That's more like it.
UCLA put together its best performance of the season with a 62-39
clobbering of Pepperdine on Monday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
It was double-trouble for the Waves, who took a 1-2 shot
from twin brothers David Wear and Travis Wear, who both had their best game yet
since transferring to UCLA (from North Carolina). David tallied 10 points, seven
rebounds and two blocks while Travis finished with eight points, 10 rebounds
and three blocks. Senior guard Lazeric Jones led the Bruins (2-4) with 14
points, six steals and four assists. The twins and Jones all agreed the team
came together on the defensive end after severe issues through the team's first
"As a team, we came together a little bit tonight," Travis
Wear said. "We helped each out on the defensive end. We played unselfish, and
that's really going to help us out in the long run."
UCLA coach Ben Howland said the team played with passion,
which helped the Bruins limit Pepperdine (3-3) to just 11 points in the first
half. Pepperdine failed to have one player tally double figures in scoring or
"We have to play with that kind of desire every time we play
to be successful," Howland said. "Our team defense was by far the best effort
we had all year."
Freshman Norman Powell had another solid performance for the
Bruins, adding 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Howland also pointed
to Jerime Anderson and Tyler Lamb as major factors in helping UCLA improve its
It was a dominant 20-2 run during the first half that helped
UCLA turn a 7-6 deficit into a 26-9 lead and an easy victory. The Bruins didn't
give up much from the perimeter, holding Pepperdine to just 3 of 9 behind the
arc and made up for a 36-35 rebounding deficit by forcing 15 Pepperdine
turnovers while limiting themselves to just seven turnovers.
"Sometimes you got to get a win to know how to win," Jones
said. "We did what we need to do to win, and hopefully we can continue to do this."
While Pepperdine isn't expected to finish at or near the top
of the West Coast Conference, the Waves already won at Arizona State and at
Texas San Antonio, so it was important for UCLA to defend its home court.
"We appreciate the fans who were here tonight," Howland
said. "Those are true blue Bruins fans. 1-4 hasn't happened around here in a
long time, and they came out for an 8 p.m. game on Monday night."
More important, UCLA had its first win it could really build
off after taking some lumps in the EA Sports Maui Invitational (besides a win
"We learned we've got a long way to go," David Wear said. "We
needed to play harder - we didn't match our opponents' intensity. Tonight, we
"We dove for loose
balls and helped teammates out. We showed how good we can be."
a day when the head honchos of the NBA labor negotiations rebounded
from months of failed talks to successfully rescue a season, the UCLA women's
basketball team also did some bouncing back of its own, salvaging a
two-game tilt in Northridge with a 68-48 victory against Colgate.
wasn't quite the post-Thanksgiving plans the team had in mind, given a
63-54 loss to West Virginia in Friday's opener of the Holiday Inn
Thanksgiving Basketball Classic. But save for a slow start, the Bruins
didn't suffer from a lull in tonight's second game of a back-to-back
set. Some takeaways from the win:
Rebekah Gardner, the Slasher
it an ongoing evolution if you will, but the elder Gardner sister
repeatedly attacked the basket tonight, scoring on multiple layups as
well as mid-range jumpers for a game-high 21 points to go along with 10
rebounds. It was much of the same story for Gardner on Friday when she
netted 19 points.
season with the likes of guards Darxia Morris, Doreena Campbell, and
forward Jasmine Dixon managing the primary scoring duties, Gardner was
relegated as something of a long-ball specialist coming off the bench.
But this year, she has clearly earned the license to drive, and it's
certainly an encouraging sign for the Bruins.
year, I was more of a shooter because we had Darxia and Doreena,"
Gardner said. "This year, it's just what the defense is giving me. If
they give me a lane to drive, I'll drive. It's just a different feel
if the team weren't undermanned enough already, UCLA was without
freshman forward Kacy Swain, who suffered a concussion in the first half
on Friday. That left coach Cori Close to work with essentially a
seven-player rotation, with all seven logging in 20-plus minutes on the
"Fatigue was a factor, but it was all the better because it was another opportunity to learn to become tougher," Close said. "We got beat by West Virginia because we weren't tough enough, so what better way than to be down to seven players and have to play the next day and figure out, 'How do I dig in when I'm really tired?'"
the bench generated just 11 and 7 points, respectively, in the past two
games. The imminent return of junior Markel Walker from injury,
however, should add that much more depth in the scoring department.
