Saturday, December 31, 2011

UCLA At California For New Year's Eve Clash

UCLA At California For New Year's Eve Clash
The Bruins lead the all-time series with California 133-97 with the last two in Berkeley going to overtime.

UCLA Men's Basketball website
Dec. 30, 2011

BERKELEY, Calif. -

DATE: Dec. 31, 2011
SITE: Haas Pavilion (11,877)
TIP-OFF: 1:06 p.m. (PT)
TV: Fox Sports Net and Fox Sports West
TALENT: Steve Physioc (play-by-play) and Marques Johnson (analyst)
RADIO (UCLA Sports Network from IMG College): AM 1150
SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO (California's): Channel 94
TALENT: Isaac Lowenkron (play-by-play) and Don MacLean (analyst)
SERIES: UCLA leads 133-97
SERIES STREAK: California +1


This is the 231st meeting between UCLA and California with the Bruins leading the series 133-97 (.578). The Bruins lost a heartbreaker last year at Cal 76-72 in overtime on Feb. 20, 2011. It marked the second-straight game in Haas Pavilion that the two teams played an overtime game. UCLA won in 2010 in Berkeley when Michael Roll picked up a loose ball and sank a 13-foot jumper with 1.9 seconds left to give the Bruins a 76-75 victory. Jamal Boykin, who had given the Bears a 75-74 lead with a 15-foot jumper that banked in with 21 seconds left, tipped away a pass from the Bruins' Jerime Anderson. But Roll grabbed it and made his game-winning shot. In last year's win by California, Malcolm Lee got a friendly bounce from a three-point shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, tied at 60-60. Jorge Gutierrez scored nine of his game-high 34 points in overtime to lift Cal to the 76-72 victory. Lee finished with 19 points for UCLA while Tyler Honeycutt was the only other Bruin to reach double figures with 14 points. Mark Sanders-Frison was the only other Golden Bear to reach double figures in scoring with 12 for Cal. Head Coach Ben Howland is 16-7 all-time against California. He has more wins against Cal than any other team he has faced in his 18 years of coaching.


UCLA began the season ranked 17th in the AP Top 25 and 20th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, but has fallen out of both polls. California is unranked in both polls.


Ben Howland earned his 300th victory of his career with the 72-54 win over DePaul in the 15th Annual John R. Wooden Classic (Dec. 13, 2008). He is currently 364-187 (.661), which ranks 35th on the winningest active coaches list by percentage and 50th on the active list by victories. Howland's first career victory was his first game at Northern Arizona in 1994, a 71-69 victory over New Mexico Highlands. His 100th career victory came in his second season at Pittsburgh in the 77-65 win at home over Seton Hall (Jan. 13, 2001). His 200th win came in his third season at UCLA with the 56-37 home win over Delaware State (Nov. 19, 2005). Howland is 19-9 (.679) in the NCAA Tournament (15-6 (.714) at UCLA).


UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland is approaching 200 career victories at UCLA and currently sits at 196-88 (.690) at UCLA in his ninth season at the helm of the Bruins. With the win over Eastern Washington (Dec. 14), Howland passed Jim Harrick for second place on the all-time UCLA career victories list. Harrick posted a 192-62 record in his eight seasons (1988-89 to 1995-96) as the Bruins' mentor. Coach John R. Wooden is the all-time leader at 620-147 (.808) in his 27 seasons (1948-49 to 1974-75).


Junior guard De'End Parker has missed the last 11 games with patellar tendinitis and is out for the game against California (Dec. 31). Senior point guard Lazeric Jones and freshman guard Norman Powell both suffered left ankle sprains in practice on Dec. 27, but both were able to play in the Pac-12 opener at Stanford on Dec. 29 and will play against California on Dec. 31.


Senior point guard Lazeric Jones has scored in double figures in eight straight games, a personal-best, while leading UCLA to a 6-2 record during that stretch after the Bruins started the season at 1-4. In the last eight games, Jones has averaged 17.4 points, 3.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 steals while shooting 61.0 percent (47-for-77) from the field and 58.6 percent (17-for-29) from three-point range.


Senior point guard Lazeric Jones leads all NCAA Division I guards in effective field goal percentage since Nov. 28 (or in his last eight games). Effective field goal percentage is field goals made, plus 0.5 of three-point field goals made, divided by the number of field goal attempts. In Jones' case, he is 47-of-77 from the field and has made 17 three-pointers. So when you add 47 and 8.5 (half of his 17 treys) divided by 77, you get his effective shooting percentage of 72.1 percent. He is just ahead of Buffalo senior guard Zach Filzen (.717), Cornell senior guard Drew Ferry (.694) and BYU junior guard Brock Zylstra (.690).

Friday, December 30, 2011

UCLA BASKETBALL: Jones, Bruins don't get final word in losing Pac-12 opener at Stanford 60-59

UCLA guard Lazeric Jones (11) drives in front of Stanford guard Aaron Bright (2). Jones scored a career-high 26 points in the loss. AP PHOTO

UCLA BASKETBALL: Jones, Bruins don't get final word in losing Pac-12 opener at Stanford

By Jill Painter Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/29/2011 11:42:49 PM PST
Updated: 12/29/2011 11:53:02 PM PST

PALO ALTO - UCLA guard Lazeric Jones drained shots from all over Maples Pavilion in the Pac-12 Conference opener against Stanford to score a career-high 26 points.

Yet it was the last shot he took that troubled him so much.

Jones made a move through the lane and tried to split two defenders, but his shot was blocked by Josh Huestis with two seconds left as Stanford held on for a 60-59 victory Thursday at Maples Pavilion in the Pac-12 Conference opener.

Jones made 8 of 13 shots and 6 of 8 free throws, but he couldn't sink the potential winning shot.

"I should've passed it. I knew as soon as I did it," Jones said. "I was rushing for no reason."

There was absolutely good reason to be rushing. Stanford was ahead by one point with two seconds left.

UCLA (7-6) started as preseason favorites to win the Pac-12, but opened with a road loss.

Stanford improved to 11-2 and hosts USC - which lost to Cal at Berkeley, here Saturday. UCLA plays at Cal (11-3, 1-0) on Saturday.

Stanford's Aaron Bright scored a team-high 16 points, and the Cardinal made 13 of its 16 free throws.

Had the Bruins not turned the ball over so much in the first half (nine turnovers compared to just two in the second half), made more free throws (they missed 9 of 24) or not made an embarrassing defensive error on three consecutive possessions.

"You look at the game and see we missed nine free throws," UCLA center Joshua Smith said. " If we made three (more) of them, you're coming down the court, you're up 2 and they have to foul you."

UCLA's zone defense was broken down by the Cardinal, as it made three consecutive 3-pointers from the same spot on the baseline to build a 56-51 lead with 5:08 left. Chasson Randle made two of those and Anthony Brown sank the other.

"It was a disappointing finish," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We fought back hard and put ourselves in position with the ball to be able to take the open shot that we got and we just missed it. When you get in position down 1 with the ball, because we're 15 of 24 from the free-throw line, that's disappointing.

"Every one of those points helps us. That zone (defense) helps us, then they hit three in a row on the same side and we came back out of it."

Jones, who sprained his left ankle but returned to practice Wednesday, seemed to suffer no ill effects as he scored 14 first-half points, including seven in a row in the first half.

Norman Powell, who also sprained his left ankle, played against Stanford but missed all three of his shots in the first half.

Powell, Tyler Lamb and David Wear combined to shoot 0 for 10 from the field in the first half.

Lamb had three early turnovers as well, earning him an early seat on the bench.

UCLA trailed 21-12 early, but Jerime Anderson made consecutive baskets, including one off a steal, to help get the Bruins back in the game.

It was close the rest of the way, and although UCLA tied the score several times, it never took the lead.

Smith, who's failed to capitalize on his fantastic freshman season, was backing down Andrew Zimmerman in the paint, and was whistled for his third foul early in the second half. He walked right to the bench, and Bright nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing, immediately after, to give Stanford a 29-26 lead with 16:41 left in the second half.

Smith, who scored 10 points, fouled out with 1:24 left. He had a good view of the last shot that never had a chance.

"We didn't have the timeout. There was only five seconds left," Smith said. "Zeke (Jones) was our horse the whole game. He was carrying us. We wanted him to have the ball. He tried to make a play."

UCLA was the preseason favorite to win the inaugural Pac-12, but started the year in dumbfounding fashion with losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State and more scuffling.

After a roller-coaster ride with Reeves Nelson - the Bruins returning leading scorer - that ended with him being kicked off the team, the Bruins won five in a row until opening conference play with a loss.

This wasn't the big game on campus this time of year. Stanford's football team is in Arizona, for Andrew Luck's final game in the Fiesta Bowl, and the UCLA football team is nearby, making final preparations for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on Saturday.

UCLA had a sizeable fan base, probably many of whom are headed to San Francisco for Saturday's bowl game.

This was a disappointing loss for the Bruins, who figured they could've easily been 1-0 in the Pac-12 if not for all the mistakes.

"We want to win. It don't matter who we play, where we playing or how," Smith said. "We just want to win. Gotta give credit to them. They outplayed us."


Bruins' loss is a missed chance

UCLA (7-6, 0-1) now tries to regroup before traveling to Cal on Saturday.

Published: Dec. 29, 2011 Updated: 11:37 p.m.

STANFORD -- Stanford gave UCLA a series of chances to stay close in Thursday night's Pac-12 opener and ultimately an opportunity to win in the final seconds — and the Bruins wasted all of them.

Cardinal forward Josh Huestis rejected Bruins guard Lazeric Jones' shot from the top of the key with three seconds remaining to finally slam the door on UCLA and close out a 60-59 Stanford victory in front of 6,777 at Maples Pavilion.

