 1 vs. No.2 matchups - some against rival USC.

Two games were one-point victories. Three more were by two points. But luck?

Denny Crum, the former Wooden assistant who was there for the first 15 games of the streak, and then tried to end it as the Louisville coach in the 1972 NCAA semifinals, knew the formula:

"It has more to do with being fundamentally sound and having honest respect for an
opponent," said the former SanFernando High standout guard, who played for the Bruins in the 1950s under Wooden before joining his staff and recruiting many of the seniors on the '72 title team.

"Luck won't hurt you, but it's more with having the right players at the right time doing the right things. That's not so easy, but it's an amazing thing when it happens. We were just so dominant, we expected to win every game."

Among the nuances, nooks and crannies revealed when you examine each piece of the big-picture puzzle:

== The prime cut of it was back-to-back 30-0 seasons in Bill Walton's sophomore and junior years (he was ineligible as a freshman because of NCAA rules at the time).

== UCLA had a 15-0 run to end the 1970-71 season (ending in another NCAA title) and a 13-0 start to Walton's senior season.

UCLA head coach John Wooden, center, holds the NCAA championship trophy after his Bruins defeated Villanova University, 68-62, to win their fifth straight national title in Houston, Texas, March 27, 1971. Standing next to Wooden at right is Sidney Wicks (35), wearing basketball net around his neck, and the others are players, assistant coaches and student managers. (AP Photo)

== Twelve of them were in the sudden-death NCAA Tournament, resulting in the three

== They beat each of the other conference schools six times, and Notre Dame fell four times (three times, led by coach Digger Phelps).

== The average margin of victory: 23.4 points.

== Wooden actually missed one; Walton missed the last three.

== Opposing coaches like Crum, Jerry Tarkanian (twice at Long Beach State), Bob Boyd, Lefty Driesell, Marv Harshman, George Raveling and Bob Knight couldn't figure out how to end it.

Even with a few predictable blowouts - the greatest, by 64 points over Texas A&M, followed by a 58-point win over the Fighting Irish 11days later, in December '71 - the roller-coaster ride was something to experience.

Muehlhausen, who lives in Reseda, attended almost all of those games during the streak.

"I just loved to keep winning," she said. "I don't remember any particular game, but we wanted to keep winning. I did."


Despite a 13-0 mark to start the '70-71 season, and an 18-game win streak going back to the season before, UCLA got rear-ended by Austin Carr -- a 46-point effort in an 89-82 Notre Dame win Jan. 23, 1971.

The night before, UCLA was in Chicago defeating Loyola. The drama started in the wee hours of the morning.

"(Athletic director) J.D. (Morgan) got some big money guarantee from (Loyola) Chicago," reserve Andy Hill said. "That was the only (non-Pac-8) trip we were taking. We were still in Pauley for every game.

"We got on the bus to go to Notre Dame, and we got lost. I think it was around 1 in the morning and J.D. finally figures out our bus driver - who had an Irish name, that's all I'm going to say - was literally taking us for a ride. We got in about
3:30 in the morning. We had to wake up in four hours.

"That was probably the only time in his life that J.D. Morgan got taken for a ride."

The Irish win ended a streak of 49straight UCLA non-conference wins, going back to the loss to Houston in the Astrodome (Lew Alcindor vs. Elvin Hayes) in 1968. Wooden said it was possible there would be the same psychological effect on the team as the '68 loss to Houston left that squad.

"It may," he said, "but we don't hold any revenge motives. We'd just like to get into the NCAA Tournament ourselves and take it from there. Notre Dame beat us today and they might do it again."

That wouldn't happen for another three years.

Six nights later, the streak officially began with an uneventful, humble 13-point win over UC Santa Barbara. The starting five: Rowe, Sidney Wicks, Steve Patterson, Kenny Booker and Henry Bibby.

Win No. 2 mattered more in the grand scheme of things.

UCLA had fallen to No. 3 in The Associated Press poll when crosstown rival USC, which was undefeated and rose to No. 2, behind Marquette, hosted the Bruins. A 64-60 UCLA victory at the Sports Arena seemed to revitalize the team - although the next two wins were by a combined three points at the Oregon schools.

The 1971 NCAA championship over Villanova on March 27 made it 15 in a row, with Patterson's 29-point game making up for the combined 15 points by fellow seniors Rowe and Wicks. It was UCLA's sixth consecutive NCAA title, and it outscored opponents by 30.3 points a game, an NCAA record that still stands.

