Behind an impressive 10-of-15 (66.7%) performance from beyond the arc, Loyola Marymount defeated UCLA, 69-58, in both teams' season opener. UCLA, by contrast, shot just 2-of-15 from long distance.
UCLA head coach Ben Howland: "We had a lot of mental breakdowns defensively, and offensively, we took a lot of shots that were not great shots."
Bruin center Joshua Smith was plagued by foul trouble in the first half and finished with just five points in 16 minutes of play. He quickly picked up two fouls in four minutes of action and played just six minutes total in the first half.
Howland and the Bruins will have to quickly rebound from the loss, as they host Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday. "The bottom line is we've got to study film and learn from this because we have another game Tuesday against a team that is equally tough," he said.
*LMU took control of the game with a 12-0 run early in the second half after UCLA had taken a 42-41 lead. The Lions' run gave them a 53-42 lead, and they never led by less than five points the rest of the way.
*The Lions' bench outscored UCLA's, 17-9, led by C.J. Blackwell, who had nine points, all from three-pointers (3-of-4 from three-point range).
*UCLA guards were a combined 6-of-23 from the field
The fresh throwback threads were snug, the lively crowd of 914 cozy, and the UCLA women's basketball team continued the theme in its season opener, churning out a comfortable 67-59 win against McNeese State Friday at the Collins Court. The Bruins may have advanced into the second round of the preseason WNIT, but perhaps more importantly, continued onward along the development curve, an identity steadily appearing. And if anything can be said this early on in the season, it's that coach Cori Close will be looking to tweak her offense to generate production from within the paint. Against the Cowgirls, the Bruins put up assist after assist with the wing players penetrating the defense and either getting to the line, feeding the ball into the post or creating put-back opportunities. Redshirt junior forward Atonye Nyingifa and sophomore combo guard-forward Rhema Gardner certainly reaped the rewards. Nyingifa again proved to be the stake in the claim, scoring 16 points and matching her career high with 12 rebounds. Gardner also shined with a game-high 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting. "If we can get the ball into the paint and get it up on the glass, our rebounding angles will be better," Close said. "We have to attack the paint and not rely just on jumpers, and I thought we did a good job of being aggressive with that today." The starting backcourt of junior Mariah Williams and sophomore Thea Lemberger shared the duty of floor general and did so effectively, the two combining for nine assists and a variety of heady plays. Small wonder Gardner and Nyingifa had a field day. "When the guards push the ball, it gets us down the court to post up and get position," Gardner said. "That's just been our main focus so far, to get the ball up the court." "We follow our guards," Nyingifa agreed. "If they're pushing the ball in transition, they're fulfilling their roles. We have a great court awareness with them, in terms of where we are on the court at all times." One dynamic that figures to be an interesting one for the Bruins as the season stretches on is the transition from Pauley Pavilion to the more compact Collins Court inside the John Wooden Center. Smaller though it may be, the confines of the latter venue make for an advantageous feel for a young team that will need the fan support in its maturation process. "I actually like it," Gardner said. "The fans are more up close and personal, so there's just a lot of energy. I like the atmosphere a lot." The Bruins return to Collins Court on Sunday at 2 p.m. against East Tennessee State for the second round of the WNIT, retro jerseys, good vibe and all.
For true UCLA men's basketball junkies, tonight's 7:30 tip-off can't come a minute too soon, unless it means more time for forward Reeves Nelson's left ankle to heal after injuring it earlier in practice this week.
UCLA already has a crosstown rival, so some might think it's opening with a crosstown patsy in Loyola Marymount. After all, the Bruins are 15-2 overall against LMU and haven't lost to the Lions since a stunning 40-34 defeat in 1941.
That's right, the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the site for tonight's game, wasn't even around the last time UCLA lost to LMU. Of course, at this time of the season, it's as much about the Bruins themselves as it is about the opposition.
Fox Sports West is televising the game, but it is Friday night - go have some fun and snag yourself a ticket for the game through this very website.
Three things we want answered:
* Will Nelson's ankle injury hinder him from dominating on the glass?
Nelson has the mental attitude and talent to really give LMU serious trouble on the glass. Now we just need to know if his ankle (X-rays were negative) is ready as well.
* What impact will not starting Joshua Smith have against a smaller LMU team?
