There were times one might think UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland thought zone was a
Not on Friday night.
Howland had his team rely mostly on a zone defense that
steered them to an impressive 71-63 victory over visiting Richmond on Friday
night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. The zone helped UCLA slow down a
Richmond offense that made six of its first eight shots but only 18 of 54 for
"We wouldn't have won the game without playing zone,"
Howland said afterward. "It's been good for us in the times we have to go to
it. I'd rather play man, but the zone (worked)."
The zone defense not only helped UCLA defend, it helped
them rebound too as the Bruins (7-5) finished with a dominant 42-30 advantage
on the glass. On the offensive side, Howland said the team's motion offense
made an impact, particularly in the second half when the Bruins shot nearly 62
percent from the field. Five Bruins scored in double figures for the second
straight game and third time this season.
Senior guards Lazeric
Jones and Jerime Anderson both
had big games. Jones scored a team-high 16 points and finished with a
career-high six rebounds. Anderson finished with 13 points, a career-high seven
rebounds and six assists.
"I was able to pick my spots and attack aggressively,"
Anderson said. "We were able to get better shots as our motion offense gave us
good looks against their matchup zone."
Anderson's dribble penetration opened things up for the
Bruins big men, particularly Travis Wear,
who scored 14 points. Joshua Smith added
11 points and five rebounds. David Wear
had 12 points and seven rebounds, and Howland touted this as the twins' best
game yet. Both looked more physical, particularly Travis, who scored 10 points in
the last 5:03 to help put the Spiders (7-6) away.
"Post guys do a lot of their work down low, and I need to
get used to that," Travis Wear said. "I need to work on sealing and being more
physical every day."
Using more zone defense, moving to a three-guard lineup,
the growth of twins David and Travis Wear and the dismissal of Reeves Nelson are all critical
developments to this season. Friday's win over the defending Atlantic 10
champions required UCLA to show progress on the court. Richmond's Darien
Brothers scored a game-high 25 points, making five 3-pointers and providing an
example of why Howland recognized the value of beating a well-respected
Richmond team that plays tough defense and runs the Princeton offense as well
as any team in the country.
"That was a very important win against a good team,"
Howland said. "They're well-coached and hard to play against. Their style of
play and strategies, you don't see that often."
It's particularly important as UCLA takes some time off
for the Christmas holiday and returns to action on December 29 when it opens
Pac-12 play at Stanford.
"We were definitely in a tough spot," Anderson said about
the team's 2-5 start. "It was an adverse situation or the whole team.
"The difficulty and adversity helped us get stronger - we
came together. Now we're really clicking out there."
Tonight's game against Richmond
probably won't be an especially memorable one for the UCLA men's basketball
team. Barring an abnormally exciting game, it's just a final nonconference
tune-up tonight at 7:30 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
But if the Bruins are able to play
well and move forward, it could be seen as the turning point in a season that's
been anything but tedious.
UCLA (6-5) can't turn the corner by
beating Richmond, but if the preseason Pac-12 favorites do go on to win the conference,
this game could be seen as the moment they turned the corner.
Coach Ben Howland told
reporters during his pregame teleconference that the Spiders might run the
Princeton offense as well as anyone in the country. Now, it's up to the Bruins
to show the discipline and determination to shut it down.
There are a few remaining questions
before we ring in Pac-12 play and the New Year.
How much better can the Wear twins
get - and how fast can it happen?
- David and Travis Wear
have both been hampered by injuries, so their progress, while quite
impressive, could actually be better. Both are critical to the Bruins'
goals this season but have room for improvement, especially on the glass.
David is currently averaging six rebounds per game, while Travis averages
5.2 rebounds. Both should strive to be grabbing at least seven per game.
Should UCLA just accept Joshua
Smith's conditioning will prevent him from being the dominant force he
could be if in better shape?
- It's hard for me to question anybody's conditioning,
but until Smith commits to a healthier diet and training regimen that
helps him improve his stamina, he won't approach his immense potential.