The blocked shot was one of the few setbacks for Jones on a night he finished with a game-high 26 points and repeatedly brought the Bruins back, capitalizing on Stanford's inability to close out what could have been a blowout in the first half.

Stanford, having led since the early minutes of the first half, provided the Bruins with one final opportunity when Cardinal point guard Aaron Bright threw up a wild shot at the end of drive to give UCLA the ball with 25 seconds remaining and trailing by a point.

But UCLA guard Jerime Anderson missed a jumper from the left corner. After the teams tied up in a scramble for the loose ball, UCLA was awarded the ball by the possession arrow. A series of tentative, ragged passes finally found Jones at the top of the key where the game's final shot was barely out of his hands before Huestis sent it into the backcourt.

UCLA (7-6, 0-1) now tries to regroup before traveling to Cal on Saturday afternoon in what despite its early spot on the Pac-12 schedule is already a must-win game for a Bruins team still in search of a quality victory.

Stanford was able to jump out to an 18-7 lead midway through the first half largely because of UCLA's poor shooting. The Bruins made just 2 of their first 12 field-goal attempts and sank just 1 of 11 first half 3-point shots. UCLA sophomore center Joshua Smith finally snapped the Bruins out of the drought with a put-back of his own miss to make 18-9.

Even so, the Cardinal blew a chance to blow the game wide open. Jones outscored Stanford, 10-6, down the stretch to send the Bruins into the locker-room at halftime down only 24-23. Jones finished the half with 14 points.

The intensity UCLA displayed in a 2-3 match-up zone also was a major factor in the Bruins' turnaround. Stanford was 5 for 9 from the field against the man-to-man defense with which the Bruins opened the game.

After UCLA switched to the zone Stanford was 3 of 20 from the field.

Smith tied the score at 24-24 with a free throw in the second half's opening moments but was then benched after picking up his third personal foul with 17:03 remaining.

A pair of 3-point jumpers by Stanford guard Aaron Bright stretched the gap to 32-28.

Again Jones kept UCLA in the game, hitting a 3-point jumper that cut the Cardinal lead to 34-33, then tying the score at 40 with another 3-pointer.

But Stanford's John Gage was just as hot, responding to Jones with a long turnaround jumper and then pumping in a 3-pointer that hit the back of the rim, nearly jumped over the top of the backboard before falling through the hoop to put Stanford up, 45-42.


Bruins fall in Pac-12 opener against Stanford, 60-59

Missed shots and miscues lead to a UCLA loss against the Stanford Cardinal as Pac-12 play gets under way.

By Diane Pucin
The Los Angeles Times
11:20 PM PST, December 29, 2011

It was an "almost" kind of basketball game for UCLA on Thursday night at Maples Pavilion.

The Bruins would almost get a rebound. And then a Stanford player would tip it away. The Bruins would make a steal and almost get a layup. Except the ball would rim out or get blocked. The Bruins would almost get a lead. But never in the second half.

In the Pac-12 season opener for both teams, Stanford beat UCLA, 60-59.

The Cardinal (11-2, 1-0 Pac-12) gave itself just enough of an edge by piercing UCLA's work-in-progress zone defense with three straight three-pointers and a 56-51 lead with about five minutes left.

Until then, UCLA (7-6, 0-1) had hung close because of senior Lazeric Jones, who had a game-high 26 points, mostly from jump shooting, and from the work of center Josh Smith, who had 10 points in 20 minutes. But Smith was often on the bench with foul trouble.

"This was a disappointing finish to a game where we fought back hard," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

There were at least a half a dozen times in the second half when UCLA had a chance to take a lead, but always there was a shot an inch short or a missed free throw or a turnover.

Still, the Bruins were within a point, 56-55, with 2:07 left. Jones, who had just missed a free throw that would have tied the score, committed a foul while trying to make a steal against Aaron Bright. Bright made both foul shots, and the constantly uphill climb for UCLA ended.

UCLA's last stand came when it forced a Stanford miss with about 25 seconds left. Anderson missed a 12-footer, but on a tied-up rebound UCLA got the ball back. With four seconds left, Jones had a five-foot shot in the lane blocked by Stanford's Josh Owens.

Jones said he should have passed the ball.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I wasn't open."

At halftime the Bruins trailed by a point, which seemed unlikely when they were down by as many as 11 and were outrebounded 24-18 and allowed the Cardinal 10 offensive rebounds.

But Jones had a spurt of scoring seven straight points including a baseline jumper that cut Stanford's lead to 24-23 with 2:18 left in the first half. No one scored again, though Jones, who had 14 points in the first 20 minutes, had a chance to put the Bruins ahead when he tried to convert a steal into a layup. Jones missed, and it appeared that he'd been fouled Jones unsuccessfully begged for the call.

Two disappointing statistics for UCLA — nine missed free throws (15-of-24) and 12 offensive rebounds allowed to Stanford.

Smith shook his head at the mention of the missed free throws. "We missed nine," he said. "We lost by one. If we make three more of them, we're holding the ball at the end with a lead and waiting to be fouled."


Five observations: Stanford 60, UCLA 59

By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
December, 30, 2011 12:08 AM PT

PALO ALTO, Calif -- Opportunity kept on knocking at UCLA's door, but the Bruins never answered as they fell to Stanford, 60-59, Thursday night in a Pac-12 Conference opener at Maples Pavilion.

Lazeric Jones had a shot to win the game as time wound down, but Stanford's Josh Huestis blocked his eight-footer from just inside the free-throw line to preserve the victory for the Cardinal.

UCLA fell behind early, 18-7, but rallied several times though the Bruins couldn't take the lead and leave Palo Alto shaking their heads about missing out on a golden opportunity to get off to a good start in conference play.

"I’m happy the way we competed and found a way to give ourselves a chance to win," coach Ben Howland said. "But we’re never happy or pleased when we end up on the wrong side."

Five observations from the game:

1) The Bruins simply couldn't get over the hump

The Bruins fell behind early, trailing 18-7 with 9:48 left in the first half, but rallied back to tie the score seven times. They never regained the lead, however, after jumping out to a quick 5-0 edge.

The Bruins had possession 10 times with a chance to re-take the lead, eight in the second half, but never got over the hump. Twice in the final 11 seconds, the Bruins had shots to go ahead, but Jerime Anderson missed an open 3-pointer and then Jones couldn't get off his shot.

"I give our team credit for battling and hanging in there on the road against a good team on their floor," Howland said. "We just missed a shot. We make that shot we have a good chance.

2) The Bruins gave it away at the free-throw line

UCLA made 15 of 24 free throws (62.5 percent), which amount to nine misses in a one-point loss. Joshua Smith was 2-for-5, and Jones and Tyler Lamb missed two each.

"We’re just rushing," Smith said. "When you lose a game by one and you look at nine missed free throws, if we made just three of those it's a different game at the end."

Lamb and Smith each missed free throws that would have given UCLA the lead in the second half. Jones missed one that would have tied the score with 2:12 to play.

"Lack of focus," Lamb said. "I practice my free throws every day. I just have to walk to the line and knock those down."

3) Lazeric Jones nearly carried the team to victory

Jones spurred a sputtering offense by taking control and scoring a career-high 26 points, but it's the two he didn't score at the end that will haunt him.

Jones made 8 of 13 shots and the rest of the team made just 12 of 38. Jones made 4 of 6 3-point shots and the rest of the team was 0-for-9 from long range. UCLA missed 10 of its first 12 shots, then Jones took over, scoring nine points during an 11-6 run to end the second half and get UCLA back in the game.

He made a 3-pointer to tie the score at 40-40 midway through the second half and another to get the Bruins to within a point at 47-46 with 7:33 to play. But it was the last shot that Jones couldn't wipe from his mind.

"I knew as soon as I did it I should have passed it," Jones said. "I knew there were two people on me. Just rushing for no reason."

4) The zone defense looked good again

UCLA began the game in a man-to-man defense, but Stanford made five of its first nine shots and Howland switched to a zone. The Bruins held Stanford to four of its next 26 from the floor. UCLA trailed, 13-6, at the time of the switch.

Late in the second half, Stanford began finding holes in the zone and made four consecutive 3-point shots and Howland then switch back to man with 4:36 to play.

"The zone really helped us get back into the game," Howland said.

5) UCLA's post players struggled around the basket

Smith and David Wear often looked as if they had butter fingers when they got the ball down low. Wear finished the game 1-for-8 from the field and Smith was 2-for-6 before hitting two late buckets -- both of which looked like prayers he tossed up and got lucky on.

It continued a season-long trend for the Bruins' post players, who can't seem to make aggressive moves to the basket, instead more often going for soft layups. David Wear did not attempt a free throw. Travis Wear, the other post player, only got off one shot Thursday.

The Wear twins combined for seven points.

"We’ve got to get more offensive production out of those two," Howland said. "David he thinks too much at times where he gets wound up to where he’s maybe going too fast. He needs to slow down on offense."

David Wear acknowledged that he was a little jittery playing in his first conference game and first true road game in a year and a half.

"I just played a little tight," he said. "Conference is starting, the gyms are crowded, it’s like a whole new season. The level of competition picks up, the teams are much more prepared. It’s definitely a step up."

Click on boxscore to enlarge

Thursday, December 29, 2011

UCLA Opens Pac-12 Play At Stanford

UCLA Opens Pac-12 Play At Stanford

UCLA leads the all-time series with Stanford 135-90 and has won the last three meetings.

