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UCLA Basketball Wins a Big One for Coach

It feels good to be a Bruin today.  A win against a top 25 team for the first time in a while (08-09 season).  A total team effort and while maybe not 40 minutes more than 30 minutes of great effort.  Some of the trademark Ben Ball Defense but also some of the quicker offense promised.  But maybe the best part  was to win the Wooden Classic:

Howland admitted after the game that he had asked the team to practice with Coach Wooden in mind. UCLA played one of their worst games of the year against at last year’s Classic with the legendary coach in his box.

"I was really looking forward to meeting him," Smith said.
Wooden didn’t get to see UCLA’s performance this time around. And he never got to meet Smith. But Howland seemed sure that Wooden would have been pleased.

"We played for Coach today," Howland said. "We wanted him to be proud of our team."

The numbers are what UCLA needed to do.  Our front line had 55 points and 20 rebounds.  UCLA forced BYU into 19 turnovers and only 5 assists.   And what I hope will become a trend, the opposing team coach praised our size and inside presence as something unique and unstoppable.

"Give a lot of credit to UCLA," [BYU Coach] Rose said. "They were physical, strong, played well and shot the ball well. We really didn't have an answer for their size ... I thought defensively they did a really good job of making it hard for our half court options, for the sets that we run. Most of the baskets we scored tonight the guys had to make plays ... that's probably as physical as we've been guarded with size all year." . . .

Briefly, BYU's switch to a zone confused UCLA and the Cougars cut the lead to 33-30 on Brock Zylstra's 2-and-1. The Bruins, however, figured things out quickly and stretched the margin back out 39-30 on back-to-back threes by Lazeric Jones and Malcom Lee.  . . .

"They just didn't allow us to do what we like to do offensively," Rose said of the Bruins' defense. . . .

"UCLA had an answer for every run we made," Rose said.

The front line was led by Nelson in points which included the primal scream dunk that wrapped up the game.  Tyler Honeycutt missed a couple chippies but was solid including hitting some important threes but it was Josh Smith who stole the show.  Josh's ability to play with four fouls and draw the fourth foul on BYU star Jimmer Fredette was key. 

"I remember my last game I had four fouls, and I had a good talk with my dad," Smith said. "He said, 'It looks like you're not having fun out there.' Basically, he said just keep your head in and keep playing. You have five fouls. Don't get down.

"I knew he (Fredette) was going to drive, and I knew he was going to leave his feet. And I just said I'm going to take the charge. If I'm late, I'm late. But if I'm not, we're good." . . .

"He's as difficult a matchup as we've probably had here in the six seasons I've been a head coach," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "He's big, he's strong, he can catch it, he gets really deep catches at the rim. And when he shoots it, he's so big and he takes up so much space he can just grab it again.

"I'm glad we don't play them again because we don't have a game plan for him. Probably if we did we'd do some things different, but I don't know what that would be."

While the freshman was the key, so was some old style CBH defense by the captian Malcolm Lee.  Yes, Jimmer had 25 points but he also had 7 TOs to only one assist:

"The two numbers that probably stand out the most are our turnovers and our assists," BYU coach Dave Rose said.

"That's the difference in the game."

Perhaps no Bruin worked harder on the defensive end than guard Malcolm Lee, who was assigned to guard Cougars All-America guard Jimmer Fredette. [...]

"Malcolm's defense was really, really key on Fredette," Howland said. "He still got his average but he had to work for every point."

CBH again showed why you never want to play UCLA basketball when they have time to prepare.  But this time CBH gambled big during the game and it paid off not just for this game but for the season in the all important RPI.  UCLA played a substantial portion of the game with three players with four fouls and finished with four players with four fouls on the court:

A little over 10 minutes remained in the game. Three Bruins had four fouls each and were perilously close to fouling out: sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt, junior guard Lazeric Jones and freshman center Joshua Smith. . . .

Maybe it was the lack of depth that the Bruins are faced with, down to only nine scholarship players. Maybe it was the fact that Smith was terrorizing the Cougars in the paint. Whatever the reason, Howland felt the need to gamble, and it paid off; BYU didn’t get any closer to tying the game, and the three Bruins all avoided picking up their fifth.

The Bruins came in at No. 183 in the country in the statistic that the NCAA Selection Committee considers when choosing teams, while the Cougars were No. 5.

"That’s why this win is satisfying," Howland said. "We beat a team that’s definitely going to be in the NCAA Tournament, that’s going to be a high seed, that’s going to win a lot of games."

That was big but maybe Reeves Nelson put it best with his thundering closing dunk and yell, it was all for Wooden.

It was a big deal," said forward Reeves Nelson after he contributed a career-high 23 points to the UCLA victory. "Last year we didn't play very well (a lopsided loss to Mississippi State) in the game that was named after him. So everything leading up to this was dedicated to Coach."

The point seemed to be made, ultimately and finally, when Nelson threw down a highlight-reel dunk with a minute left over BYU's best post player, Brandon Davies. It put UCLA up by seven, set off a Ducks-score-a-goal roar in the building, and allowed Nelson and his teammates a rare chance to slap their chests and vogue. [...]

"This is an important event for us," said Howland. "The players did an unbelievable job." [...]

"It shows that when we're at our best, we can beat anyone," said Nelson.

Go Bruins!