News & Notes
the subject of injuries and bench production, Swain is currently
day-to-day and questionable for Wednesday's contest against San Diego
Madeline Brooks made her collegiate debut at the 3:30 mark of the
second half in tonight's game. But to the light-hearted disappointment
of radio color analyst Tracy Murray (himself known as a shooter during
his playing days at UCLA and in the NBA) and Bruin fans, the freshman
walk-on didn't have a chance to hoist up a jumper. The blue and gold tea leaves,
though, indicate she'll have a trey notched to her name by the time
conference play begins.
The holiday seasons have arrived, but for the UCLA women's basketball team, rest is only fleeting. Coming
on the heels of their first loss of the season last week against top-ranked
Baylor, the Bruins march into Northridge on Friday, taking on West
Virginia in the opening round of the Holiday Inn Thanksgiving Basketball
Classic. But until then, some quick reflections are in order. Bruises and Lessons from TexasUCLA
may have taken a beating against Baylor, but there was some insight
gleaned in doing battle against the top-ranked team in the country. In
fact, the Bruins did a stellar job of holding their ground early in the
game, trailing 30-23 heading into halftime before Brittney Griner
and the Bears pulled away in the second half. "That
first half showed me that they were starting to believe that they could
accomplish what they needed to accomplish, together," coach Cori Close
said of her players. "In the second half, we were put against the ropes,
and we learned how important rebounding and guard play are. Everyone's
going to talk about Griner, and she gave us exactly what we thought, but
it was (sophomore guard) Odyssey Sims who dictated the rebounding and
the game, on both ends of the floor." What's at Stake in NorthridgeDon't
expect the Bruins to take these next two games in Northridge lightly.
This season marks the first time that the RPI (or Ratings Percentage
Index) formula for women's basketball is the same as the one used for
men's hoops, meaning that more weight will be given to road wins than
home wins in determining the seeding for the postseason. Suffice it
to say, the Bruins will seize whatever opportunity they can to build
upon their resume. "Here
we've got two local games that are technically road games, and if we
can get two wins in Northridge, that would be big in the RPI," Close
said. "On top of that, West Virginia is a perennial Sweet 16-level team
with dominant post play, so I see this as a great opportunity for us." On the Injury FrontSome
reinforcement may soon be on its way for the Bruins. Junior
forward Markel Walker, who had offseason thumb surgery, has made some
progress and may be making her much-welcomed season debut mid-December. As for freshman guard Alexis Perry, her recovery from a knee injury will likely have to wait a bit longer. "Alexis
is coming along really well, but we're going to take this slow," Close
said. "She has rushed back from injuries her whole life, and it has put
her at a deficit. This is about her being able to pick up her kids one
day, as well as being a great point guard at UCLA, so we just need to be
really mindful of putting her in a position to be successful." A New Bruin in the FoldAnd
finally, fans may have noticed a new face among the Bruins in recent
games. That would be freshman walk-on and sharpshooter Madeline Brooks,
who Close decided to add on after receiving high recommendations from
was initially against adding another player to our roster," Close said.
"I agreed to meet with Madeline just as a favor to my colleagues, and her
character, work ethic, and passion blew me away. It's about her heart
and her commitment to doing what is right even when there are no coaches
around, as much as it is about her being a great long-ball shooter. She has really been a great addition so far."
Starting 0-2 is nobody's idea of a good time, except maybe when 0-2 lands you in Hawaii. The UCLA men's basketball team might not be as loose as they would be at 2-0, but there's no question Coach Ben Howland will need to find a fine balance between ratcheting up the pressure to win a game and making sure his team's psyche doesn't suffer permanent damage from this year's rough start.
The good news for UCLA fans is college basketball season has barely started and the Bruins have enough talent for Howland to straighten things out before the Pac-12 schedule gets underway in late December.
The EA Sports Maui Invitational continues for the Bruins with today's game against Chaminade. It's a great chance to get things turned around and prepare them for a matchup against Kansas or Georgetown on Tuesday.
Just in case things get too hectic between tip-offs, we'll ask questions that should be answered during both games:
When will Reeves Nelson start making good decisions and be the leader he should be for the Bruins?
