Howland’s ragging wags the lagging, but Aggie-tagging shouldn’t green-flag bragging
The swagger is just partially back, as Jerime Anderson puts it.
UCLA finally broke through, snapping a 5-game losing streak with a dominating 100-68 victory over the New Mexico State Aggies. With Ben Howland barking orders on almost every possession and Nikola Dragovic breaking out of his personal slump, the Bruins were a completely different team, and were able to quickly dismantle the overwhelmed Aggies, who trailed 47-26 at the Half. Several Bruins besides Drago had their best games of the year, with Jerime Anderson having his best game EVER in a Bruin uniform (an opinion echoed by Ben Howland after the game).
Malcolm Lee led all scorers with a career-high 20 Points, and he also tied for the Bruins’ high in Rebounds, with 8. Lee added 3 Assists and 3 Steals, but where he really excelled was in transition, and in breaking down the defense with drives to the hoop. Also impressively, Lee began the game by making 4 straight Free Throws. Lee also made an early outside jumper, but it UNINTENTIONALLY banked in, and he also had another early airball. After Lee’s nice game of dribble penetration, Bruin fans are probably hoping that when Lee gets the ball outside, his PRIMARY goal is to drive, not to jack up a j.
Lee’s Backcourt mate Jerime Anderson may have finally found redemption. Not only did Jerime hit two straight (and consecutive) three-pointers, he also drove to the hoop effectively, repeatedly finishing by dishing to an open teammate or by putting the ball in the hoop himself. Anderson, in just 21 minutes, scored 13, and distributed 7 Assists in a row after a Turnover on the game’s first possession (where JA made a decent pass, but it was not caught by the open James Keefe, who was already looking for the Rebound). As TV Announcer Don McLean pointed out, Jerime now drives into the paint with a PLAN — Now he knows what he’s going to do with the ball when he gets in there.
Nikola Dragovic started off his night with a quick shot, showing courage. He missed it, and another one, but came back to hit a short hook, and then he seemed to relax. He made two more shots, ending up with 9 points in just 22 minutes. He also nabbed 4 Rebounds, and 2 Steals, which should temporarily quiet some of his detractors, who claim that he shows zero effort on Defense or on the Boards. Drago showed lots of effort on Tuesday night (actually diving for a loose ball 75 seconds into the game), as did his teammates, like Mike Roll, who went 5-for-9 from the floor, scoring 14, with 3 Assists and 0 Turnovers.
Keefe started at Center, due to his superior Defensive performance compared to Reeves Nelson. In the first few minutes, Keefe totally validated Howland’s unexpected decision to start him, by blocking two shots in a row, as the Bruin Defense didn’t allow anything inside. The Aggies scored only 6 points for the first 5 minutes, and they all came on long three-pointers by Jahmar Young (Nickname “JY,” who, if he had kept sailing away, would have inspired a “JY Styx it to Bruins” headline).
Of course, Keefe’s terrific efforts were rewarded… with an ugly injury. Keefe’s surgically-repaired shoulder popped out of its socket, and you could see the bone pushing up awkwardly against his skin, in an abnormal — and painful-looking — position. The trainers popped it back in, but Keefe did not return to the game, and might or might not miss some action.
Luckily, Nelson came in and did a fine job (against the unchallenging Aggies). Nelson was active, scoring 16, and getting 8 Rebounds, 2 Blocks, and 2 Steals At one point, an elbow opened his eye cut, forcing the trainer to do some quick corner work to get him back in the game. He is now thinking about using make-up after his shiner disappears, to paint it back on as his “mark.” It DOES properly symbolize his tough, scrappy approach to the game. However, it is a dangerous precedent. What if Jerime Anderson’s Hellacious performance makes him want to wear Gene Simmons’ KISS Demon make-up against Notre Dame this Saturday in South Bend? One sequence encapsulated the Nelson Experience: He blocked two shots in a row, then on Offense, sliced down the key to receive a pass, and sank a little hook while getting fouled.
Tyler Honeycutt also Rock and Rolled all Night off the bench, with 14 points, as did Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, who netted 8 points, including a sweet outside jumper, and a beautiful driving lay-up in the final minute, against tight defense, that gave the Bruins 100 points. According to UCLA’s website and the L.A. Times, that’s the first time a Howland-coached Bruin team has hit the century mark, but don’t believe everything you read on the Internet — The Bruins scored 113 against Wyoming last season. Regardless, Abdul-Hamid probably earned himself a little playing time at Point Guard, despite Anderson’s breakout performance.
