Friday, November 30, 2012

First look: #23 San Diego State vs. UCLA

First look: San Diego State vs. UCLA

November, 30, 2012
4:06 PM PT
What: No. 23 San Diego State Aztecs (4-1) vs. UCLA Bruins (5-2)

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. PT

Where: Honda Center, Anaheim


Radio: AM 570

Scouting the Bruins: The UCLA Bruins are looking to sustain the energy it had Wednesday night in an 82-56 victory over Cal State Northridge Matadors. It was a nice bounce-back for the Bruins after losing to Cal Poly Mustangs, especially considering Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith had left the team earlier this week. The Bruins are looking to string together consecutive victories for the first time since Nov. 13-15. Shabazz Muhammad continues to be a scoring threat. He is averaging 16 points a game since being reinstated by the NCAA, but he is shooting only 43.5 percent. The Bruins used a zone for the entire game against Northridge and held the Matadors to 32.9 percent shooting. UCLA has used a zone defense twice this season and won both games. Bruins coach Ben Howland said the team will continue to use more zones but will not abandon the man-to-man.

Scouting the Aztecs: San Diego State has won four consecutive games since starting the season with a 62-49 loss to No. 6 Syracuse aboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway. The Aztecs are No. 12 in the nation in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 53.2 points a game. They are not especially accurate on offense, however, as they are shooting 38.7 percent from the field and 26.7 percent on 3-pointers. Jamaal Franklin, a 6-foot-5 guard, leads the Aztecs with 18.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Starting guard Chase Tapley (knee) did not play in a victory Sunday against USC, and starting forward DeShawn Stephens (hip pointer) left that game after only five minutes. Both are questionable for Saturday.

The series: UCLA leads 16-5, but the teams have not met since an 86-64 UCLA victory at Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 14, 1991. UCLA has won eight consecutive games in the series and the last San Diego State victory over UCLA came on Dec. 7, 1940.

Fast facts: This game is part of the Wooden Classic, an event used to honor UCLA's legendary coach. The Bruins are 11-4 all-time in the Wooden Classic. … San Diego State has a 25-game winning streak against teams from California, a streak that dates back to 1996. The Aztecs also have a 10-game win streak against Pac-12 teams.

UCLA beats Cal State Northridge 82-56

UCLA beats Cal State Northridge 82-56



LOS ANGELES (AP) -- An upset loss and the departures of two players in three days marked one of the rockiest weeks in UCLA basketball history.

Coach Ben Howland said he plans to ''coach my tail off'' to help steady the turbulence surrounding a team that boasted one of the nation's top recruiting classes this season but lost to Cal Poly and fell out of the Top 25 this week.

''It's not fun,'' junior Travis Wear said about the program's recent controversies. ''I'd like to just be able to focus on basketball and not have these issues occur. We still have a lot of talented pieces. I think we could go far this year.''

The Bruins bounced back from a 70-68 loss to the Mustangs by routing Cal State Northridge 82-56 on Wednesday night, hours after center Joshua Smith said he was quitting the team for undisclosed personal reasons. Last Sunday, the same day the Bruins were beaten, guard Tyler Lamb said he was leaving over a lack of playing time.

''I was surprised, shocked,'' Howland said about Smith's departure. ''He talked to me about battling personal issues. He had made up his mind when he came to meet me this morning.''

Smith averaged 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds while playing 13.5 minutes a game in UCLA's six games this season. The junior started 24 of 65 games during his first two seasons, which were marked by struggles with weight and conditioning. In an odd bit of timing, Smith was featured on the cover of the game program.

''Josh can be a really good player,'' Howland said.

Travis Wear said he was surprised to find out Smith had quit.

''He struggled with his weight a little bit but I think it was a personal decision he and his family made,'' Wear said, adding that there was no dissension among the team. ''We have great team chemistry. We all genuinely like each other.''

Norman Powell added, ''It does hurt the team and what we want to do this year.''

Howland said Smith didn't talk to him about transferring, while Lamb ''wanted playing time and he was worried about that.''

With the departures, Howland said he would go with an eight-man rotation, with junior Sooren Derboghosian and sophomore David Brown as the ninth and 10th players. Freshman Tony Parker, who sprained his ankle in warm-ups, will get more minutes, too.

Powell led four players in double figures with 17 points against Northridge.

Kyle Anderson added a career-high 15 points and Larry Drew II had a career-high 13 assists for the Bruins (5-2). On Sunday, Powell lost track of the score and mistakenly committed a late foul that led to two winning free throws by Cal Poly.

''I know I made a mistake last game and my thing was to forget about it,'' he said.

Travis Wear scored 14 points and Shabazz Muhammad had 13 points, nine rebounds and five of UCLA's 16 turnovers in his fourth collegiate game. Howland started four guards alongside forward Travis Wear to give the Bruins stronger ball handling and they played zone.

''UCLA's zone threw us off a little bit,'' Northridge coach Bobby Braswell said. ''We were expecting it, but we didn't expect that they would use it all 40 minutes. We didn't attack it right. UCLA got out and ran and it's a lot easier to do that from a zone.''

Stephan Hicks scored 11 points and Landon Drew, the younger brother of Larry, added 10 points to lead Northridge (6-2), which fell to 1-7 against the Bruins in a series that began in 1992.

The younger Drew said he prepared to play against his brother by reading about NFL quarterback brothers Eli and Peyton Manning.

''I have the utmost respect for him because he is my older brother, but when I got on the court there was no holding back,'' Landon Drew said. ''It was either him or me.''

Northridge never threatened in the second half after trailing 38-24 at halftime. UCLA opened the second half on a 13-2 run that extended its lead to 51-26. Jordan Adams and Powell hit consecutive 3-pointers while Powell had two other baskets in the spurt.

The Bruins shot 62 percent from the floor in the second half, and they outrebounded the Matadors 47-35 and scored 24 points off Northridge's 16 turnovers. UCLA's largest lead was 28 points with 4:26 remaining.

Rapid Reaction: UCLA 82, Cal State Northridge 56

November, 28, 2012
11:33 PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- Playing their first game without center Joshua Smith, who announced he was leaving the program earlier in the day, the UCLA Bruins trounced Cal State Northridge Matadors 82-56 on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.

A quick breakdown of the game:

How it happened: The Bruins shook off an embarrassing loss to the Cal Poly Mustangs by playing with an energy and sense of urgency not yet seen this season. UCLA crashed the boards hard, ran with a purpose in transition and played with a defensive intensity that had been lacking all season.