That means his teammates must understand he can't be relied on to be a scoring
force. It also means the coaches must prepare accordingly. Give Howland
and his staff credit for recognizing it and using a zone defense at times
to give Smith (and his teammates) a chance to catch their breath on the
defensive side of the court.
Has UCLA figured out what was going
on with its perimeter defense earlier this year?
- If the Bruins have officially stopped giving up so many
good perimeter looks, it means teams will have a much more difficult time
scoring. Credit Tyler Lamb for getting healthy and stepping into
the role of defensive stopper. Howland has pointed to him as a
defense-first guard but that's not it. Norman Powell is making a
great rebounding effort, while both seniors, Jerime Anderson and Lazeric
Jones, are playing with
UCLA entered the season talking
about its front court. Reporters and bloggers (including this one) wondered how
teams could cope with the Bruins ability to put a massive front line on the
Even after the dismissal of junior
forward Reeves Nelson, the front court continues to drive attention. But
while teams worry about the Bruins and their size in the post, it is their
backcourt making people pay attention.
Freshman Norman Powell and
sophomore Tyler Lamb both set career highs in points scored as UCLA
defeated visiting UC Irvine, 89-60, on Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Sports
Powell scored a game-high 19 points
with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
"He has so much
potential," Lamb said of Powell. "He's learning more and more every
day and works very hard"
Lamb finished with 17 points, four
steals, three assists and three rebounds.
"Tyler Lamb is really
playing well for us," Coach Ben Howland said. "And the stats
don't always indicate it because he guards the other team's best player."
It was both shooting guards sharing
time with seniors Jerime Anderson and Lazeric Jones, often with
three of the four on the court at once, that led the Bruins to a dominant
victory and has helped UCLA (6-5) during its four-game win streak.
Jones added 11 points and six
assists while Anderson had eight points and five assists. The four helped UCLA
finish with 22 assists against seven turnovers.
"Starting three guards helps
that," Howland said. "We're getting use to each other and getting
some experience. We're a fairly young team."
Howland said the team will continue
to use the 3-guard lineup but also said he'll play some zone and go back to
three big men lineups when the timing is right. Howland wants to make sure the
team can be versatile with its lineup, which means he'll continue to mix and
The guards might have gotten most of
the attention but the big men also played well. David Wear played well
and had 12 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Center Joshua Smith
had 12 points and seven rebounds as both helped UCLA outrebound UC Irvine,
"I'm pleased with the
rebounding and the margin there," Howland said. "I'm just glad we're
playing well. Our guys are coming together. We have good chemistry and we're
pulling for one another. That's fun. I enjoyed that."
Well this wasn't the outing the Bruins had in mind.
Coming into tonight's game against Louisiana State, the UCLA
women's basketball team had plenty to feel bubbly about: the addition of a veteran
presence in the return of Markel Walker; a rendezvous with former Bruin coach Nikki Caldwell
and her coaching staff; and ultimately, a chance to build upon its last game, a
41-point victory against Loyola Marymount. But turnovers-galore was the tale of
this game, and the Bruins just couldn't find their stride, falling 58-41 to the
Tigers at the Pete Maravich Center.
UCLA has gone up against some Paul Bunyans already this
season (see: Brittney Griner and the Baylor Bears, San Diego State), and
tonight was no different. With a roster wielding eight 6-footers, LSU disrupted
a usually-high-octane UCLA offense, denying entry passes into the post and forcing
the Bruins into 24 turnovers (the Tigers actually had more miscues with 29 of
"LSU played really high with its size. If you don't get the
ball behind their zone, you're struggling with trying to get it through their
zone," coach Cori Close said after the game. "We wanted to pull those forwards
out high, get into the short corners, and attack from behind the zone defense,
but we weren't able to get into that rhythm. Ball movement just didn't happen
for us tonight."
