Dec. 23, 2005
Post Game Video Recap
LOS ANGELES (AP) - UCLA coach Ben Howland has had all of his banged-up Bruins available for the same practice once this season. And they're ranked 12th in the country.
Their schedule may suggest to some that the Bruins (10-1) haven't played enough marquee schools to earn that spot. But Howland insisted after Friday night's 86-56 rout of Sacramento State that they have been tested enough for whatever challenges the Pac-10 schedule brings.
"We've played some very good teams this year, and I'm very pleased with how our team has responded to all the adversity," Howland said following the Bruins' final non-conference tuneup. "If we get everybody healthy, I think we have a chance to be an outstanding team."
Coming off a 74-72 victory over unheralded Wagner College, the Bruins opened this one with an 18-2 run and were never seriously threatened in their first-ever meeting with Sacramento State (8-5).
Half of UCLA's wins have come against schools that never faced them before this season, including Wagner, Albany, Drexel and Coppin State. All five of those games were at Pauley Pavilion, where the Bruins have won 10 straight.
"The last time I checked, we were one of two schools going into today that had played against five top 50 teams in the country," Howland said in defense of UCLA's schedule. "The RPI that they're using for the NCAA tournament is largely based on strength of schedule, and we were fourth out of 330 teams. So we've absolutely been tested.
"To get road wins over Nevada in a neutral site, and Michigan in a very hostile environment. Temple is a team that's expected to be in the NCAA tournament, and I have no doubt that Wagner is going to be in the tournament coming out of their conference," Howland said.
The Bruins extended their winning streak to seven games. Their only loss was to Memphis in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 23. It's the school's best start since 1994-95, when the Bruins finished 32-1 and won the NCAA championship under Jim Harrick.
UCLA begins its conference schedule next Thursday against Stanford at Pauley Pavilion, and expects to have sophomore forward Josh Shipp back in the lineup for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right hip in September. The Bruins tied for third in the Pac-10 last season at 11-7, finished 18-11 overall and made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
"We've played a lot of tough teams and we've been pretty solid," Afflalo said. "The fact that we had 28 assists tonight was very gratifying to me. It's a good feeling, going into Pac-10 play, that we're all one team right now."
Jason Harris scored 16 points for the Hornets, who are 1-26 against Pac-10 teams. The only victory was during the 1953-54 season, 45-44 over Washington State.
UCLA's swarming defense held Sacramento State to one field goal over the first 6:25 and blocked six shots in the opening half, while the Hornets shot 33 percent and didn't make a jumper until Clark Woods' 15-footer with 6:24 left before intermission.
"Being down 18-2 obviously put us in a big hole," Sacramento State coach Jerome Jenkins said. "We already had a large enough mountain to climb just by playing them. UCLA is the No. 12 team in the nation for a reason. If we win the Big Sky Conference, this is the type of team we will play in the NCAA tournament. So this was a great learning experience for the program, but we have a long way to go."
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds, gave the Bruins their biggest lead of the first half on a dunk that made it 36-17 with 5:38 left.
After shooting 19-for-27 over the first 20 minutes, UCLA opened the second half with a 9-0 run fueled by six points from Afflalo. His 16-footer increased the margin to 51-28 with 17:36 remaining, and the Hornets got no closer than 20 points the rest of the way.
The Bruins committed 21 turnovers.
"That was the one negative about tonight," Afflalo said. "That team came in averaging 19 turnovers by their opponents, and that's definitely something we don't expect out of ourselves. Maybe we got a little lackadaisical, due to the fact that we were up 20. But we will improve on taking care of the ball."