After a back-and-forth first few minutes, UCLA took control midway through the first half and ended it on a 26-10 run to take a 38-24 lead at the midway point. The Bruins opened the second half on a 13-2 run to take a 51-26 lead, then cruised the rest of the way.

Shabazz Muhammad had 13 points and nine rebounds to pace the Bruins. Norman Powell added 17 points and eight rebounds, and Travis Wear posted 14 points and seven rebounds.

UCLA player of the game: Powell scored 10 of his points in the first five minutes of the second half, including two 3-pointers, as the Bruins sent a clear message they had no intentions of relinquishing their lead. He made seven of 14 shots.

Stat of the game: The Bruins used a 2-3 zone most of the game -- the first time they played predominantly zone this season -- and held Northridge to 33 percent shooting, including 19.2 percent (5-of-26) on three pointers.

What it means: Bruins fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief for the moment and hope that the Cal Poly loss was an aberration. The Bruins might have figured out what it means to play hard for an entire game. They still have to show they can do it on a consistent basis, however.

What’s next: UCLA will face the No. 23 San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Wooden Classic at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

New-look Bruins adjusting on the fly

November, 29, 2012
1:40 AM PT
LOS ANGELES -- The first game in the post-Joshua Smith era went much better than expected.

The UCLA Bruins did not look at all like a team in turmoil as they trounced the Cal State Northridge Matadors 82-56 on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion, just hours after Smith left the team and became the second player in four days to depart the Bruins.

UCLA showed an energy level and intensity that had been conspicuously absent the past couple of games, especially in a shocking loss to the Cal Poly Mustangs on Sunday, and played a new zone defense that proved quite effective throughout the game.

Now the Bruins must answer the question of whether they can do it on a consistent basis and against a higher level of competition. They’ll get the chance Saturday, when they face the No. 23 San Diego State Aztecs in the Wooden Classic at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Without Smith, navigating the rest of the season might be difficult. Not only is he a force in the low post who was tabbed as an important piece to UCLA’s puzzle this season, his departure -- along with that of Tyler Lamb on Sunday -- leaves UCLA with only eight scholarship players.

Depth figures to become an issue as the season wears on, especially if injuries crop up.

“We’ll miss a big-man presence inside and some experience,” coach Ben Howland said. “Josh had played two years. Those two things are probably the two biggest things. I was surprised. I really was surprised. Shocked. I didn’t think that was going to happen.”

Howland said Smith left because of personal reasons. It could be that Smith simply didn’t have the desire to compete. Watching him and his body language during the past year or so certainly indicated he wasn’t having much fun.

In the short term, Smith’s departure hampers UCLA’s chances of making a run at a conference title or deep into the NCAA tournament. Howland and the players say they still have the ability to do those things, however.

“I think our identity might change a little bit,” forward Travis Wear said. “But we still have a lot of talented pieces and guys who believe we can win games, and I think we can go far this year and do a lot of great things.”

In the big picture, having two players depart in four days indicates a bigger issue, perhaps such as team chemistry issues or even an inability for Howland to connect with his players.

The loss of Smith and Lamb, coupled with the Bruins’ poor play this season, have turned up the heat on Howland’s seat. Athletic director Dan Guerrero can’t be overjoyed with the direction of the program, especially after a turmoil-riddled last season, during which Sports Illustrated painted an unflattering picture of the way Howland was running the program.

Guerrero was not available for comment after the Bruins' win.

UCLA has had 11 players transfer over the past four years and the current roster has no players who have made it through more than 40 games with Howland at the helm. Still, they say there are no issues with the coach.

“I think Ben is the perfect guy for this team,” said freshman Shabazz Muhammad.

Wear said the timing of the recent transfers is merely a coincidence and that he has felt no locker room rifts on the team.

“We have a lot of new pieces and stuff, but as a group we all collectively like each other,” he said. “We hang out together all the time off the court. Tyler and Josh just made personal decisions that they would be better off going elsewhere and starting something else. But our chemistry was fine.

“Our cohesiveness and stuff like that, we all got along.”

Now the Bruins must keep winning the way they did Wednesday. The team played with the type of fire that indicated the light finally turned on about what it takes to win at this level. With a roster filled with four freshmen and a senior transfer in his first season on the team, it was always going to take some time to click.

But the noticeable lack of effort early on was disturbing and unacceptable. The onus is on the players to pick it up, but it starts at the top and Howland is well aware of that.

“We’re going to work extremely hard with the group we have,” Howland said. “I’m going to coach my tail off here to help this team reach its potential.”

UCLA basketball's fresh start hits sour notes


UCLA basketball's fresh start hits sour notes


Bruins stumble to a loss against Cal Poly SLO, Joshua Smith quits and old questions about Coach Ben Howland are resurrected.

Bill Plaschke
The Los Angeles Times
9:00 PM PST, November 29, 2012
It's nearly midnight on a rainy Wednesday, and Ben Howland is sitting in the only part of new Pauley Pavilion that is not spacious and sparkling.

The coaches' locker room.

That's right, in the only place in this basketball palace that Howland can hide, he can barely fit, with six coaches crammed into a dressing space the size of a large closet.

It's an appropriate metaphor that is not lost on a UCLA basketball boss whose once stern expression has been softened into a perpetual look of weariness. Howland carefully folds and places his coat on a chair, squeezes into the corner on another chair, runs his hand through his thinning hair, and sighs.

"This is a tough business I'm in," he says. "I understand that without any question."

There was a time when it felt as if the business of running the Bruins had never been better. But less than a month into a season filled with needless drama and youthful despair, it has clearly never been tougher.

After recruiting an all-star team that was supposed to save his job, Howland has watched that team stumble and split to the point where it could eventually cost him his job.

On the court, the blue chippers have already turned red by losing to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and being forced into overtime by UC Irvine. Off the court, they have lost something even more important than games — two former talents have left the team, most notably and recently giant prodigy Joshua Smith.

What was supposed to be a grand march to the Final Four has turned into an awkward nightly shuffle of uncertainty, flashy stars trying to learn a gritty system with a depleted bench and a vein-popping head coach who is running out of time.

"Well, it hasn't been fun around here the last few days, that's for sure," says Howland.

The new Bruins issues have resurrected old Howland criticisms that he is a coach unable to connect with his kids and unwilling to change his style to fit their talent. Those charges were once muted by three consecutive Final Four appearances, but that seems ages ago, and if he doesn't win big with four of the most highly touted recruits in the country, then he's in big trouble, and he knows it.

"No question we have to have success this year," he says. "We have to go to the tournament and do well."

And if they don't, Athletic Director Dan Guerrero will have to decide whether Howland is worth the empty seats on the bench and the still-empty seats in new Pauley, which was only half full during Wednesday's 82-56 victory over Cal State Northridge.