But just prior to all that, things got tense.

The distractions over a court ruling that abolished the "hardship" rule and allowed
players to leave college early for the pros - which now was an NBA-ABA bidding war - could have taken Wooden's team apart. Wicks had contracts of $2 million waved at him. Wooden said that "without hesitation, I'm quite sure" that it was having an effect on the team that was already living in a time of anti-Vietnam War
protests, wild fashion trends and drug experimentation.

Even Walton, playing on the undefeated UCLA freshman team at a time when the NCAA prevented first-year players from being on the varsity squad, was hearing he could go straight to the pros, threatening Wooden's protective team unit.

Streaks aside, winning conference titles and national championships were Wooden's mantra. Yet, the media reminded everyone the NCAA record at the time was 60 games by the 1955-57 University of San Francisco squad led by Bill Russell. UCLA had come close to that once before - the school record was 47 in a row, with Alcindor leading the way.

After the Bruins' 27th in a row on Jan. 15, 1972, an 82-43 victory over Cal, Farmer said: "My personal goal? To go all the way, and I do mean 30-0. I really don't think as a team we've really put it all together in any game yet. We haven't exploded."

Before Win No. 35 at Washington on Feb.19, 1972, however, the basketball world was rocked: No. 2 Marquette lost junior center Jim Chones to the New York Nets of the ABA for $1.5 million in what was called "hard cash." UCLA senior guard Henry Bibby, as well as juniors Farmer and Hollyfield, said they would leave school immediately if the price was right, too.

"What would be the sense in waiting?" Bibby said. "I'd want to get the best opportunity at the best time - and if that time were now I'd sign right away."

Walton, however, wanted no part of it.

"They've called my parents and my brother because I don't have a phone and don't want to be bothered," he said. "Playing pro ball doesn't mean that much to me now. I think I'd be better off financially if I waited until I'm through playing college ball."

Wooden said he would not dissuade his players if the ABA tried to pick them off.

"There was a time when I would have opposed them flatly," he said. "But now, if it happens, it happens. I'll not try to talk any of our players out of signing."

The streak somehow endured. It wasn't until it hit 40 games that the local media seemed to make a bigger deal of it, including the numbers in the headlines after each win.

"We talked about the streak a couple of times when we'd read it in the newspaper," said Gary Cunningham, Wooden's top assistant from 1965-75, and then the head coach from '77-'79. "But (Wooden) never talked about winning. He always referred to his Pyramid of Success and doing the best you can.

"Obviously, the fans wanted to keep it going forever. I know Coach Wooden was very relieved when it was over. I think he thought things could get back to normal."

Hill wanted it to be a normal routine for substitutes to garner even more playing time. He got in at the end of win No. 42, a 90-58 NCAA Tournament-opening win over Weber State, scoring 10 points in about two minutes. He tried to make a joke with Wooden.

"My senior year I averaged six points a game because he put the subs in," Hill said. "I said, `Geez, Coach. Give me 40 (minutes) and I'll give you 200 points. I thought it was pretty good."

A week later, it was Win No. 44 - halfway through - although Crum had what he thought was the best chance of ending it. The architect of the UCLA zone press knew exactly how the Bruins would play against his Louisville team in the '72 NCAA semifinals.

UCLA's Bill Walton looks for a teammate after taking control of rebound during NCAA semifinal playoff game with Louisville at the Sports Arena on March 24, 1972 in Los Angeles. (Anonymous)

"We devised a way to attack their press to get wide-open shots - but at halftime we were 0-for-9 on those shots," Crum said. "Open 15-footers ... Walton's presence was just too distracting."

Crum still enjoyed celebrating the Bruins' 1972 title win over Florida State, and 30-0 season, at the Houston Astrodome with many of his former recruits.


As Walton and Keith Wilkes started their junior seasons in 1972-73, and Farmer and Hollyfield added the senior presence, complacency couldn't set in. Too many opposing coaches were intent on ending it.

Stan Morrison, a former USC assistant who tried many times to devise a plan of attack against Wooden's teams, was now the head coach at the University of Pacific to start the season - and was victim No. 48 right away.