The Lions aren't listing a probable starter taller than 6-foot-8, nor heavier than 220 pounds, which means Smith would have a 2-inch height advantage and 80-plus pound weight advantage in the post to start the game. Either way, Smith should be a dominant force against a smaller LMU team.
* How much will UCLA miss Jerime Anderson?
The senior guard is serving out the remainder of his two-game suspension, leaving the Bruins without a true backup point guard. Tyler Lamb will need to run the team when Lazeric Jones is resting.
On the Lions: LMU isn't the tallest team, which means the Bruins should give them a lot of trouble with their length. The Lions are also missing their best player, senior forward Drew Viney, who has a foot injury that will keep him out until December. Junior guard Jarred DuBois should be a familiar name for Los Angeles high school hoops fans, as he played at Westchester High School. DuBois played in only six games last year due to injury but should be a leader on both ends of the court for the Lions this year.
Coach Ben Howland called it a sacrifice his team will make to play in a updated, state-of-the-art Pauley Pavilion next season, but when UCLA opens its season against Loyola Marymount on Friday night at home in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, there are several UCLA administrators who hope the Bruins and their fans don't feel like it's a big one.
And if the early indicators are any sign of what's to come, it should be a fun season for everyone interested in UCLA men's basketball.
The marketing team at UCLA sent more than 20,000 fold-up road maps to its season ticket holders and alumni that is titled 2011-12 UCLA Men's Basketball Bruin Road Show, with center Joshua Smith finishing a dunk on the cover with a map of the Westside behind him. Unfold the map and it details how UCLA will be playing its home games at the Sports Arena (14 of them) and Honda Center (four games), some details on UCLA's history at the Sports Arena (it's rich), the season schedule and how to order tickets.
It's a clever way to approach a season in which UCLA forecasted less revenue, and it's not the only thing UCLA will do to drum up support from its fan base.
Scott Mitchell, UCLA associate athletic director of marketing and business development, said the Bruins are looking to update their game day presentation while away from Pauley Pavilion in preparation for next year.
"What the UCLA fan sees, feels, associates with game day, we've skewed toward our tradition and history in the past, and we'll continue to have that as a focal point," Mitchell said. "But there are a lot of 18-to-22 year-olds (that represent UCLA basketball fans), and we have the opportunity to do some different things (to attract them to games)."
Sunday's exhibition game in Ontario at the Citizens Business Bank Arena showed a few new features for fans - namely a DJ spinning popular music during breaks to add another layer of festivities to the atmosphere and an emcee to complement the Public Announcer and help with different fan events.
Mitchell said UCLA intends to listen to its fans as it tries new things and focus its attention on what excites its fanbase.
"The DJ will be in the student section (on Friday), so we'll see how that works," Mitchell mentioned. "We'll change based on what gains traction."
It's not just DJs and free T-shirts, which cheerleaders will be throwing to fans at home games either. Ken Weiner, senior associate athletic director of business operations, said UCLA has worked diligently with the Sports Arena to update the venue and make it feel like UCLA's home court.
Weiner said the outside of the venue will have blue lighting, the team will use last year's Pac-10 Tournament court with updated UCLA decals and logos, and even the old chairs of the Sports Arena will be updated to represent UCLA.
"They've upgraded the venue for us," Weiner said before showing a picture on his mobile phone of a new scoreboard being put together. "We're doing everything we can to make it home."
Howland said he was impressed with the work done on the home team locker room when UCLA hosted a closed scrimmage against Cal State Fullerton at the Sports Arena last week. And while Howland knows it's not going to be the same as playing games on campus, he appreciates some of the history between UCLA and the Sports Arena.
"Coach Wooden was coaching there before Pauley, so I kind of like that," Howland said. "Hopefully, we become tougher mentally because we're on the road. It should make us tougher."