By the way, you know the single gold seat that has been designated to commemorate where Coach John Wooden used to sit after his retirement? In new Pauley, it's actually on the other side of the arena from where he really sat. Yeah, right now, everything over there is sort of turned around.

The latest problems start with Smith, who three seasons ago was one of the country's top big-man prospects and the heavyweight centerpiece of Howland's recruiting efforts. But the coach could never get the kid to slim down and get in shape. On Wednesday, three days after Smith was embarrassed by an airball layup against Cal Poly, he walked into Howland's office and quit.

"I was surprised, shocked," says Howland. "I really didn't think this was going to happen."

The real surprise was Howland's shock. That only confirms the perception that has plagued him since he replaced Steve Lavin before the 2003-04 season. There is a belief that he isn't close to the players, that he is a great coach but a distant mentor, that his influence is huge on the court and invisible elsewhere.

Although this season's other defector, Tyler Lamb, wanted more playing time, there have been several others who left the program in recent years simply because, like Smith, they needed special attention that Howland couldn't give them. There were the transfers who were successful elsewhere, like Mike Moser, Drew Gordon and Chace Stanback. There were the underclassmen who turned pro too early only because they didn't like hanging around Howland's team, guys like Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee. Then there was Trevor Ariza, who perhaps set the tone when he left UCLA after Howland's first season even though he would be a second-round draft pick who required several NBA seasons to reach his potential.

Among all these, Smith, whose father, Josh, refused comment when I called him Wednesday, seemed to be a clear Howland failure.

"Yes, absolutely, I feel like I couldn't help him do a better job in helping him with his condition," Howland says. "I feel terrible about that. I'm just sad and disappointed."

You have to wonder, if Smith was that surprisingly unhappy, who else might be? The Bruins' four nationally celebrated recruits came here to run and have fun, yet the Bruins have scored 70 points or fewer in three of their seven games.

Kyle Anderson did not make a basket against either Georgetown or Cal Poly. Tony Parker, who missed most of the Northridge game because of a foot injury, had been averaging eight minutes and four points. Only Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams seemed to be playing with freedom, but that freedom has been limited by Howland's patience.

"We want to run, but we have to be good decision-makers in the end and not force the issue," says Howland. "We've got to get everybody to sacrifice, be on same page, be a team."

Um, Coach? I think these kids came here to run, period. That's what they do in AAU. That's what John Calipari does at Kentucky, rolling the ball out there and letting his kids fly, a style that was heavily criticized until it won a national championship. Maybe in this day of one-and-done players, that's the only way to coach? Unless Howland has another Lorenzo Mata or Alfred Aboya stashed in that tiny coaches' locker room, he's going to have a heckuva challenge teaching sacrifice.

"I promise you, I'm going to coach my tail off to get us to the next level," says Howland.

I believe him. I just don't know if I believe that this time, in this environment, it's going to work.

Thanks to Dr. Bruin for posting this on BZ.

Josh Smith, the once and always project


November, 28, 2012  6:10 PM ET
"[Josh] Smith has a huge frame and remarkable agility for a player his size. He has long arms and possesses a Division I body already. Despite his youth he has an outstanding feel for the game. … Though he's a bit overweight, he's quite bouncy and he uses his body very well to ward off taller opponents." -- ESPN Recruiting Nation, November 2007

"This strong and physical wide body is super explosive around the rim. Smith power dunks on, over or around defenders when he receives drop-off passes created by guard penetration. He has good hands and runs the floor very well for a player his size. He can beat most centers down the floor for an early post-up opportunity. … Smith must continue to add to his post-move package and work to stay in shape year around to continue his dominant ways when he gets on the college level." -- August 2008

"Smith is the most promising post prospect in the west for the class of 2010. … He is still carrying too much weight since I saw him last [Adidas Nations in April] and that is definitely affecting his game. There were many times he struggled at the rim [Rose City Showcase] and actually fell to the floor a quite a few times despite outweighing his opponent by a significant amount." -- June 2009

"Smith is the most promising 5-man out west in the class of 2010. However, his propensity to gain weight could be problematic when he gets to the next level. Due to his recent injury his body appeared to be much heavier than in the summer evaluation period and as a result his stamina is not where it needs to be." -- February 2010

[+] Enlarge
Josh Smith
Richard Mackson/US PRESSWIRE Josh Smith, who has struggled with his weight since arriving at UCLA, left the Bruins' program Wednesday.

Josh Smith left UCLA's program Wednesday. This probably should not come as a surprise, for a couple of reasons:
1. UCLA players have been leaving Ben Howland's program in droves -- via transfer, dismissal, or you name it -- over the past four seasons. Earlier this week, guard Tyler Lamb took off. At this point, a week that goes by without a UCLA defection feels like the exception, not the rule. That program is currently a disaster, but that's a topic for another day.

2. Smith's sad UCLA story was bound to come to an end, and sooner rather than later.

Since he arrived at the school, we've all said the same things over and over and over about Josh Smith:

What a talent. Such soft hands and quick feet, even for a guy that big. All he has to do is shed a bit of weight, get a little bit more agile, and the sky is the limit. NBA millions, here we come.

As a freshman, Smith excelled despite his frame, averaging 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in about 21.7 minutes of action. UCLA was solid that season -- the Bruins went to the NCAA tournament, and even won a game -- and the widely accepted prediction was that Smith would use his first full season in the graces of an elite Division I strength and training program to emerge as a sophomore leaner, meaner and more devastating than ever before.

Instead, by July 2011, Ben Howland was frankly admitting to CBS' Gary Parrish that Smith was "about 10 pounds over where he was last season." It's hard to tell whether or not he kept that weight on during the 2011-12 season, because, as a courtesy, UCLA's sports information folks stopped updating his weight listing long ago -- sort of like me on my driver's license. Smith's minutes dropped to just 17.2 per game last season. He was still somewhat efficient when on the floor, but his inability to actually stay on said floor caused his numbers to slide to 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Still, though. What a talent. Such soft hands and quick feet, even for a guy that big. All he has to do is shed a bit -- OK, a lot -- of weight, get a little bit more agile, and the sky is the limit. NBA millions, it's not too late.

You think Smith himself never heard any of this? You think people around him weren't telling him what the entire world knew to be true? Of course they were. Which is why this summer, he seemed to make a real, honest, genuine go of it. In July, he told ESPN LA's Peter Yoon that he had lost 15 pounds, and that he finally understood the importance of hard work in getting where he wants to be. "I want to get to the point where it's not, 'Oh, if Josh was in shape' or 'If Josh was this,'" he said. "I just want to be able to run up and down and give my team 29 or 30 minutes on the floor where I'm actually producing, not just 19 minutes where I play in spurts and try to stay out of foul trouble."

