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Signs Of Improvement? Howland's Bruins Power Past Bakersfield For First Victory Of 2009-10

Let's start this by offering the thoughts and prayers of the Bruin Nation for former UCLA head coach Jim Harrick. Mrs. Sally Harrick (who I will always remember smiling away in Seattle) passed away today (per Billy Mac during the second half of tonight's broadcast). Again all of our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Harrick and his family tonight.

Now to the game. Bruins start the weekend on a great note by posting a classic Ben Ball like 75-64 win over Cal State Bakersfield. Bruins were up by as much as 17 late in the second half after having to make a furious (identity developing?) rally late in the first half to tie up the score at 35.  Here is the box score. DG was the most valuable player of tonight's game (which I gather at least by the score was a definite improvement from Monday night) scoring 19 points (shooting 8 for 10), hauling in 6 rebounds and 3 blocks (which included a sick swipe of a dunk attempt). DG did have one of his classic "DG like moment" when he tried to hot dog a little too much by trying a behind back nonsense during a fast break.

There were few encouraging signs from tonight's game. Our ball movement looked servicebale after the apparent disaster against Cal State Fullerton. Especially starting towards the end of the first half we started moving the ball around, attacking the bucket, pounding it inside to go for easier shots. It almost looked like we developed somewhat of an indentity successfully taking advantage of the height and athlectism in our frontcourt. After taking 84 shots in our last game, tonight we made 32 out of 54 shots which included layups and dunks inside. More quick fire observations after the jump.

While DG was the MVP of tonight's game, RN I think stole the hearts and minds of Bruin Nation. The kid is showing all the signs of protype Ben Ball warrior. I know everyone wants to throw around the Jon Brockman comparison (and I keep thinking of Mark Madsen). But the way he is playing, he is showing the same motor and relentlessness we saw during the freshman season of a certain Prince from Cameroon.

Also, on the frontcourt I though JK had a solid game filling up the box score with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks. He can get better but I thought he played the role of calming senior when team fell down early and helped bring a flow to our offense. In addition to JK, BL got his first significant mins as a freshman and also made meaninful contributions by playing solid mins on defense and not looking tentetive on the offensive side.

Now, let's not get carried away. Despite the improvement, Bruins still have issues. Our sophomores in the back court had another less than average night. JA scored 10 points but turned the ball over 4 times (looking very shaky) and record just 1 assist. ML wasn't all that hot either scoring 10 points, connecting in 3 of his 7 attempts. ML and JA went 4 from 9 at the FT line which is not going to get it done. These guys really need to work on their shooting and JA needs to develop more confidence in his ability to run the offense.

Speaking of issues, I am sure many have heard by now that ND was suspended for tonight's game after an arrest. From AP wire:

A statement distributed by a team spokesman just before tip-off said Dragovic was arrested earlier in the day and charged with felony assault by the Los Angeles district attorney's office.

The school said the 21-year-old senior from Belgrade, Serbia, was involved in an incident last month at a concert in Hollywood. Dragovic filed a report with campus police the following week.

After an investigation, the district attorney's office filed the felony charge against Dragovic, who found out about it Friday and turned himself into university and Los Angeles police. Dragovic was booked and released from the Hollywood station on $30,000 bail late Friday, Los Angeles police officer Julie Boyer said.

Coach Ben Howland said in the statement that Dragovic told him about the incident when it happened, but no one knew charges would be filed.

The school said Dragovic's status for future games will be decided as more information becomes available.

Let's hope ND gets his legal issues all worked out first. However, I wonder whether he is really focused on school and on Ben Ball in Westwood. Because if he is not it might better from him to take some time off and get his life back together. If he is not ready to go all in with Coach Howland's program, it was pretty clear tonight that there are many others who are chomping at the bit to step up. I am sure Coach Howland and his staff will do what necessary to help Dragovic navigate through the legal issues and make sure he is accountable depending on what the facts are. In the meantime, given what we saw today I hope Howland keeps going with the guys who are showing an all out commitment to Ben Ball.

Now we know that we can't get carried away by one win considering we were tied at 35-35 with freaking Cal State Bakersfield. That is not something to get giddy about. However, the goal at this point of the season is improving from game to game. From what we saw towards the later part of first half and the entire second half, it looks like the Ben Ball warriors have something positive to build on for the next game. That is encouraging. Let's hope they can keep it going in their next game against Pepperdine in three days (Nov. 23).

With that I will leave up to you to fire up quick takes, impressions in our post game thread. If you have extensive analysis to offer put them up in fanposts. On to football.