Howland must be practicing the mantra, "patience is a virtue," my personal favorite, with Nelson. He gives the junior forward a second chance and is rewarded by seeing Nelson miss the team bus for the airport trip to Hawaii. Go read more about it at LATimes.com, which is covering the team live from Hawaii this week. Opining is best left for Twitter, but Nelson should know Howland is giving him every chance to grow up. Not every boss is so tolerant.
Will Howland have UCLA play a zone defense?
He alluded to it in the postgame media conference after the loss to Middle Tennessee State. "We probably should have changed it up and gone to zone," Howland said. "It's something we'll have to think about." Of course, he then went on to talk about how to handle ball screens but with 6-foot-10 David and Travis Wear and 6-11 Joshua Smith, a 2-3 zone could cover a lot of ground. Of course, zone defenses are usually beat two ways - strong dribble penetration and perimeter shooting - both major issues for the Bruins during the first two losses.
Is a big-name opponent going to force the Bruins to take notice their season has started?
OK, Chaminade isn't a big name - but the game on Tuesday will be against another elite program. Is that sort of challenge the spark this team needs to figure things out? Clearly, winning back-to-back games in Hawaii with a win over one of those two teams would turn this season right back around.
Quarterback Kevin Prince, tight end Joseph Fauria and cornerback Andrew Abbott have been honored by the College Football Performance Awards after helping the Bruins defeat Colorado 45-6 in the final home game of the season this past Saturday (Nov. 12).
Prince threw four touchdowns with zero interceptions. He was 15-19 for 225 yards, while also rushing for 84 yards on 10 carries.
Fauria caught two of Prince's touchdown passes and tallied five catches for 49 yards.
Abbott snagged two interceptions during the game and had the second-highest tackle total for the Bruins in the game with five.
College Football Performance Awards
UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland clearly believes in second chances after reinstating junior forward Reeves Nelson to the team after he was suspended for poor conduct and missed Tuesday night's 86-66 loss to Middle Tennessee State.
"I acknowledge there are corrections that need to be made and I'm grateful to Coach Howland to have this opportunity to improve and work on being a positive for our team," Nelson said. "I appreciate the support of my teammates and will be there for them as we move forward."
While Nelson works himself back onto the team, let's take a quick look back at Tuesday night's loss and see what answers we got from the game.
LOWDOWN LOOK BACK
We wanted the following questions answers before the game:
Can Joshua Smith dominate against another big body?
*He sure can on the offensive end, where he collected all nine of his rebounds. But until UCLA figures out all of its defensive issues, we won't know the complete answer.
How much will Jerime Anderson's return help UCLA with its perimeter defense?
*Not at all on Tuesday night. After the Blue Raiders made 10 of its 11 3-pointers, UCLA opponents have now made 20 of 26 shots behind the arc.
Who will emerge as a rebounding force during Reeves Nelson's absence?
*Middle Tennessee State shot so well on Tuesday night, there weren't many rebounds to grab on the defensive end. Nobody besides Smith stood out on the glass, which means the Bruins are still looking for another presence on the glass to join their sophomore center and Nelson.