This season, through six games, Smith is averaging 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game, all career lows. Some of that has to do with Howland's new talent, as well as Howland's undying affection for the Wear twins. Just as much has to do with the fact that Smith still isn't anywhere near where he needs to be to be a factor on the national collegiate hoops level, let alone an NBA prospect.

In all, Smith's most notable moment of this season -- maybe the most notable moment of his UCLA career -- is that time he airballed that layup.

That GIF is funny, sure. But it is also sad, because it is the culmination of everything Smith could have been, but it isn't. How many guys that big can dribble half that well in the open court? How many would dare to attempt a euro step around a smaller, quicker defender? Now imagine Smith at 40, 50 pounds lighter. Imagine how he must see himself, racing down the floor, knowing in his mind he can pull off this move just before his body turns and laughs in his face.

I don't know why Smith can't lose the weight. I don't know if it's UCLA's fault, or Howland's, or if he has a disorder, or if he just isn't focused on basketball, or some combination therein. I don't know if he'll find a second chance somewhere else (though I hope so); I don't know if his shot at the NBA is already over.

All I know is what we've all always known about Josh Smith, what we've been saying about the kid since he was a sophomore in high school:

What a talent. If he only lost some of that weight.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

And so is Josh...

Joshua Smith
Joshua Smith
Junior Center Joshua Smith Leaves UCLA Men's Basketball Team



UCLA Basketball website
Nov. 28, 2012

UCLA junior center Joshua Smith has chosen to leave the men's basketball program and has been granted his release, effective immediately.

Smith participated in all six contests UCLA has played in thus far in the 2012-13 season and averaged 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 13.5 minutes played.

"Joshua is a fine young man who has meant a lot to this program," said UCLA head coach Ben Howland.

"I know I speak for myself and my staff when I thank him for his time in Westwood and wish him well in his future endeavors."

A native of Kent, Washington, Smith entered his junior season with the Bruins averaging 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 19.5 minutes played in 65 career games (24 starts) over his first two years in Westwood.

"I have made the decision to leave the program for personal reasons," Smith said. "I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCLA and am grateful for the opportunity that has been presented to me here."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tyler Lamb gone

Tyler Lamb announced his decision to leave UCLA on Sunday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA guard Tyler Lamb to transfer

By Baxter Holmes
The Los Angeles Times
12:31 PM PST, November 25, 2012

UCLA basketball guard Tyler Lamb will transfer, the school announced Sunday. He has been granted his release, effective immediately, and will leave UCLA at the end of the fall quarter.

Lamb, a junior, played in only one game for UCLA this season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in October. He played 14 minutes in the Bruins' season opener against Indiana State, scoring four points, but did not play in UCLA's next four games because the knee was swollen.

It's unclear where the 6-foot-5 guard from Covina might transfer to, and no specific reason for his decision was mentioned in the school's release.

However, UCLA freshmen Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad have all played well this season, thereby limiting the playing time for any other Bruin guard or swingman.

"We are very sad to see Tyler leave our program," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said in a statement. "He is a great kid, and we have really enjoyed having him play for UCLA. We fully support his decision, and we wish him all the best in the future."

Lamb averaged 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for UCLA entering this season. He played in all 33 games last season as a sophomore and played in all 34 games as a freshman.

"I would like to thank the university, Coach Howland and his staff for the unparalleled opportunity to have been a part of UCLA’s program,” Lamb said in a statement.

"However, I believe that it is in my best interest to find a new destination where I can continue to grow, both as a person and as a basketball player. I am eternally grateful to my coaches and teammates for everything they have given me, and I wish them the best going forward. I plan on enrolling in a new educational institution by next semester, and I have not yet determined my schools of interest."


Tyler Lamb decided to leave UCLA after talking with Ben Howland

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
November 26, 2012

Tyler Lamb, who announced his decision to transfer from UCLA on Sunday, had come to the conclusion last week that he no longer felt comfortable playing for the Bruins.

The junior guard met with Coach Ben Howland to discuss the situation on Friday. Howland confirmed that Lamb, a starter in all but one game last season, had grown concerned about a backcourt as crowded as the 405 Freeway at rush hour.

Larry Drew II has a strong grip on the point guard position. Freshmen Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams will all circulate through the guard spot. And sophomore Norman Powell figures strongly in the mix.

"He just didn't feel like he was going to be able to get the minutes that he wants," Howland said.

UCLA coaches and players were not happy about Lamb's decision but understood his reasoning.

"Obviously, we're going to miss him," junior forward Travis Wear said.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lack of hustle, focus, athleticism has Howland rethinking strategy

Lack of hustle, focus, athleticism has Howland rethinking strategy

LOS ANGELES -- This isn’t exactly what Shabazz Muhammad had in mind.

Nor is it what anyone around the UCLA Bruins basketball program envisioned after coach Ben Howland signed Muhammad and three others in a heralded freshman class that was supposed to resurrect a muddling program.

The No. 11 Bruins have hardly impressed so far this season, playing only one game that would be considered any good despite an early-season schedule littered with supposed win-padding fodder.

Nobody bothered to tell Cal Poly San Luis Obispo they were on that list as the Mustangs shocked UCLA 70-68 on Sunday night at Pauley Pavilion.

Cal Poly (2-2) erased an 18-point second-half deficit and embarrassed the Bruins in the home debut of Muhammad, who had sat out the previous three home games while the NCAA investigated his eligibility.

His return last week in New York was supposed to ease the minds of Bruins fans, who had seen their team look less than impressive in the early going, especially when it needed overtime to defeat UC Irvine without Muhammad. But UCLA is now 1-2 with Muhammad and hasn’t looked any better than it did before he joined the lineup.

This is a slow, sluggish team that plays with no fire or energy. It’s a team Howland acknowledges is “not super athletic” and is still working out the kinks associated with trying to mix four high-level freshmen with the returning veterans.

“Obviously, it’s concerning and we realize we have a long way to go,” forward Travis Wear said. “It’s scary to think about because we’re coming up to conference in a little while and we need to buckle down and start bringing it in practice every day and carrying it over into games and realizing that anybody can beat us and that we have to give it 100 percent every single night or else this is going to happen.”

The key to beating UCLA seems obvious now. Opponents simply need to spread the floor offensively and create one-on-one matchups on the perimeter. The Bruins can’t defend it, especially when Howland clings to a man-to-man defense, as he has done in all but one game this season.