The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
Dec. 28, 2011



DATE: Dec. 29, 2011
SITE: Maples Pavilion (7,329)
TIP-OFF: 8:07 p.m. (PT)
TV: Fox Sports Net and Prime Ticket
TALENT: Steve Physioc (play-by-play) and Marques Johnson (analyst)
RADIO (UCLA Sports Network from IMG College): AM 570 KLAC
TALENT: Chris Roberts (play-by-play) and Don MacLean (analyst)
SERIES: UCLA leads 135-90


This is the 226th meeting between UCLA and Stanford with the Bruins leading the series 135-90 (.600). UCLA has won nine of the last 11 meetings, including posting a 69-65 victory over Stanford in Maples Pavilion last season (Feb. 17). Last year, the Bruins never trailed in the contest in Maples Pavilion and led by as many as 16 points (57-41 with 7:26 left) before Stanford closed out the game on a 24-12 run. Jeremy Green scored a game-high 27 points for the Cardinal while Reeves Nelson led UCLA with 18 points and seven rebounds. UCLA swept Stanford last year with a 68-57 victory in Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 22, 2011. UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland is 11-6 against Stanford and 4-4 against the Cardinal on the road.


UCLA is 23-10 (.697) in Pac-12 Conference openers (since 1978-79). The Bruins are 7-9 (.438) when opening league play on the road (since 1978-79). UCLA is 29-4 (.879) all-time in Pac-12 home openers. This is the fourth time (2-1) the Bruins have opened Pac-12 play with Stanford and the third time they have done so at Stanford (1-1). The Last time was a 76-67 win on Jan. 3, 2008.


UCLA began the season ranked 17th in the AP Top 25 and 20th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, but has fallen out of both polls. Stanford is unranked in both polls, but sits at #30 with 11 votes in the Coaches Poll and at #32 with 10 votes in the AP Poll.


Ben Howland earned his 300th victory of his career with the 72-54 win over DePaul in the 15th Annual John R. Wooden Classic (Dec. 13, 2008). He is currently 364-186 (.662), which ranks 35th on the winningest active coaches list by percentage and 50th on the active list by victories. Howland's first career victory was his first game at Northern Arizona in 1994, a 71-69 victory over New Mexico Highlands. His 100th career victory came in his second season at Pittsburgh in the 77-65 win at home over Seton Hall (Jan. 13, 2001). His 200th win came in his third season at UCLA with the 56-37 home win over Delaware State (Nov. 19, 2005). Howland is 19-9 (.679) in the NCAA Tournament (15-6 (.714) at UCLA).

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland is approaching 200 career victories at UCLA and currently sits at 196-87 (.693) at UCLA in his ninth season at the helm of the Bruins. With the win over Eastern Washington (Dec. 14), Howland passed Jim Harrick for second place on the all-time UCLA career victories list. Harrick posted a 192-62 record in his eight seasons (1988-89 to 1995-96) as the Bruins' mentor. Coach John R. Wooden is the all-time leader at 620-147 (.808) in his 27 seasons (1948-49 to 1974-75).


Junior guard De'End Parker has missed the last 10 games with patellar tendinitis and is out for the game against Stanford (Dec. 29). Senior point guard Lazeric Jones and freshman guard Norman Powell both suffered left ankle sprains yesterday (Dec. 27) in practice. However, both guards returned to practice on Dec. 28 and will play in the Pac-12 opener at Stanford on Dec. 29.


Senior point guard Lazeric Jones has scored in double figures in seven straight games, a personal-best, while leading UCLA to a 6-1 record during that stretch after the Bruins started the season at 1-4. In the last seven games, Jones has averaged 16.1 points, 4.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.1 steals while shooting 60.9 percent (39-for-64) from the field and 56.5 percent (13-for-23) from three-point range.


UCLA extended its win streak to five games with an 89-60 win over UC Irvine (Dec. 20) and a 71-63 win over Richmond (Dec. 23) last week. Jones led an incredibly balanced scoring attack for UCLA on the week as seven different Bruins averaged double figures with Jones averaging a team-high 13.5 points per game. David Wear averaged 12.0 points and Joshua Smith averaged 11. 5 points per game while Norman Powell and Jerime Anderson both averaged 10.5 points per game. Travis Wear and Tyler Lamb each scored 10 points per game last week.

UCLA BASKETBALL: Even at 7-5, Bruins might be class of league

UCLA BASKETBALL: Even at 7-5, Bruins might be class of league

By Jon Gold Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/27/2011 10:39:39 PM PST
Updated: 12/28/2011 12:51:31 AM PST

A college basketball team does not exist within a vacuum, or else UCLA's 7-5 start would look a whole lot worse.

Embarrassing losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State, followed by more forgivable defeats to No. 14 Kansas, No. 15 Michigan and Texas, were thought to have relegated the Bruins to also-ran status and turned the shiny expectations of a preseason Top 25 ranking into lumps of coal.

But then the rest of the Pacific-12 Conference started losing ... and losing ... and losing, and now that once-insurmountable ditch UCLA once found itself in appears to be a blip.

The Bruins have won five consecutive games heading into Thursday's Pac-12 opener against Stanford, which is tied for the conference's best record at 10-2 albeit against a weak nonconference schedule. The Bruins look at the conference as ripe for the picking.

"We can definitely make a push," said junior point guard Lazeric Jones, who leads the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game. "We have to stick to our principles. I preach that a lot.

"Listening to coach - he knows exactly what he's talking about - going out there defensively and doing what we have to do. We have a lot of offensive firepower, so it's about going out there and focusing defensively."

With more moving parts than a Rolex, that has been easier said than done for UCLA.

The Bruins rank 10th in the conference in field-goal defense (42 percent) and 11th against the 3-pointer (39 percent), although the team tries to make up for it with a league-leading 5.42 blocks per game and a third-best 7.50 steals per game.

The Bruins said they are just now starting to get a feel for each other on the court, and it has shown in recent weeks. Although the competition has been as stiff as Jello, UCLA has won its past four games by a margin of 302-209, and the defense appears to be coming together, particularly when coach Ben Howland allows the Bruins to play zone.

It's also been in the little things, like the extra-help defense caused by better court awareness, the unselfishness brought about by a winning streak and the unspoken communication that's beginning to form.

"We have a lot of new pieces, so it was definitely a comfort factor trying to get worked out," sophomore forward David Wear said. "We had some defensive breakdowns - we really weren't used to playing with each other at that level - but as the season has gone forward we're realizing where we fit in, what we have to do defensively."

The improved defense has helped make up for an offense that is playing without its returning leading scorer in the recently dismissed Reeves Nelson and without the expected progression of sophomore Joshua Smith, who is averaging just 17.8 minutes and 9.6 points while battling weight issues.

With a lack of star power in the conference - the Pac-12 has only three players averaging more than 16 points per game and none above 17 - the Bruins are hoping their offensive balance can help them continue their recent run.

UCLA has six players on the cusp of double figures, thanks to big wins in recent weeks.

"I liked how we were playing going into this weekend over the last couple weeks," Howland said. "Since we got out of finals, I think we made some really big progress as a team."

That just happened to coincide with Nelson's departure, and aside from the awkward questions that still persist the team appears to have moved on quite well.

And with the Pac-12 abundantly winnable, Howland hopes the early bumps and bruises the team suffered to their bodies and chemistry will have paid off.

"Adversity always makes you better, when you handle it the right way," Howland said. "This team has had its fair share of adversity this year, and I think that's one of the things that's most pleasing is how we've improved."

Pac-12 preview: Bruins rebounding

Pac-12 preview: Bruins rebounding, UCLA Report
December, 28, 2011 4:43 PM PT

Playing home games away from Pauley Pavilion might actually have helped bring the Bruins closer together.

LOS ANGELES -- This season was never going to be easy for the UCLA Bruins basketball team, but it wasn’t supposed to be this hard, either.

Playing a season of games away from campus as Pauley Pavilion received a makeover put an instant hurdle in front of the Bruins even before the season began, and the bumps seemed to get bigger once the games started.

The Bruins dropped like a rock from the national rankings, booted their top returning player off the team and struggled to find chemistry among an influx of new players as they became this year’s embodiment of overrated.

In the six weeks since basketball season opened, the Bruins went from NCAA tournament sleeper and Pacific 12 Conference favorites to national title non-factor and mid-major pushover.

But a funny thing happened on the way to oblivion: The Bruins began to pull out of their tailspin. The calculated gamble of dismissing Reeves Nelson from the team paid off in the form of a five-game win streak. The addition of a zone defense helped compensate for some shortcomings and UCLA has begun to show signs that it can live up to its pre-season No. 17 ranking and challenge for the Pac-12 title, as the Bruins were picked to do.

This week will tell a great deal about whether the Bruins are, indeed, a legitimate conference title contender, as they head to the Bay Area to open Pac-12 play at Stanford and California, two of the conference’s top teams through non-conference play.

But for a team that began the season with embarrassing losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee en route to a 1-4 record, merely getting back into the conversation is a minor victory.

“I think that’s one of the things that’s most pleasing in how we’ve improved, is we’ve handled the adversity by bouncing back pretty well,” coach Ben Howland said. “We’d like to get rid of the adversity … but adversity always makes you better when you handle it the right way.”

Some say the obstacles UCLA has overcome have shaped the Bruins into a more cohesive and close-knit unit. They were relying on Nelson’s production, but have had to raise their level of play to fill that void.

They were expected to roll through much of their pre-conference schedule, but rallied around each other when that didn’t happen. They have been playing games at the Sports Arena and the Honda Center, but have grown closer as a result of spending so much time together in hotels.

“I think everything that has happened has played a vital role in how our team has shaped,” guard Tyler Lamb said. “Definitely I think our team has become a closer team. Everybody has embraced each other. Nobody is being quiet any more. When something needs to be said by a teammate, it’s being said. And nobody is taking it with a grain of salt. It’s ‘we understand where you are coming from’ and it’s on to the next play.”

The situation with Nelson was the biggest distraction the Bruins had to overcome. He led the team last season with 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds, but was suspended after the first game of the season for behavior problems and then dismissed from the team three weeks later as the issues continued.