A quick YouTube search might just reveal the core essence of one Brittney Griner: a swagger parlayed in her national-spotlight interviews; hands seemingly designed for swatting shots (she has 11 blocks in just two games this season); a ridiculous frame imposing even for the untrained eye when opposing players stand beside her. And who could forget the aggression chronicled in Griner's fist-flying altercation with Texas Tech's Jordan Barncastle two seasons ago? Like it or not, this is the 6-foot-8 slice of pie the UCLA women's basketball team faces in its WNIT semifinal matchup against top-ranked Baylor on Thursday. They may have made some inroads in their win over Tennessee Tech on Sunday, but can these Bruins successfully enact David versus Goliath? Three key dynamics will likely determine UCLA's fate in Texas: Battle of the BigsIt's no secret that the Bruins - without the services of forwards Jasmine Dixon and Markel Walker because of injuries - will have quite the load to handle with Griner manning the post. Be that as it may, the strategy is simple. "Our goal is to stay behind her," sophomore forward Rhema Gardner said. "We'll play her straight up and push her out to try and turn her into a jump shooter." UCLA will also need its own share of output from the post in order to jump-start the offense. In other words, redshirt junior forward Atonye Nyingifa will be looked upon to continue to crash the boards and put up points as the team's makeshift center. "Atonye has to be a double-double player for us," coach Cori Close said. "It may not be her post-ups; it may be picking and popping, but she'll have to find ways in her game to create those opportunities." The Other Bear While Griner may garner the national attention, Baylor still wields a potent backcourt weapon in sophomore guard Odyssey Sims. Last season's Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Sims has built a reputation as both a slasher and a shooter (she shot at a.453 clip from beyond the arc in 2010-2011), and it will be imperative for the Bruins to limit the Baylor guard's presence on the court. "With Baylor, the ball starts in Odyssey Sims' hands," Close said. "We have to keep her in front of us and, at the same time, get close enough to disrupt her vision so that she isn't throwing pinpoint passes." The VenueThursday's game marks UCLA's first road game of the year, and while it's certainly one way to break in the road jerseys, how the Bruins compose themselves in a hostile environment figures to matter a great deal. After all, only three of the eight players (Nyingifa, senior guard Rebekah Gardner, and junior guard Mariah Williams) who have been out on the court so far saw significant playing time in seasons past. "More than anything in the game plan, it's the mental state going into a game like this," Close said. "We need to go in there with a sense of freedom and the desire to compete. No pressure is on us." Ask Rhema Gardner, and it's a point well taken. "We're definitely not afraid," she said. "We're more excited than anything."
Middle Tennessee State made an summer afternoon in Death Valley look frigid in its 86-66 EA Sports Maui Invitational opening round victory over UCLA men's basketball on Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
The Blue Raiders improved to 3-0 after shooting a sizzling 71.4 percent from the field. MTSU made 35-of-49 field goals and flirted with the NCAA record book before missing out despite making an impressive 10 of 11 3-pointers. UCLA doesn't track defensive field goal percentage but if it did, it's hard to imagine they've surrendered worse under Coach Ben Howland, who called the score embarrassing.
"I've never had a team allow a team to shoot 71 percent," Howland said. "We broke down a lot of times, leaving open shooters."
It was a tough night for the Bruins, who fell to 0-2, despite a solid performance from center Joshua Smith, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. UCLA trailed for the final 38 minutes of the game and failed on the defensive end.
"It doesn't matter what defense we play," Smith said. "It's going to take the effort of all five guys. We need five people out there playing defense for 35 seconds at a time. We're still working on that."
MTSU had five players score in double figures, and center LaRon Dendy led the way with 16 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
While UCLA couldn't pick up a stop, they also struggled to make a shot. The Bruins shot 37 percent and made 4 of 20 3-pointers. Guards Lazeric Jones, De'End Parker and Jerime Anderson combined to make just 7 of 23 shots, but Howland credited Norman Powell, who finished with nine points on 4 of 7 shooting, with a strong second half performance.
"He's shown he deserves to play minutes," Howland said of Powell. "He's been a bright spot in both games combined."
Twins David and Travis Wear continued to look inconsistent and rusty as they work their way back into playing shape after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Travis finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three steals, while David had just six points and two rebounds in 32 minutes.
Howland also said he met with suspended forward Reeves Nelson and his parents on a conference call and is scheduled to speak to him 1-on-1 to determine the mercurial junior's future with the team.
Anderson, who finished with nine points, including a 4-point play, and six assists, said the poor start puts a damper on their upcoming trip to Hawaii.
"We're excited to go out there, but it's all business for us," he said. "We've got to go out there to play games and win games, not hang out on the beach and see pretty girls."
This UCLA season didn't wait long to go into hyperdrive.
Between the stunning loss to Loyola Marymount last Friday and Monday's
suspension of junior forward Reeves Nelson, there's no question the Bruins will
need to put all of it aside against Middle Tennessee State in tonight's 8 p.m. EA
Sports Maui Invitational opening round game at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Nelson's suspension means the Bruins will go without their
top returning scorer and rebounder against the Blue Raiders, who won at LMU on
Sunday. UCLA head coach Ben Howland said UCLA played poorly in the loss and called the suspension
of Nelson, "a very disappointing situation for Reeves and our basketball
If not for Nelson's suspension, there might have been more
hubbub about Joshua Smith admitting
and apologizing for an immature tweet after losing to LMU. He deleted the
tweet, which read "Just lost to some straight bums lol" according to the Los
Now UCLA must put it all behind and focus all its attention
to a Blue Raiders team that Howland told reporters looks quite advanced with an
experienced lineup that starts four juniors and senior center LaRon Dendy, who transferred
from Iowa State.