It was a grab bag of hard drives, flailing arms and gritty grapples in the paint, but in the end the UCLA women's basketball team's exhibition game against Vanguard served its purpose, providing the Bruins an opportunity to display their arsenal in an 81-52 win over the Lions. Through it all, redshirt junior forward Atonye Nyingifa proved her mettle as one of UCLA's go-to players this season, bumping and bruising her way to 22 points and 16 rebounds. The veteran Bruin also put her intangibles on display, gobbling up rebounds and bringing the ball up the court on numerous possessions. If anything, Nyingifa's prowess was a microcosm of a need to interchange roles that coach Cori Close stressed will dictate just how far these Bruins will go this season. "Our versatility is really hard to match up with," Close said. "We're best when we can defend and create stops, and then attack and get out in transition." Other encouraging signs in UCLA's debut stemmed from the plays of freshmen Moriah Faulk and Kacy Swain. Faulk's performance in fact was strikingly similar to that of former Bruin guard Darxia Morris. The first-year guard stepped into her shots with the same ease and confidence Morris sustained last year, pouring in 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. "Her jumpers were automatic," Nyingifa said of Faulk. "You give her the ball, and she's going to shoot it, whether there's someone there or not. That was some great confidence she showed tonight." As for Swain, the freshman from St. Bernard's High School worked in some nifty post moves, scoring on a variety of putbacks and jumpers en route to 17 points and nine rebounds. Provided she keeps it up, Swain figures to play a prominent role during a year in which big bodies will be a premium for the Bruins. Perhaps the two players who, in their own respective ways, hold the keys to the Bruins' 2011-2012 season are none other than the Gardner sisters. Sophomore guard Rhema Gardner put to use every inch of her lengthy frame, getting her hands in the passing lanes and sticking to her defensive assignments, with a pair of blocks and some fancy footwork to boot. "Rhema came out and delivered right off the bat, using her length and making her presence known on both sides of the ball," Close said. "She had never started a college game before, so to watch her step into that new comfort zone with confidence and aggression was great to see." And while Rebekah Gardner didn't exactly light up the scoring column - she finished the evening with a quiet 11 points on 2-of-13 shooting - the senior guard didn't hesitate to get physical, pulling down 11 rebounds and throwing her weight around in a few heated tussles for loose balls in the second half. "All of those loose balls and rebounds that Rebekah got in the second half, when her shot wasn't falling, showed to me a step up in maturity," Close said. "A lot of times, when shots aren't falling, a good shooter will let that affect other areas of their games. But that didn't matter tonight; she was going to find other ways to help this team." The final verdict? Tough to say. As with any typical exhibition game, plays at times ran rampant and rugged. But for Close and her coaching staff, it was an indication that just maybe, the personnel is in place for the Bruins to keep clawing.
Joshua Smith didn't start
for the Bruins, but he definitely finished in their 80-72 exhibition victory
over Cal State San Bernardino on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Business Bank
Arena in Ontario, Calif.
The 6-foot-10, 305-pound
sophomore scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds for UCLA,
which opted to bring Smith off the bench to help avoid picking up early fouls.
But once he did get in, the Bruins knew their exact point of attack.
"Our offensive thought
is always to feed it into Josh," said sophomore forward David Wear.
"I don't think anybody can guard him inside 1-on-1."
Wear also touted Smith's
performance at the line after he made 14 of 18 free throws. UCLA used its size
advantage to get the line 41 times, making 33 of them on the way to victory.
Smith said he's focused on making sure he doesn't fade away from the line and
following through on the shots.
"Every time I go out
there, we all know our job and my job is to help my team the best way I
can," Smith said. "I just want to go out there and make sure I'm
sealing, posting and passing. I got mad at myself when looking at my field
goals. There were a few tip-ins and if I put a little more on them, I would
have gotten some and-1's."
Junior forward Reeves Nelson
also had a strong performance with 16 points and 10 rebounds. UCLA head coach Ben Howland credited
him with making a pair of 3-pointers and mentioned his vocal leadership as
"I've never been a
player that puts too much into points," Nelson said. "But rebounds
are something you can control with effort and position. I am definitely trying
for double-digit rebounds in every game."
That's likely music to
Howland's ears, who wants to use his team's size advantage all season. The
Bruins took home a 40-30 rebound advantage, including an 18-11 advantage on the
offensive glass, against a team Howland called a "good test."
He wasn't kidding either.
UCLA needed a pivotal 9-0 second-half run to regain control after CS San
Bernardino took a 60-58 lead with 7:33 remaining.
"It was good to see our
guys fight back," Howland said. "We've got to be a better defensive
team. We'll get together and watch this as a team. We will not beat a lot of
people on our schedule until we play better defense."
The rust showed for UCLA,
which started David and Travis Wear, who were playing their first college game
in over a year after sitting out last season (due to transfer rules).