But UCLA also had problems on the court. Their defense was brutal early, as four of their first seven opponents shot better than 50 percent. Howland implemented a zone to better suit his team’s big but slow makeup, and four consecutive opponents have shot below 40 percent.

And the chemistry issues began to settle as new players such as David and Travis Wear, transfers from North Carolina, and freshman Norman Powell began to figure out their roles and Howland began using more guard-heavy lineups.

“Honestly, I can tell you in the last five games I think the losses kind of helped us,” center Joshua Smith said. “We’ve been in games where we’ve been down. We all know each other’s identity. We all know what we have to do to help the team win and we all come together and just said, hey, no matter what the score is, we can’t quit.”

The early-season struggles, which included double-digit losses in five of UCLA’s first seven games, mostly served as a wakeup call for a team that expected to coast to the Pac-12 title after entering the season ranked No. 17 and picked by the media to won the conference.

“I think the biggest difference would be just realizing that we could get beat by any team if we don’t come out and play well, play together and play hard,” Lamb said. “I’d say our heads were in the clouds. We had that ranking and I think we overlooked opponents and that definitely got to our heads. But the adversity that we’ve been through, I think our team has responded to it.”

As the wins have begun to pile up and UCLA has gotten to 7-5 after a 2-5 start, the confidence of the team is growing stronger. Nobody is happy with a 7-5 record at this point, but considering where the team was when December began, the Bruins have to accept where they are and look ahead.

“We’re all surprised,” Smith said. “If you would have asked me before the season if we would be 7-5 before Pac-12, I would say no, I don’t believe you.

“We had a lot of high hopes … and obviously we haven’t played up to par but right now we’re on a good road. We’re in a good groove and we’re just looking to ride this out.”

And in some ways, getting through what UCLA has been through this season might make the Bruins an even more formidable team as they sneak up on opponents who might overlook them.

“I think our team has a lot of grit,” guard Jerime Anderson said. “I think we have a lot of heart and teams really don’t give us the credit. … I think we had to get through some bumps in the road, but right now things are riding a little smoother going into Pac-12.

“I really do believe our team is ready right now. We’re ready to make a lot of noise in the Pac-12 and try to win. We’re at UCLA to win and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

'Bruins Road Show' hits the road for real

'Bruins Road Show' hits the road for real

By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
December, 27, 2011 8:02 PM PT

UCLA has dubbed this basketball season "The Bruins Road Show" because the team is playing all of its games away from campus while Pauley Pavilion undergoes a renovation, but the Bruins hit the road for real for the first time this season as they open Pac-12 Conference play at Stanford on Thursday night and follow with a Saturday game at California.

These will be the first true road games of the season for UCLA (7-5), which played three neutral-site games at the Maui Invitational and has been the designated home game in seven games at the Sports Arena and two at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

The Bruins, however, aren't all that concerned about playing on the road considering every game they have played so far this season has felt like a road game as they have stayed in hotels before each one.

"I’m hoping that because we’ve played all of our games in a little more difficult situation than everybody else in their homes games that it will help us some as we go into this," coach Ben Howland said. "The only difference is we’ll have fans yelling at us when we go on the road this time and we’ll take a short plane ride."

It would behoove the Bruins if, indeed, the home-away-from-home experience has helped prepare them for the road because UCLA plays five of its next seven games on the road. The two home games during that stretch will be at the Honda Center, UCLA's secondary home this season, meaning the Bruins will go from Dec. 23 to Jan. 26 without playing on the Sports Arena court where they play the majority of their home games this season.

"It’s definitely prepared us a lot because I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time in a hotel lately," forward David Wear said. "It’s been good. It’s not going to be anything new to us being in hotels before a game and going through walkthroughs and stuff like that, so it will be good."

Making things even more difficult for the Bruins will be the competition they face during their travels. On the docket are road games against Stanford (10-2) and California (10-3) followed by Honda Center games against Arizona (9-4) and Arizona State (4-8), a road game at USC (5-8) and then a road trip to Oregon State (10-2) and Oregon (9-3).

So, over the next seven games, UCLA will play the conference teams with the five best records heading into Pac-12 play with four of those games on the road and one at the Honda Center.

"How about that?" Howland said. "We’re playing the top part of our league starting right off the get go."

The players welcome the challenge of getting tested right out of the gate in conference play. UCLA was picked to win the conference before the season but stumbled early and lost some luster on the national stage. A current five-game win streak has restored some order, but a good start with their Pac-12 schedule and the Bruins could be back in the top-25 conversation.

"I think this is the best thing for us and for our team right now," guard Jerime Anderson said. "Give us the biggest test. They say this is the biggest test, this road trip for us, so give it to us. I think our team is ready and I think we can show a lot."

Pac-12 the mighty? Not this basketball season

Pac-12 the mighty? Not this basketball season

UCLA, Arizona State, Washington and others have fallen to seemingly lesser teams, and conference's NCAA tournament prospects are unpromising. Observers cite NBA defections among reasons for swoon.

By Diane Pucin
The Times of Los Angeles
6:35 PM PST, December 28, 2011

The defining moment of the Pac-12 basketball season to date took place Dec. 17 at Wells Fargo Arena, Arizona State's home floor.

The Sun Devils' opponent was Northern Arizona, which came into the game with a 2-7 record and a 70-year-old interim coach, Dave Brown, who had been announcing the team's games on the radio when coach Mike Adras quit "to pursue other interests."

The last time Brown had coached a game at any level was in 1990.

Final score: Northern Arizona 69, Arizona State 68 as an unheralded freshman named Stallon Saldivar scored a career-high 24 points, including a three-pointer at the buzzer.

An anomaly for the best college conference in the West?

Not this season.

Arizona State's loss to Northern Arizona was more than a tad embarrassing, but whether it was the worst this season by a conference team is debatable. Among other contenders: Washington's 92-73 drubbing by South Dakota State; UCLA's 69-58 loss to Loyola Marymount; Washington State falling to UC Riverside; and Weber State clobbering Utah by 29 points.

And there was this one that didn't officially count: Arizona lost an exhibition game to Seattle Pacific.

You might assume that Pac-12 teams could have been looking past those perceived as lesser opponents in some cases, but the conference hasn't fared well against good teams, either.

For example, the Pac-12 is 0-25 against ranked teams. California, picked to finish second in the Pac-12 in a preseason poll, was swamped by No. 21 Nevada Las Vegas, 85-68, and by then-No. 21 Missouri, 92-53.

Things got so bad that when Stanford took No. 1 Syracuse to overtime before losing, 69-63, the Pac-12 media relations corps played it up big.

Indeed, the once-proud Pac-12 is now a foil for other conferences. The Mountain West trumpets in its weekly notes its 10-2 record against Pac-12 schools. And the Big West proudly proclaims its three wins.

As the Pac-12 Conference season opens Thursday, all barometers point down.

California Coach Mike Montgomery seems resigned to the Pac-12's receiving no more than a bid or two for the NCAA tournament.

"It's just put a lot of pressure on everybody in the league," Montgomery said. "When everybody was winning and everybody was ranked, you're saying, man, we could finish fifth and get in. That's great, but it's not the way it is right now. Obviously the conference tournament winner goes, but after that, I think all bets are off."

There is no Pac-12 team in the top 45 of the RPI, the computer rankings system that helps determine NCAA at-large bids for the tournament. Arizona, at No. 49, is the best. California is next at No. 64. The conference, besides having no wins over ranked teams this year, has only one against a team in the top 50 of the RPI. In comparison, the Atlantic 10 Conference has eight.

Jay Bilas, a former player at Duke who is now an ESPN college basketball analyst, said there is no way to sugarcoat the Pac-12's performance.

"They've not performed well by every objective measure, and I don't see anyone with a straight face saying there is some sort of subjective viewing that could change that," he said.

Bilas suggests part of the problem has been coaching flux in the conference. Nine of the 12 schools have hired new coaches in the last four years.

"When that happens it's hard to keep recruiting continuity," Bilas said.

He also said the high school talent level in the West has been down in recent years.

Cal State Fullerton Coach Bob Burton said the Pac-12 has been hurt badly by early defections to the NBA.

"If Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee had stayed in school for UCLA and Derrick Williams had stayed at Arizona," Burton said, "everyone would be talking about how the Pac-12 had two teams that should go to the Final Four."

The Pac-12 has 50 players on NBA rosters, second only to the 61 players produced by the Atlantic Coast Conference. UCLA has 15 players on NBA rosters, most of any college team.

Tim Floyd, who coached at USC and is now at Texas El Paso, said the conference was at its best a few years ago when it was filled with good guards.

"You win with good guard play," Floyd said. "UCLA had Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook; Arizona had Jerryd Bayless; Oregon had Aaron Brooks; Washington had Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy; USC had O.J. Mayo, Daniel Hackett, Gabe Pruitt, Nick Young; Cal had Jerome Randle. I don't see that caliber of guard in the league now. There are some serviceable big men but that's not enough."

Floyd also said talent at the high school level in the West has been down. And he noted that some of the best players in the West headed east.

Third-ranked Kentucky is receiving contributions from two players from Portland, Ore., sophomore Terrence Jones and freshman Kyle Wiltjer. Fourth-ranked Louisville is anchored by guard Peyton Siva from Seattle. Sixth-ranked Baylor has two Californians, including Gary Franklin from Santa Ana Mater Dei High, who transferred from Cal.

"It's tough," San Diego State Coach Steve Fisher said. "Every kid wants to play immediately, play a style that's pleasing and play in sold-out arenas. That's what matters."

The Pac-12 would seem able to offer some immediate playing time, but the other pieces appear to be missing.

UCLA faces 'huge weekend' vs. Stanford, Cal

UCLA faces 'huge weekend' vs. Stanford, Cal

The Bruins will begin their Pac-12 Conference schedule by visiting the 10-2 Cardinal and 10-3 Golden Bears.

