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UCLA Beats Up Pepperdine 71-52, Takes Another Step Forward

So the Ben Ball warriors did exactly what they needed to get done tonight against Pepperdine Waves. Coming into this game they need to play a game in which they got off to a decent start in the first half, played solid defense for the entire game, hit their FTs, and be selective with their shots in a classic Ben Ball game. Well they did just that against an inspired Wave bunch (who must have been reading press thinking our guys are vulnerable) by putting together their most improved performance of the season to date.

Bruins win by a final score of 71-52. Here is the box score. The player of the game tonight was MR, who had his best game as a senior with 17 pts, 5 assists, 2 rebounts, 1 block and 1 steal. Hopefully this is just the beginning for MR in what was his most fluid performance of the season. In addition to MR, Coach Howland got another solid effort from DG who led all scorers with 18 points, 9 boards and 3 blocks. I wrote in the comment thread how DG has been bringing it with his sheer tenacity and hustle every game (emerging as early candidate to claim himself to be the heart and soul of the team). ML also looked good today as he contributed with 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and an assist.

The Bruins throttled Pepperdine to 19 of 46 shooting (41.3%) giving us glimpses of the Ben Ball warriors we have seen in previous years. Our on ball defense looked a little better and our rotation has certainly improved from our previous outings. We also shot better making 54.3% of our shots (25 of 46) as we did a decent job of with our shot selection and also benefitd from some great interior passing (MR gets a lot of credit for that). Oh and we were solid from the FT line today making 13 out of our 15 freebies. So can't really complain there. Of course as always, we have to keep this performance in perspective. More on that after the jump.

We after all just beat Pepperdine who haven't done much this season that's worth noting. We will have a better idea of our team when they take on Portland Pilots, a team that has started the season 3-0 which includes a victory over Oregon Ducks. We will have to wait to get updates on JA who went out with cramps and wasn't able to return in the game. Replacing JA, Abdul Hamid did all right, scoring 10 points (4 of 6 shooting including 2-4 from the 3), 3 assists and 2 TOs. However, I don't think he is the long term answer when we take on tougher competition. I really hope Coach Howland thinks about using more of MM, who I thought looked comfortable out there, even though he is still a raw freshman.

Bruins also have to do a better job of rebounding. The final stat sheet showed a tie in the rebounding department (26 a piece). I don't think that's good enough given the size we have in our front court. We also need to cut down on sloppy possessions. JK had two really bad possessions on back to back occasions turning the ball over with lazy passing. We can't afford that kind of plays from our senior starter. As a team though we turned the ball over 11 times, which wasn't too shabby.

Still I would consider tonight's game a positive step forward. It will give our guys something more to build on after getting encouraging results against Bakersfield the game before. Now if we can get JA fully healthy and come back out on Thursday and show the same hustle and intensity on both ends of the court to get us another victory, we will be in decent shape given where we were at to star the season. This is all part of the growing process with this young team. Lot of us are enjoying it because we knew it was going to be a long journey. If you don't want to be on our trip right now, don't try to jump back on the bandwagon when the engine starts clicking on all cylinders.

With that ... I will turn this court back to you. Fire away.