LSU's LaSondra Barrett led all players with 18 points for
the game. The Bruins had just one player scoring in double figures, and it was
none other than Walker, who made her season debut after undergoing thumb
surgery in the offseason. She may have started off slow, but Walker showed some signs of promise, scoring most of her 11 points on jumpers and grabbing six
rebounds. And it's a point to be noted; if the junior forward can emerge as a
third scoring threat besides Atonye Nyingifa and Rebekah Gardner, it figures to
spread the floor and open up the Bruins' three-point game.
"A lot of teams know that I can drive to the basket and that
I like to pass the ball, so I've been working on my jump shot and just gaining
more confidence," Walker said.
Up next for the Bruins? Certainly some rigorous practice and
film sessions, as No. 6 Tennessee rolls into Collins Court on Saturday.
UCLA men's basketball
takes their Bruin Road Show to the Honda Center in Orange County today at 4pm to face
Pennsylvania. It's the first of four games at the splendid OC venue.
UCLA should get on the
horn and see what they need to do to have newly-signed Los Angeles Angels of
Anaheim player Albert Pujols make an appearance at one of the Bruin games at
It's been a rough
start for the Bruins, so who can blame me if I'm thinking Pujols might help the
Bruins snap out of their funk during a 2-5 start?
Of course, Angel fans
will have to wait until Opening Day of baseball season to celebrate their new
addition. In the meantime, Bruin fans who are travelling to Anaheim shouldn't
be faulted if they make a quick stop to Disneyland to find Tinker Bell.
For those who think
spinning Tea Cups and slam dunks don't mix, here are a few other ideas of how to
enjoy the OC.
* Skip Splash Mountain
and head to Downtown Disney, which includes loads of
entertainment and shopping. Plus, there's three hours of free parking, so you'll
have some fun before watching the Bruins take the court.
* Bring your credit
card and patience before braving the holiday crowds at OC shopping mecca South Coast
Plaza in Costa Mesa (and just off the 405 freeway).
* Not ready to break
the bank? Then go hit up the Orange County Market Place and people watch
while finding something unusual and cheap to bring back after the game.
If there's one thing
we know after this week, the Bruin Road Show is a dramatic series.
Coach Ben Howland now faces the stiff challenge of making
sure there's a heart-warming finish.
Howland dismissed Reeves
Nelson from the team on Friday, setting up a new challenge for the
Bruins (2-5) as the Road Show heads south to Orange County and a home game at
Honda Center against visiting Pennsylvania (5-5).
There were several
strong reports on this, including Beth Harris of the Associated Press and ESPN.com blogger Diamond Leung. It's hard to not
see this break-up as a necessary one. Hopefully Nelson can learn from his
difficulties and mature as a person and player from it.
UCLA will definitely
miss his toughness and potential on the court, but Howland told reporters he
also thought it could be a good opportunity for the team to overcome adversity
and come together.
think it will be a positive for our team, because the distraction of all this
has not been a positive for our team," Howland said to media during a
teleconference. "The negativity is not a positive for your team. When I
suspended him the first time, the two practices we had very that were the best
two practices of the year that we've had. Hopefully, this is going to be a
unifying thing for our team."
might be the main storyline for this Road Show, but its not the only one.
Freshman Norman Powell suffered an allergic reaction to
something he ate and was hospitalized for two days before returning to practice
For the first 15 minutes, this was quite a contest.
If it wasn't Hazel Ramirez flicking teardrops in the lane, Loyola Marymount had a variety of gunners draining three-pointers to give the UCLA women's basketball team a legitimate challenge.
But the result, once the Bruins kicked into high gear on defense? An 84-43 throttling of the Lions Sunday evening at Gersten Pavillion.
The offensive output might be eye-catching, but the Bruins seized control of this game with their play on the other end of the floor. By game's end, LMU shot just 25% from the floor with UCLA applying a defensive tenacity that led to a 24-6 margin in points off turnovers. The higlights from the game:
The Turning Point
When Ramirez knocked down a three-pointer at the 5:00 mark of the first half to give the Lions the 28-25 lead, it looked as if UCLA was in for a grind. But then the Bruins held their opponents scoreless during that last five-minute stretch and came up ahead 34-28 heading into halftime. Safe to say, it was the squeeze that had the Lions roaring no longer.