By Diane Pucin
The Los Angeles Times
11:29 PM PST, December 27, 2011

Jerime Anderson, a senior guard on the UCLA basketball team, understands the significance of what comes next for the Bruins.

"This is a huge weekend for our team," Anderson said. "The biggest of the year. If we come out and start well, that will do a lot for the team's confidence."

And if the start is slow? Anderson shook his head. "That can't happen," he said.

The Bruins (7-5) begin Pac-12 Conference play with a tough assignment — traveling to Stanford (10-2) on Thursday and California (10-3) on Saturday to play the teams that seem best prepared to do well in the conference.

Having already suffered losses to mid-majors such as Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State, and without a signature win over a ranked opponent, the Bruins understand that an NCAA tournament berth might not be available unless they win the Pac-12 tournament.

Winning the regular-season title might open a March Madness door, too, and center Josh Smith said starting out with the tough trip is fine.

"I'm a competitive guy," Smith said. "I don't care if it is starting on the road against North Carolina and Duke or Syracuse and Pitt, I'd be excited. All the teams in the conference are young. Us, Cal, Washington, Stanford, we had high hopes going into the season and we've all faltered a little bit, but things can change."

Bruins Coach Ben Howland said he's hoping that UCLA has weathered enough troubles and can find some continuity.

The nonconference season was marked by a contentious relationship between Howland and Reeves Nelson, UCLA's leading scorer and rebounder a year ago. Nelson was dismissed from the team last month and the Bruins have won five straight games since then. But none of those victories came over a highly regarded opponent.

"We'd like to get rid of the adversity," Howland said. "But adversity always makes you better if you handle it the right way."

During the winning streak, UCLA has held opponents to 33% shooting and in its last two wins — over UC Irvine and Richmond — seven Bruins have averaged double figures in scoring.

Pains of practice

Howland said starting point guard Lazeric Jones and backup guard Norman Powell both sprained left ankles in practice Monday, but both practiced Tuesday afternoon and are expected to be ready for Stanford.

"Both were coming down on someone else's foot," Howland said. "I'm not pleased two guys sprained ankles. I didn't sleep very well," Howland said.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bruins step on Spiders 71-63

Lazeric Jones scored 16 points and was one of five Bruins in double figures Friday. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US Presswire

UCLA is man enough to admit mistake, uses zone to beat Richmond

Coach Ben Howland, who prefers man-to-man defense, switches to zone after early struggles and it spurs UCLA to fifth straight win, 71-63. Lazeric Jones (16 points) leads five Bruins in double figures.

By Baxter Holmes
The Los Angeles Times
11:05 PM PST, December 23, 2011

UCLA Coach Ben Howland enjoys employing a zone defense as much as most people enjoy a glass of sour milk.

But with the Bruins getting trampled early against Richmond on Friday, Howland, a tried-and-true man-to-man man, felt he had to make the switch.

And, behold, it worked.

Helped by their zone defense, the Bruins frustrated Richmond's Princeton offense and fought back for a 71-63 win before 4,194 at the Sports Arena.

"If we hadn't gone to zone, we wouldn't have won the game," Howland said.

UCLA (7-5) has won five straight and wrapped up the nonconference portion of its schedule. And the Bruins will open Pac-12 Conference play Thursday at Stanford with momentum they only could have dreamed of when they were 2-5.

"Our slow start and adversity earlier in the season has really forced us to come together and each win is really helping our confidence," said guard Jerime Anderson, who had 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Coming in, UCLA had rolled four straight opponents, advancing the notion that dismissing Reeves Nelson from the team had solved most, if not all, of the Bruins' issues.

Of course, it's easy to convey that idea against Pennsylvania, Eastern Washington, UC Davis and UC Irvine.

Richmond (7-6) was different. The Spiders lost four starters from last season's team that won 29 games and advanced to the NCAA Southwest Regional semifinal, but they still had a fierce bite, as UCLA learned early.

Richmond jumped to a 14-5 lead early as its offense, predicated on constant motion, backdoor cuts and patient passing, threw UCLA out of sorts. The Spiders made six of their first 10 shots.

But then UCLA switched from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone, and Richmond missed 14 of its next 16 shots.

"They were pretty good shooters from the outside," forward Travis Wear said, "but fortunately we were able to cool them down a little bit."

The halftime score was 24-24, UCLA's lowest-scoring half this season, but after halftime the Bruins used a quick 7-0 run to take a lead.

Richmond hit a few scoring droughts, missing more shots from outside.

But inside, UCLA found some offense.

The Bruins scored 38 points in the paint, many of them in the second half.

And Wear scored all 14 of his points in the second half, including 10 in the final five minutes, to help seal the win.

David Wear added 12 points, and Howland said it was the best combined effort yet from the Wear twins.

UCLA had five players score in double figures for the second straight game; only guards Norman Powell and Tyler Lamb had bad shooting nights, going a combined two for 13.

Senior guard Lazeric Jones scored 16 points to lead UCLA, his seventh straight game with double-digit points.

Guard Darien Brothers scored 25 points to lead Richmond, which shot 33%.


UCLA BASKETBALL: Bruins continue to be in a zone in 71-63 win over Richmond

By Jon Gold Staff Writer
Posted: 12/23/2011 10:29:23 PM PST
Updated: 12/23/2011 10:38:44 PM PST

Late in the second half of UCLA's last non-conference tuneup on Friday night, a man dropped to his knee and proposed to his girlfriend at the Sports Arena.

She said no.

It was only the second biggest rejection of the evening.

UCLA sophomore forward Travis Wear blocked a Kendell Anthony attempt with a six-point lead and 1 minute, 16 seconds left immediately after scoring on a crucial rebound-and-putback, and the Bruins preserved their fifth straight with a 71-63 victory over Richmond.

"That was a very good win for us," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "A very important win. That's a hard team to play against - their style of play and their strategies, you don't see that often. That really caused us problems early."

Richmond made 6 of 10 shots to start the game as its Princeton offense caused fits against UCLA's man-to-man defense before the Bruins switched to a zone, and the Spiders went ice cold, making just one of their next 14 shots. UCLA trailed 14-5 and 21-12 but a late first-half spurt allowed the Bruins to tie it at 24 at the half.

Howland, who is typically hesitant to play zone, credited the switch for the victory.

"The zone really helped us tonight," Howland said. "If we hadn't have gone to zone, we wouldn't have won the game. It's been good for us. There's going to be times when we have to go to it. I'd rather play man - but I knew going into this game that they're so hard to guard. They're so precise."

The Bruins were the sharpshooters in the second half, though.

UCLA made 16 of 26 shots (61.5 percent) in the second half, starting off with a quick 7-0 run and kept the Spiders at arm's length for much of the half. Senior guard Jerime Anderson had 11 second-half points, including a quick five during the Bruins' early second-half spurt.

"We got a lot better shots," Anderson said. "We started getting to the rack a lot more. Our motion offense gave them problems with their matchup defense. We got a lot of good things inside."

The Bruins' better ball movement resulted in a balanced offensive effort, as five players finished in double figures, led by senior point guard Lazeric Jones' 16 points. UCLA's balance offset a big night from Richmond's Darien Brothers, who finished with 25 points and five 3-pointers.

"We knew they'd try to backdoor us, and I think it overextended us a little bit," Wear said. "When we went to that zone, obviously they're not going to get those open doors because we're packing it in the paint. Fortunately we were able to cool them down a little bit."

Wear and his twin brother David, though, stayed hot.

The twins played their best cumulative effort against the Spiders, combining for 26 points on 12-of-22 shooting and totaling 11 rebounds.

Travis Wear had all 14 of his points in the second half, and his block proved crucial as the Spiders could not cut the gap any further.

"I was just trying to be active," he said. "I think I was overthinking when I was in there in the beginning, but I was just trying to go to open spots."

The win, UCLA's fifth straight after a 2-5 start, gives the Bruins some momentum heading into Pac-12 Conference play. The team opens its conference schedule Thursday at Stanford.


Richmond gets lost in UCLA's zone

Published: Dec. 23, 2011 Updated: Dec. 24, 2011 12:26 a.m.

LOS ANGELES – Ben Howland has finally zoned out

UCLA (7-5) extended its winning streak to five games with a 71-63 victory against Richmond at the Sports Arena Friday night, and the Bruins coach credited the victory to of all things UCLA's zone defense.

"The zone really helped us tonight," said Howland, an ardent proponent of man-to-man defense. "If we hadn't gone to zone we wouldn't have won the game."

The Spiders (7-6) led by nine points in the opening half before UCLA switched to a 2-3 zone that enabled it to get back into the game and in the second half break it open.

UCLA held Richmond to 33.3 percent shooting and just 10 points in the paint. During one 11:42 stretch Richmond scored just two field goals. The drought allowed the Bruins to open the second half with a 7-0 run.

"That was big to get us to start the second half like that," Howland said. "Because we had zero momentum to start the game."

The Bruins also had no momentum after a 2-5 start marred by injuries and off-the-court distraction of Reeves Nelson's spat with Howland that led to Nelson being dismissed from the team. UCLA now heads into its Pac-12 opener at Stanford on Thursday showing signs of the team picked to win the conference.

"Our slow start and adversity early in the season has forced us to come together," UCLA's Jerime Anderson said, "and each win is really helping our confidence."

The play of Anderson has helped. The Canyon High standout helped spark the turnaround against Richmond with 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists, both team highs.

Anderson's backcourt mate, Lazeric Jones, pumped in a team-high 16 points as five Bruins finished in double-figures scoring for the second consecutive game.

With Anderson and Jones directing UCLA's motion offense, the Bruins were able to expose holes in Richmond's match up zone. UCLA outscored the Spiders 38-10 in the paint.

"We got a lot of good things inside," Anderson said.