But both David and Travis
each showed glimmers of why Howland is so excited to have them as part of the program.
David took a charge on one end that fouled out starting guard Tre Brewer. Then,
he followed it up with a big 3-pointer on the offensive end. Travis added 10
points in 15 minutes.
"I was too
excited," said David, who started at small forward. "I thought way
too much. I just wanted to get this first one out of the way."
And now that it's out of the
way, David and the rest of the team will get a chance to see how much
excitement is building among the UCLA faithful on Friday night, when the Bruins
open the season with Loyola Marymount at the LA Sports Arena.
Exhibition games might be seen by some as a chance to work out some kinks and get ready for the season.
But log into the Cal State San Bernardino men's basketball website and their promo page for Sunday's exhibition game with UCLA leads with a giant, all capital letters headline of "WHAT IF ..." and I don't think any of us need Coach Ben Howland to tell us what it means.
Of course, Howland and the coaching staff know the drill by now. Every team UCLA faces, especially nonconference foes, will give the Bruins their best game. That means UCLA can't overlook any team, even in an exhibition game against a Division II program that leads their website with the name of a classic comic book.
If you're too lazy to drive (or just too far away): Go high-tech and watch the game on a live video stream from UCLABruins.com. For five bucks, get your hoops fix and get an early look at this Bruins team.
Three things we want answered:
*How does Travis Wear's right hand look? After spraining it during practice this week, Wear returned to practice on Friday and looked ready to go.
*How much of an impact can Tyler Lamb make on the defensive side of the court? Howland has great confidence in his defensive abilities, which likely means he'll emerge as an on-the-floor leader for the Bruins.
*How big can the Bruins go? Howland will likely start 6-foot-10 David Wear and Joshua Smith, with the 6-5 Lamb and the 6-8 Reeves Nelson. Lazeric Jones will run the point and will be the small fry in this bunch at 6-1. Don't be surprised if Howland plays both Wear brothers with Lamb, Nelson and Smith - just to see how small they'd make the Coyotes look.
On the Coyotes: CS San Bernardino is one of the better Division II programs in the state, although it's coming off a disappointing season. The Coyotes have four transfers, including Pablo Genero, a 6-10 Spanish player who spent last season playing for South Plains Junior College in Texas. Genero's size should be useful against the Bruins, especially considering Theron Laudermill, a 6-7 center, is the Coyotes lone returning all-conference player.
Pick your favorite cheesy rock ballad about touring. Add it
to your preferred mp3 player (or CD player for those of you still working that device), and bring
it along for the ride. Sunday's exhibition game against Cal State San
Bernardino at Ontario's Citizens Business Bank Arena is just the beginning of a
Bruin basketball season that in some ways will feel more like a rock tour.
The Bruins won't play in Pauley Pavilion this year while
it undergoes renovations, so they'll be on the road again and again.
The good news is the Bruins have a great bunch of groupies -
err fans - (I'm talking to you UCLABruins.com blog reader!) and there's no
reason not to make these traveling home games a fun event. So we'll try to
share a few tips and tricks about the trip to Ontario for UCLA's 2 p.m. tip-off
against San Bernardino.
Of course many Bruin fans and students can take advantage
of the buses
available from Jackie Robinson Stadium, but for more of the road trip vibe,
here are some tips on this first road trip.
- Make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Sure Google Maps suggests a travel time just over an hour from those on the Westside, but if you're going to travel that far, why miss tipoff?
- Since you're going to give yourself some extra time, do something fun in Ontario. For starters, hit the massive shopping area, Ontario Mills, which is within walking distance from the arena. Who knows, you might even find some new UCLA gear to wear!
- Who doesn't love tacos? One of my personal favorites, King Taco, is listed by Yelp.com readers as the best place to grab a few tacos (or burritos) before or after the game in Ontario.
- Enjoy free parking at the game! That's right - Citizens Business Bank Arena offers free parking, which means you can spend more on concessions at the game.
Plus, think about this trip to the Inland Empire, home of former UCLA star point guard Darren Collison, as the first of several exciting trips to take while following around the Bruins like they're your favorite local band hitting the road.
There is a certain charm to the way Cori Close conducts herself.
