UCLA: Anthony Stover

Players reject SI allegations against Nelson

May, 23, 2012
Former UCLA player Reeves Nelson filed a lawsuit against Sports Illustrated and reporter George Dohrmann Wednesday and the suit includes declarations from 18 current and former UCLA players who reject various claims made in a March Sports Illustrated article that depicted Nelson as a boorish player with a propensity for violence and out-of-control behavior.

Some, such as Drew Grodon, and Tyler Trapani, were alleged victims of Nelson's violent antics who said Nelson never did to them what the Sports Illustrated story said. Others, such as Blake Arnet and Alex Schrempf, said they spoke with Dohrmann and told him the information he had was incorrect only to see it end up in print anyway.

All of them disagreed with the Sports Illustrated depiction of Nelson as a player who intentionally injured teammates and was coddled by coach Ben Howland, who turned a blind eye to Nelson's transgressions.

"I never saw Nelson intentionally hurt or intentionally try to hurt any member of the UCLA basketball team or staff, nor do I believe that Nelson ever intentionally hurt or tried to hurt any member of the UCLA basketball team or staff," reads a passage in each of the 18 declarations. "I did not observe and do not believe that Coach Howland favored Nelson over the other players in any fashion, not with respect to discipline or anything else."

Some players addressed specific incidents alleged in the article. Gordon, for instance, was reported to have gotten into an off-campus fight with Nelson that resulted in a black eye for Gordon, but Gordon's declaration stated "The article’s description of Nelson’s behavior toward me is false. We have never had a fight, not at a teammate’s apartment or anywhere else, nor has Nelson ever given me a black eye from a fight or otherwise."

The Sports Illustrated story also reported that Schrempf, a former UCLA walk-on, suffered a serious back injury as a result of a Nelson attack during practice. Schrempf's declaration said that never happened. In his declaration, Schrempf acknowledged speaking with Dohrmann but told Dohrmann his facts were wrong.

"During our conversation, Dohrmann specifically told me that he had 'heard' that Nelson intentionally injured me during practice by knocking me to the ground from behind," Schrempf's statement says. "According to Dohrmann’s 'source,' Nelson’s conduct caused me to suffer a serious back injury. I explained to Dohrmann that this version of events was incorrect."

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Anthony Stover has shoulder surgery

April, 13, 2012
UCLA center Anthony Stover had surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and will be out for up to four months, coach Ben Howland said.

"It was straight forward and successful," Howland said. "Once they got in there it was definitely clear that it needed to be done."

Stover, a 6-10 sophomore reserve, originally injured his shoulder during preseason practice in October, when an MRI exam revealed torn cartilage. He played through the injury for most of this season and appeared in 28 games with three starts. A defensive specialist, Stover led the team with 39 blocked shots despite averaging only 8.4 minutes per game.

Muhammad signing revives UCLA, Howland

April, 11, 2012
UCLA's maligned basketball program is back in the national spotlight, but this time it's a good thing.

Coach Ben Howland, his reputation soiled after his program received national exposure for all the wrong reasons, made a startling comeback just a month after his future at UCLA had been called into question.

With one short, declarative sentence, Las Vegas high school senior Shabazz Muhammad changed the fortunes for UCLA basketball and Howland. Muhammad, the No. 2-ranked recruit in the nation, made UCLA relevant once again when he appeared on ESPNU Wednesday and said "I chose to be a Bruin."

And with that, the Bruins, who did not even make the NCAA tournament -- nor the NIT for that matter -- last season, are suddenly a sleeper pick for a national championship run next season. UCLA, its proud basketball tradition waning after missing the NCAAs twice in the past three seasons, once again has something to brag about.

And after a couple of seasons of contemplating how far the mighty had fallen, those around UCLA are now wondering if the bandwagon has any seats left on it.

"I think he’s going to have a tremendous impact," Howland said of how much of a difference-maker Muhammad could be. "He’s a special, special talent and has so many attributes that will help our team."

Muhammad, a 6-foot-6 small forward, is explosive, athletic and can score from anywhere, including beyond the three-point line. He was named the 2012 Naismith Boy’s High School Player of the Year and selected by the McDonald’s All-American committee as the 2012 Morgan Wootten Player of the Year. He also was named the MVP of the 2012 McDonald’s All-American game on March 28 and won the Powerade Jam Fest dunk contest.

But his scoring ability and talent are only half the story of what he brings to UCLA. His character off the court is equal to his ability on it and that is exactly what UCLA needs after Sports Illustrated reported dysfunction in the UCLA program caused mostly by the unscrupulous acts of entitled recruits.

The signing of Muhammad, along with Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, puts a new face on the way UCLA does things.

