UCLA survived Arizona State with a 72-70 win at Pauley Pavilion in Thursday's first Pac-10 game of the season, and it featured some odd occurrences.
Ben Howland utilized a 2-3 zone defense extensively for the first time this season, and it seemed to key the Bruins' first-half run, with the Sun Devils eventually trailing by as many as 16 points. This from the same Howland who despises the zone so much that as a high school player, he demanded his coach stop using it. When Howland hinted that he was going to use zone, it was seen as a sign of his team's lack of athleticism. Now it's a weapon?
UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic had been shooting so poorly that even the lawyer handling his felony assault case last week quipped, "He has to start making some 3-point shots." He was making less than 22 percent of those coming into the game and responded in a big way, going 5-for-5 from beyond the arc in the first half on his way to tying a career-high with 23 points. As a team, UCLA shot 83.3 percent in the first half.
There was a bizarre game-ending sequence at both ends of the floor with UCLA leading by two. Dragovic whipped a behind-the-back pass to Reeves Nelson, and as he was about to close it out with a dunk, Arizona State's Jerren Shipp came up with the foul with 16.1 seconds left. Reeves missed both free throws and Shipp got a shot at a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the horn. But much-maligned Bruins guard Jerime Anderson partially blocked the shot to seal the win.
It's going to be 2010, not 2012, right? Just wanted to make sure.