Whether it's the clasped hands when being spoken to, the instinctive tendency to lean over the table when speaking, or the calm gaze betrayed instantly by the lively coach-speak that bursts out when the conversation touches on her vision of the future, the first-year coach of the UCLA women's basketball team is, as senior guard Rebekah Gardner would say, "personable."
"We know that this year, it's a lot different with the coaching change," Gardner said. "But we've just got on board and gained a really good relationship with Coach."
Indeed, as if taking over for a successful coach in Nikki Caldwell weren't challenging enough, Close has taken charge of a team plagued by a wave of injuries during the offseason, most notable of which is the ruptured Achilles tendon of senior forward Jasmine Dixon, who will likely miss the season.
But if there's one thing that can be said for the Bruin coach, it's that adversity hasn't done much to temper her demeanor, even when the number of available bodies thus far in practice has ranged anywhere from five to nine.
"There's one way we're going to win: We're going to get more possessions than our opponents, and we're going to be more versatile," Close said. "And my thing is, if you bring your strengths every day, we have enough.The reality that we have to face is that there's not one player on our team who is playing a role she's played before."
That predicament resounds particularly well for Gardner, the sole active senior for the Bruins. Last season, the lanky sharp-shooting guard was essentially the sixth-man sparkplug. This time around, Close has called upon Gardner to become the primary scorer and vocal leader.
"It's different," Gardner said of her responsibilities this season. "But each year that I've been here, I've had to take on a new role. Each year, I've stepped in and taken on that role to the best of my ability, and I plan on doing the same this year."
The obstacles are certainly many for the Bruins in their attempt to vault back into the NCAA Tournament. But Close and her team remain determined as ever, slowly but surely learning to adopt and embrace a fighter's mentality.
"We had our best and hardest practice of the year the other day, and Mariah Williams asked me, 'Why, Coach, did you think it was our best practice?'" Close said. "And I told her, 'Because you had about six different forms of severe adversity thrown at you, and never once did you hang your head, and you had the best reps of the day at the end of practice, when you were most fatigued.'
"That was a huge step for us, but now we have to string those days together until that becomes the identity of our team. We haven't arrived yet, but we'll get there."
UCLA has plenty of changes coming this basketball season.
The Bruins are playing their games off campus, starting several new players and
adding a pair of two new conference foes in Colorado and Utah this season. But
the pressure of playing for a program that strives for nothing short of
championship excellence remains the same.
The Bruins were picked to win the Pac-12 in the conference
media poll that was revealed as part of the Pac-12 Media Day on Friday at the
LA Live complex in downtown Los Angeles.
"Our team always has high expectations," Coach Ben Howland
said at the event. "It's the expectations we put on ourselves that matter most.
It's always nice to be picked high, but that doesn't guarantee anything. It's
where you finish."
UCLA, with 14 first-place votes and 421 overall, was named
the favorite, ahead of California and Arizona, who were the other teams earning
The media have selected the Bruins seven previous times and
were correct five times, including the Bruins' last two conference titles in 2006-07
Howland and senior guard Lazeric Jones talked to the media
about a variety of things, including recruiting, Derrick Rose, the additions of
Colorado and Utah and the Wear twins, who are both expected to play serious
minutes after sitting out last season after transferring to North Carolina.
Here are some highlights:
Howland on the Wear twins:
"They're very similar, actually. It's interesting. Dave - they're the same size. They work out. Everything they do together. It's unbelievable. These guys take every class together. They share the same bedroom. I mean everything's together. They're really close. But what I'm most impressed about them in their work ethic."
Howland on Colorado joining the Pac-12:
"Yeah, they're 5,000 feet above sea level. That affects you. They've got a great home-court situation because of that."
Howland, whose phone began ringing mid-answer, on texting and tweeting more after the NCAA changed its recruiting rules:
"I don't mind texting. That's fine. I think it's good for us. Having to keep track of every phone call you make and write it down is very, very difficult. You see, I'm trying to tweet right now. I apologize. That was my trainer trying to update me on the MRI (to Anthony Stover). I won't take it now, but I'll let you know right after."
Jones on his relationship with Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who attended the same high school:
"I mean, we're just really good friends. We don't talk too much about basketball. It's more like back in high school and things like that."
Jones on playing in the Sports Arena and so close to rival USC:
"It was different. But it was alright. The fact that we're right by SC is kind of weird. I was talking to somebody earlier about us getting booed on our home games, but it will be a different experience."