Yeah, I said “breakout.” AT LEAST AGAINST WEAKER COMPETITION, Anderson can certainly get this team going. By forcing the Aggies into 20 Turnovers, Anderson and the Bruins were able to generate a transition game that — according to the Bruins themselves — SUITS their abilities better than the halfcourt game does.
The Bruins who DIDN’T bust out on Tuesday night were Bobo Morgan, Brendan Lane, and Mike Moser. Despite the lack of opposition, Bobo failed to find his comfort zone (except for one nice putback of a JA airball), and Lane still struggled to display his abilities. Moser got in after everyone else, and might have been pressing, missing both of his two shots, both of his two Free Throws, and committing two Turnovers with no Assists. Moser might have lost his chance at getting playing time in South Bend.
One thing that you WILL see on Saturday: Ben Howland’s hands-on approach. Because of UCLA’s 5-game losing streak and New Mexico State’s poor performance this season — which prompted them to be an 8-point Underdog to the recently-floundering Bruins — Pauley was fairly empty and cavernous on Tuesday night. The lack of noise allowed TV viewers to hear everything that Howland was barking at his troops throughout the game. And the chatter was very eye-opening.
The most important thing for Defense-minded Ben was his Bruins getting back on Defnese, in transition. After many Aggie Rebounds and Bruin Turnovers, and even after some Bruin makes, I think, Ben was screaming “Get Back! Get Back!” to all his players. In fact, he would even single them out by first name, as he commanded them to run back down the court and play D. One time, he was mad because a player (Drago, I think) was trying to knock the ball away from an Aggie who had just gained possession, instead of just getting back on Defense.
Another KEY to Howland’s strategy was PATIENCE. Howland kept preaching it to the Bruins when they had the ball, exhorting them to keep running or resetting their Offense instead of settling for low-percentage jumpers. This patience led to an un-bruinlike 56% shooting from the floor for UCLA.
When I use terms like nagging, ragging, barking, and screaming to describe Ben’s exhortations, I mean it with respect, not derogatorily. The Bruins are not the Lakers, so a Phil Jackson ZEN approach would not work here.
And speaking of World Champions and transcendent Peace of Mind, here are 14 more UCLA Spirit photos from the ASU Football game (the most-recent Bruin home Football game). And a note for newbies (and a reminder for stoners): If you “mouse over” the photos, you should see a pop-up caption, and if you click on the photos, the photos enlarge.
But first, one final comment: I know that this comment may offend some people, but the WORST part of watching the TV Replay of this game was being forced to listen to that awful screaming when the Aggies attempted Free Throws. That screeching belongs to (I think) UCLA’s mentally-defective superfan, who for some reason is allowed to roam the baselines, bringing shame to our very fine institution with his antics. Yes, he means well, and no, he doesn’t know any better, but does UCLA REALLY have to be known as the school with the “retarded” Cheerleader whose nails-on-a-chalkboard heckling causes opponents to brick crucial Free Throws? It even provoked retalliation while the Bruins went to the Charity Stripe. The Bruins already suck at the line — they don’t need hecklers at Pauley.
Coincidentally, just last week, North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams had Security at his home arena check into a fan who was heckling a Tar Heel Free Throw Shooter, from right behind the Carolina bench. He wanted to know which Season Ticket holder sold their seats to an obnoxious enemy fan. Security actually REMOVED the fan from the Arena, claiming intoxication, despite video evidence to the contrary. If only I could get Howland to remove one heckler from Pauley. [Sorry again, to the regular reader whose kid is mentally disabled — I don’t mean to insult your kid, or an entire segment of the poulation. I just want someone to get this guy to cheer/heckle/scream at an appropriate level, and not quite as intensely when the Bruins are already up by 30 against a non-trojan opponent.]
Okay. Sorry. I now return you to my regular programming…
No Real Bruin would put a Red Hanukkah candle next to a Gold one
Forget “Pork at Half Price” — The dilemma for BRUIN Jews is: What do you do when all you have left in the box is red and gold Haukkah candles?
Jewish Bruins who are ORTHODOX when it comes to hating usc have already prepared in advance, getting TWO boxes of candles, and throwing out all the red ones, or at least carefully planning it night by night, always placing a blue, wax “burning buffer” between any red candle and any gold candle (especially since throwing the reds away isn’t too THRIFTY). But if you aren’t Orthodox, but Conservative or Reformed, and you are down to just red and gold, the only answer is just to do one night all red, and one night all gold — Just don’t even THINK of mixing the two — That would be sacrilegious.
Happy Hanukkah to all my non-trojan Jewish friends. And remember that the lights burned for EIGHT days, just like The Rivalry’s longest streak lasted EIGHT years, when the Bruins dominated the trojans in the 90’s.