"The thing that’s great about Shabazz is he’s a great kid," Howland said. "They have a great family. He’s really, really the total package. An outstanding student athlete. This is a whole new era. What we’ve really try to institute now is a whole new level of accountability for our current team."

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Joshua SmithGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireThe expression of the UCLA bench says it all in the waning moments of the Bruins' loss to Arizona.

LOS ANGELES -- A difficult and sometimes bizarre season took a disappointing turn for the UCLA basketball team in a game that pretty much summed up the way the season went.

The Bruins lost, 66-58, to Arizona Thursday in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal that, much like the season, featured UCLA fighting through adversity, looking as if it might turn a corner but could never quite get things rolling in the right direction.

UCLA (19-14) will lament losing the game in a wide-open Pac-12 tournament that was their only possible path to the NCAA tournament, especially after the Bruins' path to the final cleared somewhat with top-seeded Washington's loss earlier in the day, but the inconsistencies that have plagued UCLA all season did so again against Arizona.

The Bruins did not put together a win streak of more than three games in conference play this season and could not put together a stretch of more than five minutes of high-level play Thursday. The Bruins fell into an early hole, climbed back out and made a run, but could not close it out.

"We had our opportunities to win and did not seize the moment," coach Ben Howland said.

The same could be said for UCLA all season. UCLA lost four conference games by three points or fewer and lost four times on the road after taking second-half leads. Those close losses ended up being the difference between making the NCAA tournament and hoping for an NIT invitation.

But so are so many other things.

The Bruins entered this season without two of their top three leading scorers from last year after Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt left school to enter the NBA draft. UCLA lost the third member of that group when Reeves Nelson was kicked off the team seven games in. The fourth-leading scorer, Joshua Smith, reported for the season grossly out of shape and was hardly a factor most of the season.

The rest of the Bruins tried to keep things together, but simply never built any momentum.

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Rapid Reaction: UCLA 66, Arizona St. 57

February, 23, 2012
UCLA completed a season sweep over Arizona State with a 66-57 Pac-12 victory Thursday in Tempe, Ariz. Here's a quick look at the game:

OVERVIEW: UCLA started slow but took the lead midway through the first half and never trailed again, but it wasn't easy to hold off the pesky Sun Devils.

Every time it appeared as if the Bruins had seized some momentum and were about to blow open a big lead, the Sun Devils rallied and kept within striking distance. The Bruins took a six-point lead late in the first half, but it dwindled to 25-24 by halftime.

UCLA had a 46-37 lead with 11:31 to play, but Arizona state rallied back to make it 47-43 a minute and a half later. Even down the stretch, when UCLA finally put the game away by opening a 66-49 lead with 2:25 to play, Arizona State made a run and really could have made things interesting if a couple of 3-point shots had fallen.

Still, the Bruins did what they needed to in winning on the road against one of the Pac-12's lower-tier teams. Lazeric Jones had 20 points to lead UCLA (16-12, 9-6 Pac-12) and David Wear added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Bruins.

Jonathan Gilling led Arizona State (8-20, 4-12) with 17 points and Trent Lockett added 13 points despite making only 3-of-11 shots.

TURNING POINT: After struggling to make a game-clinching run for most of the game, the Bruins finally took control with a 17-4 run that turned a 49-45 lead with 8:42 left to play into a 66-49 lead with 2:25 left.

The Bruins held Arizona State to 1-of-7 shooting during that stretch while connecting on eight of nine shots of their own. Jones and Wear each scored five points during the run, including a 3-pointer by Jones that gave UCLA 56-46 lead for the first double-digit lead of the game with 7:10 to play.

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Bruins to face new-look St. John's at MSG

February, 17, 2012
On the long plane ride from Los Angeles to New York, UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland was preparing for his team's game Saturday against St. John's at Madison Square Garden so he watched game film from the Bruins' 66-59 victory over the Red Storm from last season.

He might have been better off taking a nap.

[+] EnlargeLazeric Jones
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireUCLA's Lazeric Jones played against St. John's last season, but the same can't be said for any current Red Storm player of having played UCLA in 2011.
St. John's bears little resemblance to the team UCLA faced a year ago at Pauley Pavilion, with no players on the current roster having played in that game and coach Steve Lavin taking a limited role as he recovers from prostate cancer.

The Red Storm, because of player graduations and defections, will run out a starting lineup of five freshman for the 10 a.m. PT tipoff and use a junior college transfer as their only significant bench player. Last year's Red Storm squad finished 21-12 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament with a roster that included 10 seniors, but the lone returning player from that team -- guard Malik Stith -- quit the team last week for personal reasons.

The Red Storm (10-16, 4-10 Big East) have lost nine of their last 11 games, including four in a row, but Howland says he isn't taking the team lightly.

"They are really playing hard," Howland said. "Some of their freshmen have been incredible. These kids are very talented. They are young, but they are very talented."