"It was my second game as a head coach," said Morrison, later the head coach at USC and San Jose State, and currently the athletic director at UC Riverside. "We beat Cal State Hayward handily in my first game. Now we were at UCLA. We saw both ends of the basketball spectrum - the game at its highest level."

Pacific was lucky to have 15 at halftime in an 81-48 loss. After the game, Morrison said: "It's murder to prepare for the Bruins. We have to change our whole normal routine both on offense and defense and it still doesn't work. ... Playing here is not psychological, it's physical."

Two weeks later, Wooden missed Win No. 49 - he was at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica with a mild heart condition. Cunningham replaced him to guide the 31-point win over UC Santa Barbara. Wooden was back on the bench the next game, Win No. 50, over Pittsburgh.

Still, any kind of pressure of the streak didn't show up until UCLA closed in on tying the USF record of 60.

In Win 54 against Oregon, the Ducks tried a stall that left them trailing 18-14 at halftime. The Bruins fought through it, regrouped, and won by 26. But afterward guard Greg Lee, the former Reseda High star, revealed: "Tonight, Coach Wooden did mention our long win streak, but told us not to think about it. Speaking for the
team, I know I'm not thinking about it. I don't worry about losing when I go to bed."

USF actually had a chance to end it - twice. UCLA chalked the Dons up in Wins No.58 and 73, the latter in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. And up popped Notre Dame again - in position to end the Bruins' chances of Win No. 61 to set the new mark. A 19-point win came pretty easily Jan. 27, 1973, behind Wilkes' 20 points.

Someone asked Walton afterward about the chance of him never losing a game in his college career - which would run the streak to 105.

"I'm trying not to think about it," he smiled.

Wooden allowed himself to comment on the record: "I'm very happy about it but it doesn't compare with winning your first national championship. ... It's not something one team could do all by itself."

Farmer remembers being "really excited about that week because we had Notre Dame on national TV and the next Saturday we were playing at USC," he said. "That's a big weekend. I remember being equally jazzed to go whoop up on 'SC as I was to go whoop up on Notre Dame."

Win No. 62 was by 23 points over USC, and No. 71 a month later against the Trojans was by 20.


Win No. 75 might be the most memorable. Walton's 44-point championship-record
performance in an 87-66 victory against Larry Finch, Larry Kenon and Memphis State (and future UCLA coach Gene Bartow) should have been a celebration, but Walton left the arena in St. Louis abruptly.

"I don't want to talk about it, man," he said, leaving with "financial advisor" Sam Gilbert to discuss a $2million offer on the table from the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers.

Walton came back for his senior year, and two important matchups right away tested the streak early in the '73-'74 season.

A tight, one-point win over Lefty Driesell's heralded Maryland team, with John Lucas and Tom McMillen, was No. 77. McMillen, who would go onto a fine NBA career and a life as a U.S. Congressman, said afterward: "We were privileged to have come that close to UCLA on its home court and we hope to play them again later this season somewhere else."

No. 79, two weeks later against North Carolina State - with David Thompson and Tom Burleson - was an 18-point win in St.Louis that would turn out to be something of a mirage. Wilkes' career-best 27 points, and sophomore David Meyers' breakout game (15points, 11 rebounds) offset Walton's foul trouble. The two would meet again
in the NCAA semifinals a few months later, with a much different result.

It was somewhat status quo after that - three more non-conference blowouts - until Win 85 came with a price. Walton fell hard on his back at Washington State and had to come out. He missed the next three games - Wins 86, 87 and 88 - as Ralph Drollinger stepped in, with freshman Richard Washington, to hold down the

Walton might not have been at 100 percent Jan. 19, 1974, for a trip to Notre Dame, but he insisted on playing with a back brace - and scoring 24 points with 11 rebounds.

But the pain from the streak ending at 88 might have been much greater.

"If ending the streak is good for basketball, then having the streak was bad for basketball," Wooden said afterward. "I think the streak was one of the finest things for college basketball. If it hadn't been for the streak, this would have
been just another game and it would not have generated the enthusiasm and interest that it did."

A week later, UCLA demolished Notre Dame by 19 points at Pauley Pavilion, starting another streak - ashort one, actually, that would last until "The Lost Weekend" in Oregon a couple of weeks later.


Those who remember the streak today hold it close to their hearts.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) was an undergraduate student at UCLA from 1972-74. He attended an estimated 25 to 30 home victories during that stretch and never spent the night outside Pauley Pavilion to get into the arena.