"We'll have to have a great effort," Howland said in his Monday press conference. "They're
very experienced, well-coached and extremely athletic. They're impressive
watching them on film."
THE LOWDOWNIt will probably be a long road to return to the national rankings after dropping out this week but UCLA can get it started right away with a win tonight.
Three things we want answered:
Can Joshua Smith dominate against another big body?
* Dendy is 6-foot-10, 235-pounds and is averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds in the Blue Raiders first two games. Smith struggled in the opener against LMU.
How much will Jerime Anderson's return help UCLA with its perimeter defense?
* LMU made 10-of-15 3-pointers against UCLA, so it's vital the Bruins do a better job preventing Middle Tennessee State from getting open looks from behind the arc.
Who will emerge as a rebounding force during Reeves Nelson's absence?
* If Nelson is out for an extended period of time, UCLA will need several players to improve their rebounding after finishing with just one rebound more than a significantly shorter LMU team.
On the Blue Raiders: Middle Tennessee State is 2-0 with wins over Austin Peay and LMU, which it toppled 58-51, on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. Dendy is joined by Marcos Knight in averaging 15 points and 7.5 rebounds in their first two games this season. JT Sutton, a 6-8, 230-pound forward is another strong rebounding presence. The Blue Raiders play in the Sun Belt Conference.
When Cori Close made her prodigal return to Westwood as the head coach of the UCLA women's basketball team in April, she came with a reputation as a basketball mind specializing in offense. But on Sunday, she put to display a defensive bag of X's and O's, her Bruins playing with an air-tight defensive fervor that had their coach glowing after UCLA's 74-52 victory against Tennessee Tech at Collins Court. "I was very pleased with our defense today," Close said. "We were able to get out and run and put the defense in situations where it couldn't rotate, but that came with our physical play on the boards; we boxed out and controlled possessions. We're really causing teams to get out of rhythm by switching on every matchup." While redshirt junior forward Atonye Nyingifa had yet another stalwart game, posting her second double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds, it was sophomore guard Thea Lemberger who set the tone early for the Bruins. Within the opening two minutes of the game alone, Lemberger scored her first basket on a fastbreak layup, drew a charge, and hit a three-pointer for good measure to spark a 6-0 run. She ended the day with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting, 4 assists, and a steal."For me, it's just about getting more comfortable with the new role I have this year, adapting, and being confident. I definitely expect more performances like this for myself," Lemberger said. The second-year Bruin out of Santa Monica High also did her part in slowing down the Golden Eagles' most dynamic player in quick-footed senior guard Tacarra Hayes. Lemberger and starting backcourt mate Mariah Williams teamed up to limit Hayes to 13 points on just 6-of-16 shooting. "Our team did a good job of following the scouting report on Hayes," Lemberger said. "She made some tough shots, but we made the defensive adjustments and contained her pretty well." Two other Bruins who impacted today's game: sophomore center Corinne Costa and senior guard Rebekah Gardner. While Costa didn't have much to show for in the box score (two points, one rebound, one block, and five fouls), she certainly made her presence felt in the lane, altering numerous shots and fighting for position against Tennessee Tech's 6-foot-5 senior center Brittany Darling. "Corinne came in and did one heck of a job," Nyingifa said. "It was really physical out there, but she came in with a positive attitude, ready to play defense and get boards. I'm really proud of her for just taking it and giving the team her all." As for Gardner, she may have started off slow, but she picked up the pace in the second half, snaring rebounds left and right and draining mid-range jumpers off of isolation plays. Gardner wound up notching her first career double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds to go along with three steals. "Every time you go to the free-throw line, that helps with the rhythm," said Gardner, who knocked down 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. "But I also came out with a more aggressive mindset, and that helped carry me through the entire game." Next up for the Bruins? A date with first-team All-American Brittney Griner and top-ranked Baylor in the semifinals of the WNIT in Waco, Texas. "I like the challenge," Nyingifa said. "We're going on the road for the first time, but we're pumped and ready to accept this challenge and take it head-on."