But the team looks disheveled on offense, too. After opening an 18-point lead with 12:20 to play, the Bruins kept trying to push the tempo, looking for fast-break opportunities and flashy plays instead of grinding out possessions.

“We looked out of synch out there,” Muhammad said. “Guys weren’t familiar with passes guys were giving others.

“I think it was all around not a really good effort for us.”

It was almost as if the Bruins thought they could just coast to the finish after opening a 51-33 lead with a little more than 12 minutes to play. You almost got the sense that they thought Cal Poly would fold just because they were playing at Pauley Pavilion against mighty UCLA.

And that’s kind of been the story of this season. UCLA’s recruiting class, ranked No. 1 in the country, brought a lot of attention to the team and was impressive enough to have some pundits projecting the Bruins as a Final Four team.

Maybe they started believing their own hype, because it sure seems like a team that feels it can merely walk on the floor and win games just with its presence. The team plays with very little sense of urgency, shows a disturbing lack of hustle and appears to lack on-court chemistry.

Cal Poly, a middle-of-the-pack Big West team, had as many rebounds as UCLA on Sunday, outscored the Bruins 28-16 in the paint and had 12 second-chance points to UCLA’s six. The Mustangs had eight steals, while UCLA had only four.

Those are hustle stats and indicate that UCLA simply wasn’t playing hard, especially against a team the Bruins should have no trouble beating.

“We just have to buckle down and want to rebound,” Muhammad said. “We didn’t have any hard-working intensity out there in rebounding, and it really took a toll on us tonight.”

He later criticized his team’s defensive effort and intimated that a lack of effort in practice was creeping in to on-court performance.

“We have to go harder in practice,” Muhammad said. “The stuff that transfers from practice comes in the game. Tonight we just didn’t really play hard on defense. If we want to win we really have to change that. It was disappointing.”

Focus is also an issue. The most glaring example came toward the end of the game, when Norman Powell inexplicably fouled Cal Poly’s Kyle Odister on purpose with the game tied and 14 seconds remaining. Odister made a pair of free throws that ended up representing the final margin of victory.

“He didn’t know what the score was,” Howland said. “We were down two, talking about it during the timeout. We were going to foul if we were down, but, with the game tied, obviously that was a critical mistake to foul with the game tied and 14 seconds to go.”

Howland suggested that he was ready to head back to the drawing board. He delivered the news earlier in the day that junior Tyler Lamb was going to transfer, and that leaves the Bruins with nine scholarship players.

That fact and the exposed lack of athleticism have him reluctantly considering using a zone defense more.

“We’re going to have to look at all of our options,” he said.

The good news, Muhammad said, is that it’s still early in the season. There is still plenty of time to fix the issues that ail the Bruins. Muhammad said he’s confident that will happen.

“It’s a lot of new pieces,” he said. “We just have to learn how to jell. It’s early in the season right now, so we’re still working out the kinks and we’re going to get better.”

If they don’t, it’s going to be one, long season.

Rapid Reaction: Cal Poly 70, UCLA 68

Rapid Reaction: Cal Poly 70, UCLA 68

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA blew an 18-point second-half lead and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo shocked the No. 11 Bruins 70-68 in a nonconference game Sunday night at Pauley Pavilion.

A quick breakdown of the game:

How it happened: Jordan Adams missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer and UCLA fell for the first time at home this season, spoiling the Pauley Pavilion debut of freshman Shabazz Muhammad.

The Bruins had tied the score at 68-68 on a basket by Adams off an inbounds play with 19 seconds to play, then Norman Powell inexplicably fouled Kyle Odister dribbling up the court on the ensuing possession. Odister made both free throws to provide the winning margin.

After a tight first half, UCLA began the second half with a 22-6 run and enjoyed a 51-33 lead with 12:21 to play. But Cal Poly made 11 of 15 shots over the remainder of the game.

Dylan Royer made 6-of-10 3-point shots for Cal Poly, including back-to-back shots that completed the Mustangs' comeback and tied the score at 63-63 with 3:17 to play. The teams traded leads the rest of the way before Cal Poly moved on top for good on Odister's free throws with 14 seconds remaining.

UCLA player of the game: Muhammad had 15 points and 10 rebounds in his first game on campus. The freshman, who sat out of UCLA's first three home games while under investigation by the NCAA, played two games last week in New York.

Stat of the game: Cal Poly shot 57.7 percent (15 of 26) in the second half after shooting only 32.1 percent in the first half.

What it means: UCLA is a long way from being the No. 11 team in the country. The Bruins have now lost to an average Big West team and needed overtime to beat another when UC Irvine let them off the hook by missing a pair of free throws with two seconds left to play in regulation. The Bruins need to quickly figure out why their defense continues to break down or else the season could spiral out of control.

What’s next: UCLA will face Cal State Northridge on Wednesday at 9 p.m. PT at Pauley Pavilion.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

First look: Cal Poly at UCLA




First look: Cal Poly at UCLA

What: Cal Poly Mustangs (1-2) at UCLA Bruins (4-1)

When: Sunday, 7 p.m. PT

Where: Pauley Pavilion

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Radio: AM 570
Scouting the Bruins: The return to eligibility of Shabazz Muhammad proved fruitful for the Bruins when Muhammad scored 21 points in a 60-56 victory over Georgia on Tuesday that gave the Bruins a split in their two games at the Legends Classic in New York. Muhammad averaged 18 points in his first two games as a Bruin and UCLA figures only to improve as the team works out the chemistry in a lineup that is young and hasn't played together all that much. Jordan Adams leads the team with 19.6 points a game, and the Bruins have held opponents to 41 percent shooting this season.

Scouting the Mustangs: Forward Chris Eversley has two double-doubles in three games and leads the team with 14.3 points and seven rebounds per game. Eversley, a 6-foot-7 junior, closed last season with eight consecutive double-doubles. The Mustangs, who lost their last game 76-67 to Fresno State, were picked seventh in the Big West preseason poll after advancing to the conference tournament semifinals last season. Freshman forward Brian Bennett (6-foot-9) is shooing 57.9 percent from the field.

The series: UCLA leads the series, 5-0. In their last meeting on Dec. 11, 2010, UCLA won, 72-61.

Fast fact: This game will mark the home debut for Muhammad, projected to be one of the top freshmen in the country this season. Muhammad was declared ineligible before UCLA's Nov. 9 season opener and was reinstated Nov. 16 -- the day after UCLA's last home game against James Madison.

Quick quote: "I just think that we've got a long way to go. We're not very good in any one specific area right now." -- Coach Ben Howland on the status of his team after playing Georgetown and Georgia in New York.