"The best perk of being a UCLA student was good seats if you showed up early," Sherman said. "I didn't get great seats, but I got good seats."'

There were other perks, too.

"Going to UCLA, you expected to have a great team ever since Gail Goodrich and Walt
Hazzard," said Sherman, who later helped pass legislation to rename the Reseda post office in Wooden's name in 2006. "It's something the students were proud of, but it wasn't a surprise or novelty.

"I remember cheering for higher point spreads because you got a discount for, I think, a Big Mac back then. I don't think I ever took them up on the burger, it was something to cheer about."

Hill, who never got much playing time but became a successful businessman, speaker and authored a book with Wooden called "Be Quick - But Don't Hurry," enjoyed having a seat on the bench for his senior year, when UCLA went 30-0 in Walton's sophomore season.

"I've always been a basketball fan since I was a little kid. I still am. I didn't stop being a basketball fan when I was sitting on the bench. Those guys were good - Sidney (Wicks), Curtis (Rowe), Hollyfield, (Steve) Patterson, Walton, (Keith) Wilkes. ... Holy smokes. ... Larry Farmer, Greg Lee. If you were going to have to sit on the bench and watch, they gave me the best excuse of all-time. I wish I would've enjoyed it more."

Wilkes, who went on to an All-Star career in the NBA, told The Associated Press recently: "I didn't know how long it was going to go, but we were really playing ourselves each game. We really felt like we weren't going to lose again."

When Notre Dame finished UCLA's streak, Wooden's wife, Nell, had accompanied her
husband on the road.

Muehlhausen remembers the aftermath of the Irish victory than the game.

"The pressure of the streak builds and builds and builds," Muehlhausen said. "My mother was back there and it was before they went co-ed. Daddy didn't even have them shower. They went right to the bus. The crowd was terrible. Mother had to have police protection from the fans. The fans had fists in her face. I never liked Notre Dame, even before that."

UCLA coach Ben Howland says he even felt he was a part of that streak, though he was in high school in Santa Barbara. He didn't miss Bruins games, watching them tape-delayed on KTLA Channel 5.

"I remember when Notre Dame won (to end it)," Howland said. "It was stunning. It was like,`Wow. They lost.' It hadn't happened in a few years. I watched all those games -every one of those wins. It was fun to be a part of that time."

And then it ended.

But the great 88 is never forgotten.

Lucky for us.

Bill Walton on the UConn Women:

"They play with great sense of team, great purpose, phenomenal execution of fundamentals, relentless attack," he told The Associated Press recently. "It is what every team should aspire to, regardless of the sport."

Oh, if only the current Bruin Men can learn the same team attitude!

FILE - This Jan. 19, 1974, file photo shows UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, center, during the last time out against Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind. At left foreground is Bill Walton (32). The date the streak ended is burned in Walton's memory. He spits it out with distaste when asked what he recalls most about UCLA's NCAA-record 88-game winning streak. (AP Photo/File)

Led by Bill Walton, UCLA won 88 straight games
AP Sports Writer
Daily Record, AP Wire
Dec 17, 2:41 PM EST

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The date is burned in Bill Walton's memory. He spits it out with distaste when asked what he recalls most about UCLA's NCAA-record 88-game winning streak.

"When it ended," he said. "January 19, 1974."

As a freshman, Walton wasn't eligible when the streak that extended over four seasons started on Jan. 30, 1971, with a victory over UC Santa Barbara. He joined it 15 games in and helped stretch it to an amazing 88 straight victories, including two consecutive 30-0 seasons and three national championships, before it ended at Notre Dame.

Connecticut's top-ranked women's team can equal UCLA's record Sunday when the Huskies face No. 11 Ohio State at Madison Square Garden.

Walton counts himself a fan of UConn.

"They play with great sense of team, great purpose, phenomenal execution of fundamentals, relentless attack," he told The Associated Press recently. "It is what every team should aspire to, regardless of the sport."

John Wooden's UCLA teams played the same way. And so the streak began a week after an 89-82 loss at, where else, Notre Dame, in the middle of the 1970-71 season with the senior-dominated lineup of Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Steve Patterson, Henry Bibby and Kenny Booker.

The Fighting Irish's Austin Carr burned the Bruins for 46 points in what would be UCLA's last defeat for three years. UCLA went 29-1 that season and won its fifth consecutive NCAA championship.