Richmond took a 14-5 lead, but the Spiders missed seven consecutive shots from the field as the Bruins began to find the basket. David Wear's layup with 9:01 remaining in the opening half cut Richmond's lead to 14-12.

A 7-0 run gave the Spiders their 21-12 cushion.

Men's basketball defeats Richmond and will begin Pac-12 play with five-game winning streak

The Daily Bruin
Published December 24, 2011 in Sports: Bruin Sights
Updated:6 hours ago

UCLA will head into conference play on a five-game winning streak capped by the Bruins’ best win of the year, a 71-63 defeat of Richmond on Friday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

After an ugly first half that saw both teams put up 24 points each, the Bruins (7-5) blitzed to seven straight points out of the break and would not trail for the rest of the game.

Both teams shot better from the field and limited their turnovers in the second half. UCLA’s 2-3 zone defense kept Richmond (7-6) cold for most of the game, but Richmond’s momentary switch to a 1-3-1 zone late in the second half helped the Spiders crawl back into the game.

A pair of Richmond 3-pointers made it a four-point game with four minutes to play. That was before redshirt sophomore Travis Wear, who had a foot injury that kept him out of two games, responded with eight straight points for UCLA to put the game out of reach.

UCLA dominated Richmond’s frontcourt, winning the rebound battle 42-30 and turning 16 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points.

For the second straight game, five Bruins had double-digits in scoring: Lazeric Jones (16 points), Travis Wear (14), Jerime Anderson (13), David Wear (12) and Joshua Smith (11).

UCLA coach Ben Howland warned that his team was in for a difficult test prior to the game, but his Bruins emerged with a win over a program that was in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season. The challenges ahead are tougher: UCLA will face Stanford (10-2) and California (10-3) to open Pac-12 play next week.


UCLA Basketball Wins Fifth Straight, Downs Richmond, 71-63 Lazeric Jones scored 16 points for UCLA in win over Richmond

The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
Dec. 23, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Lazeric Jones scored a team-high 16 points to lead UCLA to its fifth consecutive victory, a 71-63 win over Richmond at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on Friday night.

UCLA (7-5) had five players score in double-figures and outrebounded Richmond (7-6) by a 42-30 margin.

Jerime Anderson tallied 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Travis Wear poured in 14 points, and David Wear netted 12 points and seven rebounds. Joshua Smith scored 11 points and had five rebounds.

"It's a very good and important win for us against a good, well-coached team," UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. "You don't see their style and system often. They really packed it in and made it difficult for Josh [Smith] to move around. After the fifth or sixth shot, we went to the zone, which really helped us win the game."

Richmond was led by Darien Brothers' game-high 25 points. Brothers made 8-of-16 shots, hitting 5-of-10 shots from three-point range.

UCLA hit just one shot in the game's first 5:38, falling behind by an 11-3 margin before Anderson made a layup with 14:22 left before halftime.

Richmond maintained its early first-half cushion against UCLA, leading 14-5 and 20-12 in the first seven minutes before the Bruins rallied to tie the game at halftime, 24-24.

In the final minute of the first half, UCLA claimed its first lead of the game, taking a 22-21 lead with 44 seconds to play on a jump shot from David Wear. Brothers nailed a three-pointer for Richmond with 31 seconds left before Jones answered with a layup three seconds before halftime, tying the game, 24-24.

"Offensively, in the second half, we did a better job, cutting harder, better spacing, more movement and running motion," Howland said. "It's important for us to put something together after the slow start. We're playing better and are much more cohesive."

The Bruins opened the second half with a 7-0 scoring run to secure a 31-24 advantage. UCLA did not trail after halftime, but never pushed its lead to double digits until the game's final 17 seconds.

"We're getting some confidence, and that's huge," Jones said. "Everyone is rooting for each other. It feels good to get some wins. We have to build on this."

UCLA led 63-59 after Richmond's Derrick Williams made two free throws. On their next possession, the Bruins answered with a put-back by Travis Wear on a missed shot from David Wear with 1:33 left in the game.

After Richmond missed a layup with 1:16 remaining, the Bruins pushed their margin to eight points (67-59) on a layup from Travis Wear with 40 seconds left.

UCLA closed the first half on a 19-10 scoring run, with Jones and David Wear leading the team with eight points each before halftime.

Friday night's game marked the Bruins' final non-conference contest before the team enters Pac-12 play at Stanford on Thursday, Dec. 29. Game time at Stanford's Maples Pavilion is 8 p.m. (PT). The UCLA-Stanford game will be televised on Prime Ticket.

UCLA has one non-conference game left on its regular-season schedule, playing St. John's at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday, Feb. 18.


Five observations: UCLA 71, Richmond 63

By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
December, 23, 2011 11:49 PM PT

LOS ANGELES -- After a dismal start to the season, UCLA has found a little momentum at just the right time.

The Bruins defeated Richmond, 71-63, Friday night at the Sports Arena, giving them a five-game win streak in their final nonconference tuneup before heading into Pac-12 Conference play against Stanford and California next week.

UCLA (7-5) is a much different team at Christmas than it was at Thanksgiving, when the Bruins were 1-4 and fading fast. But thanks to a December surge, UCLA is headed back it the right direction at the right time of the season.

"It was important for us to start to put something together after starting off 1-4, 2-5," coach Ben Howland said. "We’re playing a lot better right now. The team is very cohesive, very together, very unselfish. They are having fun, they are enjoying each other. It’s really a nice family atmosphere and it’s fun to have that."

After losing three of their first four games at the Sports Arena, the Bruins have now won three in a row at their home away from home while Pauley Pavilion is under renovation. The win streak comes just as the Bruins kiss the building goodbye for more than a month.

They next play at the Sports Arena on Jan. 26 with road games at Stanford, Cal, USC, Oregon State and Oregon coming up and home games against Arizona and Arizona State at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

But more important than the venue is that the Bruins are gaining confidence as they head toward those all-important conference games.

"A lot of teams that do well in conference play are teams with momentum," center Joshua Smith said. "This is our fifth win in a row and Pac-12 is going to be harder so we need that momentum."

UCLA center Joshua Smith is harassed by Richmond's Derrick Williams, left, and Cedrick Lindsay while trying to power his way to the basket in the first half Friday night at the Sports Arena. Smith finished with 11 pts, 5 rbds and a block (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / December 23, 2011)

The victory over Richmond was especially important because it gave the Bruins a victory over a quality opponent. The Spiders (7-6) are the first team with a winning record that UCLA has defeated during its current win streak. UCLA's last two victories came against UC Davis (1-11) and UC Irvine (3-9), so the jury was still out on the Bruins.

The Spiders were a Sweet 16 team last season and though they lost three starters from that team, the victory carries a little more clout than any other UCLA victory this season.

"That was a very big win for us," Howland said. "A very important win."

Five observations from the game:

1) UCLA was in the zone

The Bruins started out in a man-to-man defense, but after Richmond made six of its first 10 shots and took a 14-5 lead, Howland switched to a zone with about 15 minutes remaining in the first half. The Spiders made only two more field goals the rest of the half and made only three field goals the first 13 minutes of the second half as UCLA took control.

"Obviously if we hadn’t gone to zone, we wouldn’t have won the game," Howland said.

Richmond ended up shooting 33.3 percent for the game, marking the fourth consecutive opponent that UCLA has held below 40 percent from the field.

"The zone helped us a lot tonight," Smith said. "They were a hard team to guard in man and we’ve acknowledge the fact that we can run zone and it can work for us. It really helped us come back and it’s nice to have that when we need it."

2) It was a balancing act for the Bruins

For the second consecutive game, UCLA had five players score in double figures. Lazeric Jones had 16 points, Travis Wear had 14, Jerime Anderson had 13, David Wear had 12 and Smith had 11.

And on a night when Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell, the two leading scorers from last game, combined for only five points on 2-for-13 shooting, the Bruins showed they have scoring depth up and down the bench.

"To get five guys in double figures, I really love that," Howland said. "When we get five guys in double figures we’re going to have a good chance to win."

3) Jerime Anderson was a catalyst

Anderson had one of his strongest performances of the season with 13 points, six assists and a career-high seven rebounds. He led a second-half charge with 11 points after the break, including five during an early second-half spurt that turned a 24-24 tie into a 31-24 UCLA lead. The Bruins never lost the lead after that.

"It kind of opened a little bit more in the second half," Anderson said. "I picked my spots trying to get to the rack and I was more aggressive and that was it."

He was also key down the stretch, getting three assists in the final 3:30 as the Bruins staved off a late Richmond rally.

"He really orchestrated a lot for us," Howland said. "I thought Jerime had one of his best games of the season for sure."

4) Travis Wear came up big down the stretch

Wear was having a rather pedestrian game until the final five minutes. He scored 10 of UCLA's final 17 points, including an alley-oop dunk from Anderson. He was 6 for 10 from the field, but was 5-for-5 in the last five minutes.

"I was just trying to be active, not thinking," Wear said. "I think I was over thinking when I was in there in the beginning. I was just trying to go to open spots and my teammates were able to look for me. I was just around the rim trying to be active."

5) The Bruins had trouble finishing around the basket

The game easily could have been a blowout victory for the Bruins, but they missed on a number of point-blank shots in the paint. Smith, the 6-10 center, was only 3-for-9 from the field while Lamb and Powell, the team's two most athletic players, were unable to convert on several drives.

Richmond shot blocking specialist Darrius Garrett had five blocks and his presence altered several insode shots causing UCLA to miss some.

"I was just rushing," Smith said. "They did a good job of crowding the ball. I let the shot blocker kind of affect some of the shots I was taking, but I just tried to take it right at him."

Smith was 1-for-5 in the first half, but improved to two of four in the second half. He also made one of his best moves of the season by backing down Garrett in the post then turning and dunking on him. It was the type of aggressive move that has been missing from Smith's game most of the season.