Ben Howland not planning to use zone often

Ben Howland not planning to use zone often

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA coach Ben Howland reluctantly used a zone defense Tuesday during the Bruins' 60-56 victory over Georgia and it proved the difference as UCLA overcame a 11-point deficit.

Still, Howland said he doesn't plan on using a zone very often this season.

"Once in a blue moon," said Howland, who will lead his team against Cal Poly on Sunday night at Pauley Pavilion. "Changing defense is good once in a while if a team is killing your man, but we’re not going to play, hopefully, the majority of our defensive possessions as a zone team."

Howland said one of the factors in using a zone Tuesday was the fact that UCLA was playing on back-to-back days and didn't have ample time to prepare its defense to guard Georgia's offensive sets. Howland said he firmly believes that a man-to-man defense offers a much better chance at long-term success than a zone defense.

"Typically you’ll see that zones work better in November than in February," Howland said. "As the season goes on teams get better and better at attacking zones and it becomes harder to become an effective zone defense as the season progresses. But early on it can be can good at times."

Whether its zone or man-to-man, however, Howland said the Bruins still have a long way to go to become the defensive team he envisions it to be. UCLA has held opponents to 41 percent shooting this season and has limited three of its five opponents to less than 40 percent, but some of that had as much to do with poor shooting by opponents as it did with UCLA's defense. Also, a 54.5 percent performance by Georgetown on Monday exposed some holes.

"We’ve got to be a much better defensive team to become what we want to be this year," Howland said. "Especially with all the youth we’re playing right now. We’re playing a lot of young guys playing at this level for the first time and seeing stuff. Trailing players coming off of double screens. It’s just all new and it takes time."

Tonight: #11 UCLA vs. SLO, USC vs. #25 SDSU


UCLA and USC get back to basketball

Both teams, which their coaches say have a 'long way to go,' will play at home Sunday night, the No. 11-ranked Bruins against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the Trojans against No. 25 San Diego State.

By Baxter Holmes
D' Los Angeles Times
3:22 PM PST, November 24, 2012

The UCLA and USC basketball teams return to action Sunday at home, and heading into those games both head coaches feel the exact same way about their teams.

"We've got a long way to go," USC's Kevin O'Neill said.

Said UCLA's Ben Howland: "We've got a long way to go."

Howland's No. 11-ranked Bruins (4-1) play host to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (1-2) at 7 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion.

USC (3-2) faces No. 25 San Diego State (2-1) at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.

For USC and UCLA, it will be their first games since playing in tournaments against stiff competition.

The Bruins were in Brooklyn for the Legends Classic, where they lost to Georgetown and rebounded with a win against Georgia.

USC made a business-not-pleasure trip to the Maui Invitational, where it lost to Illinois, defeated Texas in overtime and lost to Marquette.

After those tournaments, Howland and O'Neill each said their teams were a work in progress.

Each team is counting on players new to the program. The Bruins debuted four freshmen from a star-studded recruiting class, plus North Carolina transfer Larry Drew II, who sat out last season.

The Trojans debuted five Division I transfers who sat out last season, plus guard Jio Fontan, who sat out last season after suffering a knee injury.

For the time being, both teams are still unfinished products.

"We're not very good in any one specific area right now," Howland said, adding that his team was especially poor when facing Georgetown's zone defense.

There have been glimpses of what these teams can do.

In an overtime win against Texas, USC held the Longhorns to 53 points.

"We learned how good of a defensive team we can be if we really lock in," Fontan said.

And UCLA learned that freshman swingman Shabazz Muhammad, who played his first games of the season in Brooklyn, is as good as advertised.

Muhammad, one of the top-rated recruits in the nation this season, had to sit out UCLA's first three games before his eligibility was restored by the NCAA. He was previously ruled to have broken NCAA amateurism rules.

Muhammad scored 15 points in his debut against Georgetown and had a game-high 21 points in UCLA's four-point victory against Georgia.

"It's going to take him a little time, but he's getting better every day," Howland said.

Muhammad made his first start against the Hoyas and could start against San Luis Obispo because forward David Wear has a sore back.

Twitter: @BaxterHolmes

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Five Things we learned from the Legends Classic

Five Things we learned from the Legends Classic


The OC Register

November 21st, 2012, 8:15 pm

posted by

Shabazz Muhammad’s debut has come and past, UCLA has faced its first major competition of the season, and the non-conference tournament schedule is in full swing. There’s a slightly larger sample size, including some struggles, to judge the Bruins from, so that means it’s time to re-introduce our “Five Things” feature:

1. Shabazz Muhammad isn’t there yet, but he’s going to be a sight to behold.

The nation’s No. 1 recruit was the talk of college basketball in UCLA’s first game in the Legends Classic against Georgetown, and in just 25 minutes of action (he didn’t start), Muhammad collected a solid 15 points, hitting 5-of-10 from the field and 2-of-4 from long range. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and he definitely wasn’t up to speed as far as conditioning goes. But his seemingly quiet debut was still solid, numbers-wise, when all was said and done. It was Muhammad’s second game, against Georgia, that really flashed his sky-high potential. He put up a game-high 21 points and displayed a near-elite ability to drive to the hoop and draw fouls — Muhammad finished 8-of-11 from the free throw line, a huge boost in finishing off the Bulldogs late. His energy was just as advertised, and that was just in his second game. There’s little doubt in my mind that Muhammad will live up to his billing; he’ll just need some more time to get fully comfortable.

2. Like Muhammad, Kyle Anderson is going to need some time, too.

Anderson has never been as hyped as Muhammad — albeit, not that far off — but, like Muhammad, his expectations have been awfully high right off the bat as well. And through three games, Anderson’s performance was certainly scrutinized. Anderson has shown off his ability to use his length around the basket and get teammates involved effectively, but entering the Bruins’ win over Georgia, Anderson had one of the Pac 12′s worst effective field goal percentages (hovering around 27 percent). He looked significantly better against the Bulldogs, tallying nine points and nine rebounds, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Anderson has said he still sees himself as a point guard, and until the Bruins decide how all of the pieces fit with he and Larry Drew II playing the point, Anderson’s role will remain a bit murky.

3. With Muhammad back, Jordan Adams will be someone to watch going forward.

It’s a question that has surrounded the entire team through five games: How will all the pieces fit together? With Muhammad now in the lineup, the team’s ultra-scoring guard role is more or less filled. But the real question is how will Jordan Adams fit into the equation? He had, by far, his worst game of the season against Georgia, as he was unable to create any rhythm all game long. Adams finished 1-of-6 from the field with four points after becoming the first UCLA freshman to ever score 20-plus points in his first four games. It’s unclear whether Adams will ever do that again, but he’s certainly shown a penchant for scoring and also knocking down free throws (he’s hit 32 in a row). My bet is that he’ll excel in a sixth-man role, and once he settles into playing with Muhammad or stepping in for him, he’ll average something like 12-15 points per game.

