UCLA Crushes Carleton

A short-handed UCLA squad coasts to an easy 78-51 win over Carleton in the exhibition opener, behind Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison and Ryan Hollins. Michael Miller takes a look at the debut of the 05-06 Bruins.

The Bruins easily defeated the Carleton Ravens in their exhibition opener. At one point, their lead was 31 points before Coach Ben Howland emptied the bench and inserted the walk-ons.

If there was one thing I got right from my preview, it was that UCLA would win the game with its defense, and that's exactly what happened. UCLA's starting lineup of Darren Collison, Arron Aflalo, Cedric Bozeman, Luc Mbah A Moute and Ryan Hollins played a stifling, in-your-face man defense that completely shackled the Canadian team. In Carleton's defense, they had played ASU just the other night and were missing one of their top three scorers, making them look sluggish and flat-footed for most of the game, but the Bruin defense definitely played a factor in that.

UCLA jumped out to leads of 13-2 and 21-5, and the game was over from that point on except for the playing. Playing with three starters who could defend, rebound, handle the ball and take it to the paint (Aflalo, Bozeman and Mbah A Moute) and a super-quick not-yet-quite-true point guard who can defend, shoot and pass (Darren Collison), the Bruins were able to push the ball up the floor quickly off numerous rebounds and forced turnovers, and they were able to put pressure on a Carleton defense which often had 4 players in the lane even when the Bruins had 3 players on the perimeter. The Bruins were able to run their offense seeming at will, despite the collapsing Carleton D, although its true that the Bruins also turned the ball over 18 times, with many of those turnovers coming either from the Bruin big men trying to operate against multiple defenders inside or by the Bruin guards trying to force the pass inside to the Bruin big men past multiple defenders. A lot of that will change when Jordan Farmar is back.

Of course, it will be interesting to see if Farmar can play defense as well as Collison. Although the Bruin big men combined for 20 points last night, this was against a team with a 6-6 center and 6-7 small forward playing a post position. My point is, the Bruins are going to look for their points from a variety of sources, some unconventional, and a stifling defense will be a major contributing factor to the Bruins' success or failure this season. Farmar was a weak defender last year. He needs to be much improved this year. I can see some games where Collison and Farmar will be on the court at the same time this season.

Not that Collison was perfect. The 6-0 guard scored 13 points and had 5 assists and with Bozeman and Aflalo played terrific defense against All-Canada guard Osvoldo Jeanty (7 points on 2-7 shooting), but he also turned the ball over 3 times, all of them forced passes either on the break or into the middle of the lane. But he showed a terrific mix of skills and was for my money the player of the game. A nice debut.

Aflalo looked rusty and his shot didn't look much different from last year, but he played a solid game, was very strong on defense and on the boards and finished with 12 points and 6 rebounds. The Bruins don't need to get 10 rebounds per game from their centers this season; a lot of the rebounds will come from other sources, like Arron.

Cedric Bozeman ran the floor well and looked reasonably healthy, perhaps still lacking that explosiveness to the basket he was displaying before his injury. He's now playing with smaller braces on his knees and seemed to move with agility, especially on defense and running the break. He played great d, was a real factor on the boards (8 rebounds) and ably backed up Collison at the point. He also didn't make a turnover in 22 minutes of action. But Ced didn't try an outside shot all game. That will have to change.

Luc Mbah A Moute was impressive in his first game. He's clearly a superior athlete with speed, agility, strength and jumping ability. He can handle it and passes the ball with skill. He actually hit 2 3s in this game; whether he can do it again remains to be seen. He did not look comfortable with his short jumper, and he was positively ShaQ-like on his free throws, missing all 4 of them and not really getting close on any of them. I believe that the Bruins can expect 12-14 rebounds per game from Mbah A Moute and Aboya once those two are up and playing tandem. Luc had 8 rebounds and 8 points in this game.

Ryan Hollins had a mixed game, although he led the Bruins with 14 points. He made some strong moves down low and drew fouls by taking it to the basket hard. But remember, he was often matched up against players giving away 6 inches in height. He only managed 4 rebounds against this team of shrimps, and he turned the ball over 3 times, making some clumsy errors while trying to operate in the post. He was very solid on defense, however, despite being mismatched against that 6-7 small forward for most of the game. Ryan must continue to be aggressive inside on offense and become more assertive on the glass at both ends if he wants to keep his job when Mike Fey returns (if he ever returns).

Off the bench, the Bruins got solid play from Mike Roll and Lorenzo Mata. Mike came into the game with a free pass to jack it up whenever he was open and he obliged, hitting 4-11 shots, including 2-4 from 3, as he scored 10 points. The kid can obviously shoot the ball and he has great size for a guard. He knows how to get himself open. He'll really benefit when Jordan comes back. UCLA's offense relies on a lot of screens just off the primary ball handler and a lot of weak side screens in the post away from the ball. Roll seems like he has the ball knowledge to take advantage of that system and free himself up for some jumpers. Despite the Bruins' great depth at guard, he'll see some minutes.

Mata came into the game billed as the Bruins' best rebounder in practice, but he didn't show it here. He got 4 rebounds in 20 minutes against the little Canadians, and seemed to have trouble reacting to the ball because he was following all of those little Canadians around on defense. Lorenzo did show good hands and solid moves inside at the other end and scored 3 good baskets inside. There's enough there to hope he will develop into a solid backup center if Fey doesn't come back strong this year.

By the time the Bruins were up by 31 points late in the second half, Howland decided to let the walk-ons play and new crowd favorite Kelvin Kim scored on a driving lay up against a set defense and little Nican Robinson stroked a 3.

The Carleton Ravens were led by Stuart Turnbull, a strong outside shooter, who finished with 15 points, while star Aaron Doornekamp was held to 10 points on 3-11 shooting and, as mentioned above, their other star Osvoldo Jeanty was help to 7 shots and only made 2 of them as he finished with 7 points. Carleton looked confused, slow and tired. Not much of a showing for a team which was 28-0 last year.

You'd have to give the Bruins a "B" for their first effort, since their opponent didn't appear ready to play. The Bruin defense, of course, deserves an "A," especially when the five starters were on the floor together. They held Carleton to 26.8% shooting from the field and caused (or at least helped to cause) 19 turnovers. On offense, the Bruins hit 55.8% of their shots and were 7-15 from 3, although Luc's two 3s may have been a bonus. But the Bruins made 18 turnovers and suffered through some sloppy play, forcing too many passes into the paint, committing offensive fouls when they were setting screens and dropping the ball on the break a couple of times. The Bruins shot only 68.4% from the free throw line, but that's better than it appears. Luc was a walking stat buster at the line. Overall, the Bruins were able to run their man offense even against a team that was often collapsing into the paint and as I've said several times their defense looked terrific, although again I must mention Carleton's tired legs (they bricked some wide-open looks, barely hitting the basket).

Next up for the Bruins: CSU Monterey. And hopefully, Jordan Farmar.


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