"I got that dunk and it was some relief," Smith said. "I know I have to do that more. As much as I can, I have to try to go to the rim and finish."


UCLA Wears out Richmond

Published: Dec. 23, 2011 Updated: 10:56 p.m.

LOS ANGELES – The Brothers Wear might have played their best game at UCLA on Friday night.

Travis and David Wear, the sophomore forwards out of Mater Dei, combined for 26 points in UCLA's 71-63 victory against Richmond in front of 4,194 at the Sports Arena.

Travis Wear, in his second game back after being hospitalized because of a foot infection, scored 10 of his 14 points in the final five minutes as the Bruins extended their winning streak to five games.

"I thought Travis Wear had his best game as a Bruin, hitting big shots for us around the basket late in the game," UCLA coach Ben Howland said.

Said Travis: "I'll get more comfortable and am just trying to get into open shots and be more active around the rim."

David Wear added 12 points, his third game in double figures in the Bruins' past four outings.

"As we're playing more games," David Wear said, "we're getting more comfortable."


UCLA clobbered Richmond in the paint Friday night.

The Bruins outscored the Spiders, 38-10, inside and outrebounded Richmond, 42-30. That dominance inside allowed UCLA to shoot 61.5 percent from the field in the second half.


Spiders guard Darien Brothers finished with a game-high 25 points.

"I felt like, as a team, we could have attacked the zone," Brothers said. "They play a wide zone, so we felt like we could have helped out more by getting some more rebounds."

Richmond was hamstrung by Darrius Garret's foul trouble. The senior forward had nine points, nine blocks and 13 rebounds in a victory over Old Dominion on Tuesday but was held scoreless against the Bruins.


Not all the drama was on the court at the Sports Arena on Friday night.

During a timeout with 11:12 remaining in the game a man made a rather lengthy marriage proposal on his knee over the in-house video feed and public address system.

After an uncomfortable and silent delay the intended fiancee ran from her seat, up the lower level steps and out of the arena.

A few moments later the embarrassed suitor followed her out.

"You could at least lie," UCLA guard Jerime Anderson said. "That's cold. Tough break."

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Latest Bruins' victory helps turn frowns upside down

UCLA's Lazeric Jones, center, and Joshua Smith celebrate from the bench after a Norman Powell dunk during the second half of the Bruins' 89-60 victory over UC Irvine Tuesday at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles.Photo: KEVIN SULLIVAN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

UCLA BASKETBALL: Latest Bruins' victory helps turn frowns upside down

By Jon Gold Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/20/2011 10:30:43 PM PST
Updated: 12/21/2011 02:53:10 AM PST

At a certain point late in UCLA's 89-60 win over UC Irvine on Tuesday night at the Sports Arena, it almost looked like Ben Howland cracked a smile.

There hasn't been all too much to grin about this year for the truculent head coach.

Moving above .500 for the first time this year? Enough to make Howland laugh.

"I was just glad we were playing well there," he said. "Our guys are really coming together. You can see there's a good chemistry with this team right now.

"That's fun. It was good to see them get excited for their teammates making good plays."

The players? They had a rollicking good time. Much like in their 82-39 win over UC Davis on Saturday at the Honda Center, the Bruins benefitted from impressive ball movement and finding wide-open running lanes while finishing with 22 assists on 34 baskets.

Towels waved on the bench, 3-pointers fell in like raindrops and if there were any more high fives, there might have been a dozen sprained wrists.

UCLA has won four consecutive games since Howland dismissed Reeves Nelson and he did not avoid the awkward question.

"That was the reason when I removed Reeves," Howland said.

"It has improved our chemistry and being positive. That's the bottom line."

Freshman guard Norman Powell brought the energy to a fever pitch with two second-half spurts. Less than three minutes after a rebound-3-pointer-rebound-drawn foul sequence, Powell had a 3-pointer, then followed with a steal. He sprinted down court for a dunk-and-one and hit the free throw for six of his career-high 19 points.

Powell also added seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals with zero turnovers in just his 11th career game.

"My game tonight was basically being aggressive on defense," he said. "Your defense brings offense. With me trying to get the steals, blocks, playing hard, defending my man led to easy points in transition."

Powell was the most prolific of a bountiful backcourt as guards Tyler Lamb, Jerime Anderson and Lazeric Jones combined for 35 points on 14-of-27 shooting.

With the Anteaters sealing off sophomore center Joshua Smith and denying the ball in the interior, the guards came to the rescue.

"We played well as a team tonight," Lamb said. "UC Irvine focused so much on our front court that we were able to get open shots. The way we were playing tonight, we were getting stops on defense and we were able to run and get buckets in transition."

The Anteaters' strategy worked early as they managed to keep the game tied at 10 with 12 minutes left in the first half. Smith had just two free throws to that point, but the Bruins kept working it inside-out and went on a 32-18 run to close the half.

"We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but our defense started to improve and we started executing offensively," Howland said. "I was really proud of the rebounding, and in the second half we did a better job of field-goal defense."

Powell giving Bruins what Howland wants

Norman Powell #4 of the UCLA Bruins attempts to keep the ball in bound in front of Rocky Brown #2 of the Eastern Washington Eagles during the first half at LA Sports Arena on December 14, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (December 13, 2011 - Photo by Harry How/Getty Images North America via

Powell giving Bruins what Howland wants

Published: Dec. 20, 2011 Updated: 10:54 p.m.

LOS ANGELES – UCLA freshman guard Norman Powell is finally starting to live up to his advance billing.

"This is what we expected from him," Bruins coach Ben Howland said.

This would be a game- and career-high 19-point performance for Powell in an 89-60 romp over UC Irvine in front of 4,090 at the Sports Arena on Tuesday.

Powell connected on 4-of-6 3-point attempts, pulled down seven rebounds and added three assists, two blocked shots and a pair of steals.

"Norman really had a good game," Howland said. "He only had 12 rebounds in the his first nine games and now he's had 17 in his last two. That shows improvement. Norman is getting better and better. This is what we expected from him with more opportunities. He still makes freshman mistakes, but he's improving. We need him."

Powell's slow start was in large part to a knee injury, but he was also hospitalized when he suffered an allergic reaction during a recent practice that required him to be hospitalized.

With the knee improving, Howland said Powell can turn his game up even further.

"Sense of urgency," Howland said. "That's what I want his mantra to be."

Early burst

UCI jumped out to a 4-0 lead and continued to lead, 12-10, with 11:34 left in the first half before the Bruins ripped the game open with a 30-11 run.

"We started off pretty strong," Anteaters guard Chris McNealy said. "Midway through the first half, we felt like we were in this game, but near the end (of the half) we let up a little bit. We gave up too many transition points and we have to talk to each other on defense."

McNealy led UCI with 11 points, Starring added 10.


Bruins center Anthony Stover suffered an eye injury in the first half and was not allowed to return to play by the UCLA medical staff.

UCLA growing stronger, crushes UC Irvine 89-60, breaks .500

UCLA's Norman Powell dunks past UC Irvine's Chris McNealy during the Bruins' 89-60 victory over the Anteaters Tuesday at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Powell had a career-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Photo: KEVIN SULLIVAN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

UCLA growing stronger, crushes UC Irvine

Published: Dec. 20, 2011 Updated: 11:11 p.m.

LOS ANGELES – There are a number of reasons for UCLA's recent turnaround.

Bruin point guard Lazeric Jones regaining his confidence.

Sophomore guard Tyler Lamb getting healthy.

The emergence of freshman Norman Powell.

But as UCLA rolled up its fourth consecutive victory by rolling over UC Irvine 89-60 at the Sports Arena on Tuesday night, the dismissal of all-conference forward Reeves Nelson was a major factor in the Bruins' re-emergence as a contender for the Pac-12 title after a 2-5 start.

"That's why I removed Reeves," Howland said. "It has improved chemistry. Just being honest."

The Bruins winning streak started the day after Howland finally sent the petulant Nelson packing for good December 9. Call it addition by subtraction.

"Our guys are really coming together," Howland said after a game in which the Bruins had five players in double figures. "We've got good chemistry."

It also helps that Powell, slowed earlier in the season by a knee injury and then hospitalized by an allergic reaction, is playing a larger role in the mix.

Tuesday night Powell turned the Anteaters inside out, hitting 4-of-6 3-point attempts, and slamming home a Lamb lob en route to a game and season-high 19 points. Powell also added seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

"I feel like every day I'm improving," Powell said.

So is Lamb (Mater Dei High), thanks to a procedure that drained fluid off his hip last week.

A full strength, Lamb posted a career-high 17 points in addition to three assists and four steals.

"I feel way more explosive," Lamb said.

The Bruins are also finding that its easier to soar when you've dropped unnecessary baggage.

"We feel really close," Lamb said. "With out team going through so much adversity it's brought us close and I think you can see it on the court.


UCLA over .500 after crushing UC Irvine, 89-60

Bruins win their fourth in a row and Coach Ben Howland says they are coming together.

By Baxter Holmes
The Times of Los Angeles
10:52 PM PST, December 20, 2011

From beneath a self-inflicted avalanche of embarrassment, UCLA has risen.

Above .500, that is.

UCLA improved to 6-5 with an 89-60 win against UC Irvine on Tuesday before 4,090 at the Sports Arena, marking the first time this season its win column had more notches than its loss column.

The Bruins have won four in a row — all against relatively creampuff competition: Pennsylvania, Eastern Washington, UC Davis and Irvine, which fell to 2-9 and has lost three straight.

Still, any win looks good for UCLA after its disastrous start, when it lost four of its first five by double digits. That said, there's little doubt the Bruins are night-and-day different from that team.

"Guys are really coming together," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

Is it because volatile forward Reeves Nelson was dismissed Dec. 9?