4. UCLA isn’t exactly ready to excel at zone defense yet, but hey, Howland is trying new things!

Yes, there’s no need to adjust your TV sets: the Bruins played zone defense against Georgia. Before you all keel over, it was pretty clear that the Bruins weren’t very comfortable in the defensive set. It did work, when all was said and done, as Georgia’s offense stalled and took unnecessary 3-point shots — the key reason anyone plays a zone. But watching the defense as a whole wasn’t all together awe-inspiring. Give coach Ben Howland credit though: it was an innovative move for a coach that was very well established in his coaching ways. Now, Howland is playing zone defense and excelling in the transition game — two things he rarely, if ever, did before this season. UCLA’s zone still needs some work — and it’ll get some, I bet, in the next few weeks before conference season. But the fact that the Bruins coaching staff is trying to cater to the team’s personnel and open up the playbook is a good sign.

5. The Bruins may slip up in the non-conference season, but there’s no need to worry about this team’s outlook yet.

Maybe this compromises the point of this entire blog post, but remember, we’re only five games into the season. Sure, UCLA lost to Georgetown — a team that was much better than its preseason ranking had communicated. The Bruins likely would’ve been waxed by No. 1 Indiana, if they did make the Legends Classic final, just because the Hoosiers are a significantly more disciplined, experienced team right now. UCLA is about as inexperienced as it gets in the top 15 right now, and the fact that the Bruins will still be ranked high is a testament to the ridiculous amount of potential on this team. But games aren’t played on paper, and just because there’s talent on a roster doesn’t mean the equation is quite perfected yet. Howland has plenty of work to do on the equation. But with an impressive first two games from Muhammad, improvement from Anderson, and some other players stepping up — for instance, Larry Drew II has the best assists percentage in the NCAA — UCLA has a lot to look forward to, even at 3-1.

David Wear questionable against SLO Sunday

David Wear #12 of the UCLA Bruins grabs a rebound over Corbin Moore #44 of the Pepperdine Waves at LA Sports Arena on November 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
( November 27, 2011 - Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America)

Injured David Wear still uncertain for Sunday

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA forward David Wear sat out most of practice Friday and his status for Sunday's game against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is still up in the air, coach Ben Howland said.

Wear, a 6-foot-10 junior who is averaging 10.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, crashed hard to the court Monday during No. 11 UCLA's loss to Georgetown and missed the victory over Georgia on Tuesday because of a lower back bruise. Howland said Wear tried to practice Friday but couldn't make it through.

"It'll get better each day," Howland said. "I don’t have a feel for whether he'll be able to practice (Saturday)."

Howland said the team's medical staff was working on fitting Wear with a special padding to protect the area where Wear injured himself but that "it's a tough place to try and pad."

Guard Tyler Lamb, still recovering from knee surgery, sat out of practice and is questionable for Sunday's game. Center Tony Parker, who missed Monday's game against Georgetown because of back spasms and played only three minutes Tuesday, was "not at 100 percent" during Friday's practice, Howland said, and he will continue to be evaluated before Sunday game.

Next up: SLO

Up next for UCLA: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Sunday

The Mustangs have lost two of their first three games. The Bruins beat Cal Poly at Pauley Pavilion in 2010.

Baxter Holmes
LA Times
7:34 PM PST, November 20, 2012

 UCLA vs. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Sunday at Pauley Pavilion, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks: The Mustangs have lost two of their first three games; they are led in scoring (14.3 points a game) and rebounding (7.0 a game) by junior forward Chris Eversley. Cal Poly finished 18-15 overall last season, 8-8 in Big West Conference play. UCLA beat Cal Poly at Pauley Pavilion in 2010.

Greg Anthony and Larry Beil Video: Breaking down UCLA Basketball

Video: Breaking down UCLA Basketball

November 23, 2012

Yahoo! Sports basketball analysts Greg Anthony and Larry Beil break down UCLA hoops, specifically five-star forward Shabazz Muhammad. 

UCLA beats Georgia in consolation game of the Legends Classic tournament, 60-56


The freshman, in his second game for the Bruins after missing first three, scores 21 points in 60-56 victory in the consolation game of the Legends Classic tournament.

By Baxter Holmes
The Los Angeles Times
10:53 PM PST, November 20, 2012

NEW YORK — There's a transition phase for new players, a period of acclimation.

But Shabazz Muhammad might just speed through that process, just as he might speed through his college career and bolt to the NBA after his freshman season.

It took all of two games for the talented UCLA swingman to transition from a player who's just trying to familiarize himself to a player who could rescue his team from a loss.

The highly rated Muhammad scored a game-high 21 points to carry the No. 11 Bruins past Georgia, 60-56, Tuesday in the consolation game of the Legends Classic tournament at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

At the end, the Bruins (4-1) escaped this concrete jungle with a win that will ease the sting of Monday's loss to Georgetown and make the plane ride back to the land of milk and sunny more bearable.

But the Bruins also received a glimpse of their future with Muhammad.

"We've got a lot to look forward to," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

Unlike in his first game, Muhammad, who became eligible to play Friday after missing UCLA's first three games, was not tentative.

Instead, he called for the ball, created plays when opportunities weren't apparent, scored points when his team starved for them, and led late, when the score was tight.

"I was getting more comfortable out there," Muhammad said, later adding he played more aggressively to help fill in for David Wear, who sat out the game because of a sore back.

Muhammad made three free throws, grabbed a key rebound and recorded a steal in the final 1 minute 15 seconds, when UCLA's lead grew from two points to the final margin of four.

The ultimate difference in the game: UCLA made 20 of 30 free throws, and Georgia made six of 10.
Muhammad made eight of 11 from the free-throw line.

Georgia Coach Mark Fox gave a long, awkward pause and rapped his fingers against a table when asked about Muhammad's performance. Finally, Fox uttered, with some difficulty, "He had 21 points, that's a pretty good night."

Kyle Anderson had nine points and nine rebounds and Travis Wear added 10 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Adams scored four points, his first game with fewer than 20.

UCLA's man-to-man defense struggled to slow Georgia (1-4), which was led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had 16 points.

So, Howland made a rare move, one he finds distasteful: He switched to a zone defense.
It worked.

"The zone was critical for us to get back into the game," Howland said.

And Muhammad, who made six of his 12 shots, kept his team in it.