"We tried going to the zone defense because we knew we were only going to have eight players, but we had to go back to player-to-player defense in order to pursue the shooters," coach Cori Close said. "The bottom line is in the first half, we weren't playing with enough passion, but late in the first half and in the second half, we locked down and played posession defense the way we need to."
Set the Ton'-ye
At this point, it's almost easy to just glance over Atonye's Nyingifa's stat line in the box score. But once again, Nyingifa came through big for her team, posting a career-high 28 points on a blistering 10-of-12 shooting as well as 14 rebounds. When the perimeter game wasn't working for the Bruins, Nyingifa made sure there was still a steady scoring output, scoring on a variety of pump fakes, drives, and dish-and-pops from the paint.
"For the years that I've been at UCLA, the post coaches have always emphasized footwork and pump fakes, especially since I'm undersized," Nyingifa said. "It's vital for me to have the fundamentals down because I'm stepping into a new role, and my teammates depend on me."
A Balanced Team Effort
Given an active roster of just eight players coming into the game, UCLA had five different players scoring in double figures tonight. Nyingifa and Rebekah Gardner (11 points) provided the usual one-two punches, but it was three other players stepping up on the scoring duties, with Mariah Williams (13) driving to the hoop, Moriah Faulk (11) popping from behind the arc, and Thea Lemberger (15) driving and popping.
"We focused a lot on getting ball reversals and moving the ball this week during practice," Lemberger said. "We worked hard on letting everyone get touches and attacking the basket, so with that we were able to get open looks and knock them down."
Given the limited playing time, Madeline Brooks might not get too many open looks at the basket, but when she does, she evidently does it in style. The freshman walk-on scored the first basket of her collegiate career with 3:40 left in the game, a nothing-but-net splash from the right wing that drew an extended cheer from her teammates, as well as a standing ovation from a sizeable UCLA contingent on hand for the game. Safe to say, it was the proverbial icing on the cake for the Bruins.
"I'm really glad that the girls are trusting me on the court, since I've only been on the team for a couple of weeks," Brooks said. "I'm so blessed for the opportunity that Coach gave me by letting me on the team, so any chance I get, I'm going to make the most of it."
News & Notes
A few other items to note: Kacy Swain returned to action after missing the last two games with a concussion, but the Bruins suffered another hit when Rhema Gardner went down with what appeared to be an ankle injury at the 9:44 mark of the second half. But it was what Close called a "minor injury," and the younger Gardner figures to have ample time to recover. The Bruins don't play again until December 13 when they hit the road to take on former coach Nikki Caldwell and the LSU Tigers.
Losing is never fun,
but losing like this is an entirely different matter.
UCLA squandered an
early 11-point lead and turned what looked like a breakthrough performance into
arguably its most frustrating effort as Texas turned the tables with a 69-59
nonconference victory on Saturday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
This loss should nag
UCLA (2-5) and the coaching staff like a flu that just won't go away. The
Bruins looked like a new team early, playing aggressive on defense and looking
ready to capture their first marquee win of the year with a 34-23 lead with
1:54 remaining in the first half.
Instead, the Bruins
watched Texas bull rush by them with a 15-4 run during a span that lasted
nearly four minutes at the end of the first half and start of the second.
It was an act of
aggression that the Bruins couldn't effectively respond to and recover from.
Texas guard J'Covan Brown, who led the Longhorns (5-2) with 22
points, said his team showed its physical side with lots of screens on the
"We just wore
them down," Brown said, despite limping out of the media conference room.
"Coach told us to keep hitting them with screens and they'll stop trying
to run through it. I know I hate it in practice when you have to hit screens
constantly. It just wears your body down."
Texas freshman guard Myck
Kabongo finished with 13 points and eight assists in the win. He said
Texas made it a point to push UCLA into a corner.