"That's the reason why I removed Reeves," Howland said. "It has improved our chemistry."

The Bruins have one final nonconference tune-up — against Richmond on Friday — before Pac-12 play begins next week.

UCLA was the media's preseason pick to win the Pac-12, an estimation that looked way off weeks ago but could be closer to reality as the league appears wide open (read: awful) and UCLA has improved all-around.

One such area is the Bruins' guard play, which was overshadowed in the preseason by their allegedly-dominant front line but has emerged in the last two blowout wins, specifically Tuesday.

"UC Irvine focused so much on our frontcourt that we were able to get open shots," explained guard Tyler Lamb, who scored a career-high 17 points.

UCLA responded by shooting a season-high 54.8% overall and making nine of 18 three-point shots. Freshman guard Norman Powell made four three-pointers and scored a career-high 19.

Powell also grabbed seven rebounds and has snagged 17 boards in the last two games after recording only 12 combined in his first nine.

"Norman is getting better and better," Howland said. "That is what we expected from him."

Behind the trio of Powell, Lamb and Lazeric Jones, who scored 11, UCLA led as much as 17 in the first half.

That lead stretched to 20 with Powell's two-handed dunk off a Lamb alley-oop pass early in the second half.

"We've been working on that all week in practice," said a smiling Powell.

After that, Irvine, which was led in scoring by Chris McNealy's 11 points, caved, and the Bruins' lead eventually fattened to 34. In all, five UCLA players scored in double figures.

"That's exactly what we want," Howland said. "That's beautiful."

Center Joshua Smith had his second straight strong showing, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in a season-high-tying 22 minutes.

Travis Wear returned from a two-game absence because of a skin infection on his left foot to score six points and grab six rebounds.


UCLA men's basketball extends winning streak to four, defeats UC Irvine 89-60

The Daily Bruin in Men's BasketballSports
Published December 20, 2011, 11:23 pm

UCLA’s changing of the two-guard was a rough one. With sophomore Tyler Lamb too hurt and freshman Norman Powell too green, the Bruins couldn’t replicate the production lost when Malcolm Lee declared for the NBA draft.

To solve their early-season struggles, UCLA’s pair of shooting guards looked to each other. Eleven games into the season, Lamb and Powell look like they’ve found their comfort level. Each set career-highs in scoring in UCLA’s 89-60 win over UC Irvine at the Sports Arena on Tuesday night, which moved the Bruins (6-5) to above .500 for the first time all season.

After the game, Powell and Lamb took turns crediting each other.

“I feel like every day I’m improving,” said Powell, who had a well-rounded stat line of 19 points (a game-high), seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. “In practice going against Tyler Lamb, he’s going to make me work. He gives me his information and input on how his freshman year went.”

“Norman has so much potential,” said Lamb, who had 17 points. “He’s learning more and more every day. He works very hard, he listens. That’s going to help him a lot. I think he’s going to be a very, very good player.”

They’ve remained connected during games, with spectacular results. For the second straight game, Powell caught an alley-oop from Lamb and finished with a two-handed dunk, the highlight of Powell’s best performance this year.

“We’ve been working on that all week in practice,” Powell said with a grin. “The pass from Lamb, you know, perfect pass. That’s two games in a row now he’s hit me with the lob, so I was pretty excited.”

The Anteaters (2-9) kept up early, but sagged off UCLA’s guards and put extra pressure on the tall front line. That left plenty of wide open shots for the Bruins, who shot 55 percent for the game and had five players in double-digit scoring for the second time this season.

With the offense flowing, Lamb and Powell both had the green light to shoot. Lamb finished 7-of-13 shooting with two 3-pointers, while Powell was 6-of-11 and made four 3-pointers.

Powell was far from error-free, a few miscues on both ends of the floor scattered throughout an impressive night, but didn’t get the quick hook from his coach.

“We’ve had a lot of players here that have improved a lot each and every year they’re here because they work hard and they’re coachable – he’s like that,” coach Ben Howland said of Powell.

“He made a mistake the first time he came in today. He was supposed to be helping … (and) he knew it. Sense of urgency, that’s what I want his mantra to be. Playing with a sense of urgency. When he does that, he can be really good, as you can see (today).”

Lamb has improved health to thank for his turnaround. Two weeks ago, he chose to seek medical attention after playing through an injured hip at “60 percent” capacity. After undergoing a procedure to reduce the inflammation, he said he’s back at full strength.

The rapport between Powell and Lamb is a small sample of what the Bruins are saying is improved team chemistry overall. After a horrific start to the year culminating in Reeves Nelson’s dismissal, the Bruins have rolled off four straight wins and are building momentum with one game left before Pac-12 play begins.

Asked if Nelson’s absence was the catalyst for change, Howland was blunt.

“That’s the reason why I removed Reeves. It has improved our chemistry. Just being positive. That’s the bottom line. I’m being honest and telling you the truth, yes.”


Five observations: UCLA 89, UC Irvine 60

By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
December, 20, 2011 11:30 PM PT

LOS ANGELES--UCLA's upward trend continued Tuesday night when the Bruins turned in another dominant performance and posted an 89-60 victory over UC Irvine at the Sports Arena.

It was the fourth consecutive victory for UCLA (6-5) which got above .500 for the first time this season and has outscored its last three opponents, 231-146, and is beginning to shake off a 1-4 start that featured embarrassing losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State.

Freshman guard Norman Powell had a breakout performance with a career-high 19 points to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Sophomore Tyler Lamb also continued to break out of his early-season slump and scored a career-best 17 points with three assists and a career-high four steals.

David Wear added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Bruins, who had five players score in double figures and shot a season-best 54.8 percent from the field. The Bruins have shot 53.7 percent over the last two games.

Five observations from the game:

1) Dismissing Reeves Nelson has improved team chemistry

It seemed like a risky move for Ben Howland to dismiss an all-conference player from the team, but the Bruins are now 4-0 since Reeves Nelson last played and seems to be getting better and better each game they are further removed from the Nelson era.

They are playing as a more cohesive unit and seem to be enjoying themselves much more on the court.

"I think that’s the reason I removed Reeves," Howland said. "It has improved our chemistry and being positive. That’s the bottom line, I’m just being honest and telling truth."

Nelson was clearly an asset at times as he led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, but his poor attitude had poisoned the team early on this season and led to unproductive practices and games that simply were not fun to play.

"Our guys are really coming together," Howland said. "You can see that there is good chemistry with this team right now, Guys are really pulling for each other. That’s fun."

2) Norman Powell began to deliver on his potential

Powell has sprinkled signs of his tremendous ability throughout the early season, but Tuesday night he finally put it all together. He made four of six three-point shots, had a couple of athletic dunks and an acrobatic reverse layup that made you take notice.

His 19-point, seven-rebound game followed an eight-point, 10-rebound game on Saturday and probably earned Powell more minutes going forward.

"Norman is getting better and better and that’s what we expected," Howland said. "With more opportunity he’s growing. He still makes freshman mistakes but he’s definitely improving and we need him. We need him to keep playing how he’s playing."

Powell credited his improved play to getting used to the college level and committing to defense.

"My game tonight was basically being aggressive on defense," he said. "Trying my best on defense. Coach always says your defense brings offense."

3) Tyler Lamb is finally healthy

UCLA's Tyler Lamb celebrates a dunk during the second half of the Bruins' 89-60 victory over UC Irvine Tuesday at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Photo: KEVIN SULLIVAN, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Lamb was one of the early-season disappointments for the Bruins as he tried to play through bursitis in his hip that was causing tremendous pain.

He had the hip drained of fluid and has been a different player ever since. His 17-point, four-steal game Tuesday came one game after he put up nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists against UC Davis and 14 points against Eastern Washington.

"I feel way more explosive," Lamb said. "I feel like I’m 100 percent right now and hopefully I can feel like that the rest of the season. I felt like I was playing 60 percent and to be able to feel like this and play like this, I’m very thankful."

It's helped him on the defensive end as well. Lamb is supposed to be the team's defensive stopper this season, but he was a step slow early on and his man was routinely having big games. That's not the case any more.

"Tyler Lamb is really playing well for us right now," Howland said. "He’s had three games in a row he’s put together--at least three--where his stats don’t even indicate what he’s doing because he’s always guarding the other team’s best player."

4) Three-point shooting is becoming a weapon

UC Irvine started out playing a zone defense and doubling down on the post, but the UCLA shooters thwarted that effort. UCLA made nine of 18 three-point shots and have made 26 of 62
(41.9 percent) during their four-game win streak.

"When we take good open three-pointers, I think we’re going to be a good three-point shooting team," Howland said.

Point guard Lazeric Jones, who had 11 points and six assists, said the key to the outside shooting is the big men being able to pass out of the double teams. Joshua Smith, Travis Wear and David Wear each had assists Tuesday night.

"When guys are doubling down on our bigs like that we’ve got to be able to knock down shots," Jones said. "Our bigs are good passers so when they get it out to us, we have to reward them."

5) The Bruins aren't just winning, they're winning big

With an average margin of victory of 33 points over the last three games, UCLA is clearly playing at a high level, even if the level of competition has been a bit suspect.

Good teams put the beat down on teams that are rebuilding such as UC Irvine and UC Davis and that's exactly what UCLA has done, so perhaps the Bruins are finally starting to develop into a good team.

"You’ve got to win games to learn how to win games and I feel like we’re starting to learn how to win a little bit," Jones said. "I don’t think we’re there yet, but you can see some things are starting to happen."

Those early losses to LMU and Middle Tennessee were supposed to go this way, but when they turned into losses, the Bruins realized that things weren't going to be easy this season.

"No team likes losing and the way we were losing early this season against teams we thought we should beat, we got embarrassed," said Smith, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. "It feels good to kind of flip the script a little bit. It's a lot more fun and now we just have to keep this going."

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