The following season, Bibby was the lone senior, joined by starters Larry Farmer, Keith (now Jamaal) Wilkes, sophomore Walton and Greg Lee, who ran UCLA's daunting fastbreak. The Bruins built the streak to 45-0 by winning all 30 games, scoring more than 100 points in each of their first seven.

UCLA won its sixth consecutive NCAA title and outscored opponents by 30.3 points a game, an NCAA record that still stands.

"I didn't know how long it was going to go, but we were really playing ourselves each game," Wilkes said. "We really felt like we weren't going to lose again."
And the Bruins didn't in 1972-73. With Farmer, Wilkes, Walton, Larry Hollyfield and Lee leading the way, they went 30-0 again in an era before the shot clock and 3-point line existed. During that stretch, they beat Loyola of Chicago for their 60th consecutive victory, tying San Francisco's NCAA record. No. 61 was a win against, who else, Notre Dame.

The Bruins had few close calls during the regular season, with only four games won by single digits.

"Thank God for Coach Wooden and him keeping us on message," said Farmer, now an assistant at Western Michigan. "He never mentioned winning, period, much less bringing up the winning streak. We became aware of it only because all of a sudden we had a guy from Sports Illustrated around us all the time. Other than that it was business as usual."

In the national title game, Walton made an incredible 21 of 22 shots - an NCAA record that still stands - and scored 44 points to lead the Bruins to an 86-66 win over then-Memphis State for their seventh straight national title. UCLA became the only school to complete consecutive undefeated seasons, with the streak reaching 75 games.

"Just the anticipation of what was going to happen next was incredible," Wilkes said.
Walton and fellow seniors Wilkes, Lee and Tommy Curtis, along with junior David Meyers, opened the 1973-74 season ranked No. 1 and with 13 wins in a row, putting the streak at 88 heading into the game against second-ranked and undefeated Notre Dame.

Although he never brought it up himself, the streak burdened Wooden.

"He got tired of answering questions about it," Wilkes recalled. "After a while, it just wouldn't go away, it just got so big."
So did the atmosphere at game time.

"It felt like the weight of the world that night," Wilkes said. "It got to a point where just the intensity was so great."

Walton came into the game wearing a back brace, having been injured in a fall the previous week against Washington State. But his pain wasn't apparent as he hit 12 of his first 13 shots. And the Bruins were their usual dominant selves in the early going, leading by 17 points at halftime.

"In those days UCLA with the lead in the second half, the game was over," said Farmer, who had already graduated.

The Bruins were up 70-59 before everything changed in the final 3 1/2 minutes. They were outscored 12-0, missing six straight shots and committing four turnovers. As was his habit, Wooden never called a time-out late in games.

The Irish hit six shots in a row, capped by Dwight Clay's jumper from the right corner with 29 seconds left, giving Notre Dame a 71-70 win. Clay had the worst shooting percentage among the Irish regulars, although he had already earned the nickname "Iceman" for his clutch shooting.

"I don't know how he did that," said Wilkes, who scored 18 points but went scoreless in the last eight minutes.

Walton missed a 12-footer in the final seconds, finishing with 24 points and nine rebounds.

"A complete failure on all levels, particularly as a human being. A disgrace to the game of basketball, a disgrace to sport," he said of his performance.
While Irish fans rushed the court, enveloping young coach Digger Phelps and his team in a raucous celebration, Wooden was his usual low-key self.

"The streak meant more to others than to him," Wooden's daughter, Nan, said through a UCLA spokesman. "He was relieved it was over because of the outside pressure it put on the team members."

A week later, the Bruins beat the Fighting Irish 94-75 at home.

"The game was over when the jump ball was thrown up, but the streak had ended," Farmer said. "It was a bashing, but nobody talks about that one."

UCLA went on to lose three more games and got beat by North Carolina State 80-77 in double overtime in the national semifinals, ending its other streak of seven NCAA titles in a row.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bruins escape with 74-73 victory over UC Irvine

Bruins escape with 74-73 victory over UC Irvine

By Peter Yoon
December, 23, 2010 Dec 2311:33PM PT
UCLA Report
ESPN Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA had to sweat out a 74-73 victory over UC Irvine Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion, once again taking a big lead and unable to put away the opponent.