He got open running off screens, noticed mismatches when he was sized up against smaller players in the post or larger, slower players guarding him on the wing.

"I just tried to take advantage of that," Muhammad said, "and it went well for me."


UCLA has signed three high school players to national letters of intent during the early signing period, the school confirmed Tuesday.

They are Allerick Freeman, a 6-4 guard from Findlay Prep in Nevada, Zach LaVine, a 6-3 combo guard from Bothell High in Washington, and Noah Allen, a 6-6 forward from Palma High in Salinas.


Muhammad leads UCLA in much-needed win



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Georgetown manhandles UCLA in Legends Classic semis, 78-70


Shabazz Muhammad impresses in debut; UCLA doesn't in loss to Hoyas

Heralded freshman Shabazz Muhammad, who missed Bruins' first three games under NCAA suspension, scores 15 points in first college game but Georgetown wins 78-70.

By Baxter Holmes
The Los Angeles Times
10:38 PM PST, November 19, 2012

NEW YORK — His first shot, of the stop-and-pop variety, arced over the outstretched fingertips of defenders invading his personal space, and then splashed through the Brooklyn net.

The scoreboard added a pair to UCLA's total, and freshman Shabazz Muhammad ran back to play defense, having finally tallied the first points of his college career.

But his long-awaited debut Monday — delayed three games because the NCAA sat him out for violating its rules before it reinstated him Friday — didn't end in storybook fashion.

The No. 11 Bruins lost to unranked Georgetown, 78-70, in a semifinal of the Legends Classic tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

UCLA (3-1) will play Georgia (1-3), which lost its semifinal against No. 1 Indiana, at 4:30 p.m. PST Tuesday at Barclays. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

"I wanted to get a shot at them," Muhammad said of Indiana, which UCLA would have faced had it won. "But we know we really aren't ready yet."

As for the highly rated swingman, the 6-foot-6 Muhammad finished with 15 points, 11 in the second half, on five-for-10 shooting in 25 minutes.

"I can get a lot better," he said. "I didn't think I played really well tonight."

The heavily pro-Georgetown crowd of 10,071 at the new arena rained scattered boos on Muhammad when he checked into the game with 14 minutes 12 seconds to play in the first half. He made his first shot less than a minute later.

But it was clear that Muhammad is not in game-shape . . . that jelling with his teammates on the court will be a process . . . that everyone settling into their roles will be a project . . . and that, given the Bruins' youth and inexperience, this will take time.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland said Muhammad did a good job considering he hadn't played in a while. "He's got a lot of work to put in conditioning-wise to catch up."

But near the end, after falling into a double-digit hole, UCLA found a slice of rhythm. Facing a zone defense, Howland put Kyle Anderson at the high post on offense, and the 6-9 freshman zipped the ball around to teammates, including Muhammad, for easy baskets.

UCLA cut Georgetown's lead, but never to fewer than four. The Hoyas (3-0), who face Indiana on Tuesday, were led by Markel Starks' 23 points, and Otto Porter totaled 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and three steals.

"And then there's a whole lot of other stuff he did that isn't on this piece of paper," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said, looking at the box score.

Still, Muhammad was encouraged by what he saw during that late stretch of success.

"We're going to practice and really get this together and we're going to really be a good team," he said.

Freshman guard Jordan Adams finished with 22 points — his fourth straight game of 20 or more to start his career — and Travis Wear scored 12.

Anderson didn't score, but he did have seven rebounds and six assists.

UCLA led by four early, but Georgetown switched to the zone. The Bruins crumbled, with empty, almost hopeless offensive possessions. It wasn't until Anderson moved to the high post late that they could muster points against that scheme.

"They're still meshing," Thompson said of UCLA. "They're still coming together."


By JAY GREENBERG / For the Register
OC Register
Published: Nov. 19, 2012 Updated: Nov. 20, 2012 12:52 p.m.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Three games late because of an eligibility dispute, complicated by ankle and shoulder problems that cost him much of his preseason preparation, Shabazz Muhammad's 15 points in 25 minutes Monday night would best describe his UCLA debut as quiet, but not really disappointing.

Coach Ben Howland was intent on not pushing too much too soon on perhaps the best recruit in the country. And, with a possibility of a hyped matchup with top-ranked Indiana hanging for tonight's final of the Progressive Legends Classic, the freshman-laden, 11th-ranked Bruins did their part to keep the expectations sane, losing to unranked Georgetown, 78-70, in Monday night's semifinal at the new Barclays Center.

"I really wanted a shot at them (Indiana) but we weren't really ready," said Muhammad, a reality proved during an 11-minute stretch spanning halftime, when the Bruins were befuddled by Georgetown's switch to a zone. UCLA's 24-20 lead turned into 43-29 deficit and they never got closer than four thereafter.

"Their experience really hurt us," Howland said.

The Bruins (3-1) had no answers for junior guard Markel Starks (23 points on 9-for-14 shooting), nor Otto Porter, (18 points, 11 rebounds). Porter, the 6-foot-10 forward finally was healthy enough to play a complete game for the first time this season — just the Bruins' luck.

UCLA was paced again by freshman Jordan Adams, whose 22 points were his fourth game of 20 or more in his four-game collegiate career. His four successful free throws extended his streak of perfection to 30.

But then UCLA, which faces Georgia in the consolation game tonight, has some distance to travel to turn an exciting recruiting class into one of the best teams in the nation.

"I thought Georgetown did two things, one when they went to zone at the end of the first half when we got tentative and couldn't get it inside, then when Georgetown's offense cut us off in the second," Howland said. "You have to credit them, but then we are a team that obviously is very young.

"After we put Kyle (Anderson) inside to catch the ball and make plays for others we did a better job, but their experience really hurt us. Starks had 23 points in his last six games last season. He has made a big jump."

Travis Wear had 12 points and eight rebounds for UCLA, which lost his twin brother David to a back injury as he hit the floor hard falling over teammate Joshua Smith in pursuit of an early second half rebound.

David Wear might not play tonight against Georgia, which hung with Indiana through 30 minutes before falling, 66-53, but Muhammad certainly will enter that contest with expectations of being better than he was in his debut.

"It was really exciting to get out there get the jitters out and play college basketball for the first time," he said. "But I didn't play as well as I can play, didn't play that well on defense."

He made half his shots (5 for 10), half his 3-pointers (2 for 4) and 3 of 4 free throws, with two assists and a turnover in 25 minutes that were a lot quieter than the buzz. Muhammad made a jumper to cut the Hoyas' lead to 50-46 with 11:53 to play in the second half but was pulled at 54-50.

Stats box (