"I could tell you
one thing - basketball is not a physical sport. No one wants to get hit and we
were hitting them," Kabongo said.
Bruins forward Travis
Wear admitted Texas used a lot of clock on their offensive
possessions, which made things more difficult for the Bruins.
"They were taking
a lot of time off the shot clock, wearing us down," said Wear, who had 13
points and four rebounds in the loss. "You play defense for 25-35 seconds
and your fundamentals break down."
That helped Texas
shoot better than 70 percent in the second half, which they outscored UCLA by
"Texas got behind
in the first half and they were patient and kept running their stuff,"
Wear said. "We when we got down, we really didn't bounce back."
That's why this loss
shouldn't be treated like UCLA just has to wash it clean. If the Bruins really
want to rebound from their slow start this season - this should be a scar to
remind them of what's necessary to prevent it from happening again.
UCLA men's basketball
coach Ben Howland talked a lot about using a taller lineup
during the preseason but on Saturday afternoon, he opted to take a smaller
approach against Texas.
The Bruins started
three guards - Lazeric Jones, Tyler Lamb and Jerime
Anderson - with 6-foot-10 forwards David and Travis
Wear. The "small ball" approach paid off as the Bruins blasted
off to a 17-6 lead, making their first six field goals as all five starters
It was a good look,
especially against an athletic Texas team that finished the first half on a 7-2
run to leave UCLA leading 34-28.
By no means was the feat easy. Reduced to seven players going up against 11, the UCLA women's basketball team put its fortitude to the test, countering brute and brawn with huffs and puffs in a high-octane 78-71 victory over San Diego State Wednesday night at Collins Court. The Bruins may have led by as many as 16 points (thanks to a whopping 22-0 run in the first half), but the game went down to the wire. In the end, it was Rebekah Gardner and Atonye Nyingifa who steered the team to victory, and not surprisingly, logged in the most minutes on the floor. Gardner (39 minutes) made her mark with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Nyingifa (38 minutes) notched her fourth double-double of the year with a career-high 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds. In the spirit of the final exam craze creeping through the campus, the cram notes for tonight's game are as follows: The DefenseSimply put, the Bruins can chalk this win to their ability to come through on the defensive end. The Aztecs jumped out to 6-0 lead to open the game, until of course the Bruins went on their 22-0 tear, one made possible by a series of steals and contested shots. And again, when San Diego State seemed to be the aggressor early in the second half, UCLA tightened the screws on defense. "I give my assistant coaches a lot of credit. They suggested the adjustment with when we go to zone defense and when we go to player-to-player defense," coach Cori Close said. "And our players, they locked in mentally when we made those defensive shifts. They made the mental shifts with the assistant coaches, and that was the difference in the game." The Size DisparityIt was quite clear the Aztecs had every intention of exploiting UCLA's shortage in players with their 11-player rotation, seven of whom fit under the "6-footer" category. Undoubtedly, SDSU's size advantage wore out the Bruins at periods in the game. But Mariah Williams may have summed it up best: "I've been playing against players way bigger than me since I was two years old, so I'm used to it," the 5-foot-4 guard said. "But if you really want it more than the other team, height and size won't matter; there were a couple times when I was boxing out the biggest player out there. If you want it more, you go get it." The Mariah Williams EffectTrue to her words, Williams certainly wasn't shy about establishing a presence on the court. She may not exactly be billed as the Bruins' go-to scorer, but the junior guard made it a point to drive to the basket. She only shot 2-of-3 from the field, but drew plenty of contact, enough to go 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Williams did have five turnovers, but certainly provided a needed spark with a season-high 11 points and four assists. "After the West Virginia game, I re-evaluated how the season is going so far, and I think I can help this team by being more aggressive" Williams said. "The team depends on my defensive ability, but if I'm not a factor on the offensive end, it's pretty much 5-on-4 at that point, so me being aggressive on offense helps us a bit."