The Bruins led, 47-33, with 16:51 to play, but let Irvine slowly creep back into the game. UCLA made only two of 10 free throws in the final 5:26 and two of eight in the final 55 seconds.

Meanwhile, Irvine got a three-point play from Patrick Rembert with 39 seconds to play and a three-point basket by Darren Moore with seven seconds to play to cut the lead to one.

But Irvine (6-6) was unable to get off a final shot after Tyler Lamb missed a couple of free throws with six seconds to play and the Bruins (8-4) held on for their fifth consecutive victory.

"It was real scary," said Bruins guard Malcolm Lee, who scored 20 points. "We could have made it not so intense if we could have made our free throws. At the end it was real intense, but I’m just happy we got the W."

Five observations from the game:

1. Depth is a concern for the Bruins

Leading scorer and rebounder Tyler Honeycutt missed the game because of a sprained shoulder, leaving the Bruins with only eight scholarship players. Forward Brendan Lane got into foul trouble, meaning other players had to play more minutes.

Reeves Nelson played 33 minutes. Tyler Lamb played 23. Jerime Anderson played a season-high 26.

The effects were clear as the Bruins' defense struggled in the latter part of the second half.

"A lot of that was legs," coach Ben Howland said. "You get a diminishing return, especially in a fast-paced game like that."

2. Reeves Nelson pulled a disappearing act

The Bruins may have actually been playing with only seven scholarship players. Nelson, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder, was benched to start the game because he was late for a shootaround and never seemed to get going.

He finished with eight points and seven rebounds but had a long stretch from the 8:40 mark of the first half to the 3:11 mark of the second half where he had only three points and one rebound.

"I’m sure it affected him," Howland said of Nelson's starting the game on the bench. "Of course it did. That’s why it can’t happen."

Add in Lane's foul trouble -- he picked up his fourth with 13:04 to play -- and the Bruins were playing extremely thin without a full effort by Nelson. Lee said Nelson's performance tends to affect the entire team.

"He’s one of our key components on this team with scoring and rebounding," Lee said. "Usually when he plays well, we play well."

3. Lazeric Jones put his offense on display

Jones scored a season-high 20 points, tying for the team best. He basically became a zone buster by making four of eight three-point shots, also season highs for three-pointers made and attempted.

His final line of 20 points, six assists and three rebounds was by far his best game of the season and it came in handy with Honeycutt and his 14.9 points a game out because of the injury.

"With someone out, we all need to step up," Jones said. "Coach talked to me last night and told me I needed to be more aggressive. I tried to do that without forcing anything."

4. The Bruins still haven't mastered the zone

After showing signs that they had figured out how to play against a zone defense, the Bruins regressed in that department.

UC Irvine played a more compact zone and double-teamed the UCLA post players, who had been effective against the zone in recent games.

That basically forced UCLA into taking outside shots. Luckily for the Bruins, they made 10 of 20 three-point attempts for a season high in three-pointers made.

"Sometimes we made shots and sometime we didn’t, but we can’t let teams force us to shoot jumpers all the time," Jones said. "When they give us open shots, we can still drive and penetrate, which we didn’t do that well tonight."

UCLA came into the game shooting only 33.1% from three-point range, so the Bruins probably don't want to rely on having shooting nights like Thursday against the zone. Lee said the Anteaters' zone was different than others they had seen.

"When our big guys got it inside, they couldn’t turn or maneuver," he said. "There weren’t a lot of driving gaps or opportunity to do work inside, that’s why they forced us to shoot outside. We need to get back in the lab and work on some more zone offense because a lot of teams are going to start to zone us."

5. The Bruins need to find a killer instinct

The pattern of playing down to the level of the competition is disturbing. For the second consecutive game, UCLA has had inferior teams on the ropes before letting them back in.

Luckily for the Bruins, they have managed to hold on and win those games, showing some growth from a Dec. 5 loss to Montana. UCLA has played at a high level at times this season but will need to play with intensity night in and night out to get into the Pac-10 title hunt beginning next week against Washington State.

"It’s a collective effort," center Joshua Smith said. "We've played games when we’ve played hard. We know how to play hard. It’s just all up here [pointing to his head]. It’s nothing physical."

Despite the sluggish effort, the Bruins did win and that was at least some consolation for Howland.

"It would have been a horrible Christmas around the Howland household had we lost this game," Howland said.