Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Bruins preparing for first road test
By Peter Yoon
LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA Bruins bounced back from a rocky start this season and are on a seven-game win streak, but the turnaround won't be complete until they show they can win on the road.
The Bruins (12-3, 2-0 Pac-12) have not played a true road game this season, but will get their first taste of unfriendly turf when they travel to Utah on Thursday and then to Colorado on Saturday for a pair of Pac-12 games this week.
"I'm excited," said freshman Kyle Anderson. "It would mean much more to go on another team's floor and get a win, so that's what we're looking to do. As a team it's going to help us come together and be in a tough situation where it's us against the world."
One of UCLA's wins this season could be considered a road game, when the Bruins defeated Texas at Reliant Stadium in Houston. But that was officially a neutral-site game and was sparsely attended, anyway. UCLA's other trip was to New York for the Legends Classic, where the Bruins lost to Georgetown and defeated Georgia. The Bruins got their first real taste of a road environment Dec. 1 against San Diego State at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Aztecs fans outnumbered UCLA fans there by at least 3-to-1.
But UCLA's freshman-laden roster will face a true road environment Thursday night at Utah, and coach Ben Howland is making sure his young team is prepared for what it might face.
"They're going to yell nasty things at you," Howland said he told his team. "Get used to that. In reality, it's different. It's us against the world. They've all played road games, but not a road game like you do in college because it's bigger crowds."
His advice? Tune it out.
"When I go on the road, I don't hear anything," Howland said. "I'm totally locked in. That's what I recommend is best, is never respond. That's what a crowd's trying to get you to do, is lose concentration. Saying something personal or yelling at you."
Travis Wear, one of the few players on the team with college road experience, said the veterans will have to set the example.
"Keep focused on the game, don't worry about what the crowd is saying," Wear said. "Keep your head down. Don't get into anything with fans. Just focus on yourself and your team and what you have to do."
The added challenge with these particular road games is that they will be played in high-altitude cities, which are known to affect teams not used to playing in the thin air. Utah and Colorado were in the Pac-12 last season, but the Bruins did not play at either school, so this will be the first high-altitude experience for most of the players.
"From what I hear, you actually do feel it," Wear said. "Hopefully, we can get up there and get a good walk-through and get up and down so we can get used to it."
Howland says he isn't that concerned because his team is in good shape. Anderson echoed that sentiment, saying that the Bruins' up-tempo offense has helped improve the team's conditioning.
"I think we're really in shape now, especially how well we've been playing while playing a transition offense and scoring most of our points from there," Anderson said. "I think we're in a lot better shape and the rotation is good."