Leading the way for St. John's are D'Angelo Harrison, a 6-foot-3 guard, and Moe Harkless, a 6-8 forward. Harrison is averaging 16.7 points to lead all Big East freshmen and Harkless is averaging 15.9 points and 8.5 rebounds -- second among Big East freshmen in scoring and first in rebounding.

Harkless is the tallest player on the team, so the smaller, quicker Red Storm will present a matchup problem for the Bruins, who have four regulars at 6-10.

"They are a very dangerous, long, athletic team," Howland said. "They’re pressing back to their zone. Their zone is very aggressive with a lot of ball pressure. It's a hard matchup for us because they play small."

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Anthony Stover sits with foot injury

February, 11, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA backup center Anthony Stover did not play in the Bruins' 73-63 loss to California on Saturday because of a tendon injury in his left foot, but is expected to be back Wednesday against USC.

Stover, a 6-foot-10 sophomore defensive specialist, injured his foot during the first half Thursday against Stanford but played the rest of that game. He said he woke up the next morning in a lot of pain and went to see the team trainer. He had an MRI exam and X-Ray and both came back clear.

"It should be fine," Stover said. "I should be practicing on Monday and playing on Wednesday."

UCLA could have used Stover's defensive presence Saturday against a Cal team that shot 51.9 percent from the field and scored nearly half of its points in the paint. Stover, a fan favorite because of the defensive energy he brings, has 32 blocked shots. Coach Ben Howland said he would have liked to play Stover, but that it wasn't worth the risk of further damage.

"I thought it was better to try to get him back to being healthy by the time we play again on Wednesday," Howland said.

Stover told Howland before the game that he didn't think he could play. By halftime, he said he felt like he could have gone in, but thought Howland made a good decision by not using him.

"I feel like today my foot could have supported me but I think coach Howland made a good decision and was thinking for the long run instead of this one game," Stover said.

UCLA hopes to be ready for first-place Cal

February, 10, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- If Anthony Stover should have any bad feelings about UCLA's game Saturday against California, coach Ben Howland would like his sophomore center to please speak up.

Stover said earlier this week that his team didn't "feel there" when the Bruins lost, 85-69, Dec. 31 at Cal and that "none of us came ready to play that game."

Howland on Friday said Stover should do something about it should he have that feeling before UCLA's game against the Golden Bears at 1 p.m. at the Sports Arena.

"I’m embarrassed for him if he knew we weren’t ready in his mind and didn’t do anything about it," Howland said.

The results of that game make you wonder if it would have done any good for Stover to say anything. It was easily the worst performance in Pac-12 play by the Bruins this season. The 16-point margin was UCLA's only conference loss by double digits and the game wasn't even as close as the final score indicated.

Cal led by as many as 24 points with less than five minutes to play, and UCLA's defense offered little resistance in letting Cal shoot 65.4 percent from the field. It was one of the defensive low points of the season for the Bruins, who have not lost another conference game by more than seven points and have held second-half leads in every conference game since.

So, two days after avenging their closest conference loss with a victory Thursday over Stanford, the Bruins (14-10, 7-5) will try to make amends for their biggest conference blowout, though it will not be easy. California (19-6, 9-3) is in a first-place tie in the Pac-12 and is well-rested after an easy 75-49 thumping of USC on Thursday.

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Five observations: UCLA 72, Stanford 61

February, 9, 2012
Lazeric JonesGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireUCLA guard Lazeric Jones scored a game-high 21 points to lift the Bruins over Stanford on Thursday.

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA finally seems to have learned how to hold on to a lead.

After building a reputation this season for letting leads slip away late in games, the Bruins withstood a late-game charge for the second consecutive game and defeated Stanford, 72-61, in a Pac-12 Conference game Thursday night at the Sports Arena.

Despite making only 9-of-16 free throws in the final 1:52, UCLA (14-10, 7-5) held off Stanford (16-8, 6-6), which had pulled to within three points at 56-53 with 4:45 to play. It was the fourth win in five games for UCLA, which also held off a late run in a 63-60 victory Saturday at Washington State. UCLA has now won 10 consecutive home games including six in a row at the Sports Arena.

"I was proud of our poise," coach Ben Howland said. "I was pleased with the poise that we showed when they made a comeback and made a run and fought our way through it."

The Bruins broke a sixth-place tie in the conference standings and are now two games behind leaders Washington and California with a game Saturday at 1 p.m. against California at the Sports Arena.
Five observations from the game:

1Lazeric Jones wasn't going to let it get away again

Jones scored a game-high 21 points to go along with six assists and six steals, more than making amends for his final-second decision that cost UCLA the game last time UCLA played Stanford.

In that 60-59 loss, Jones drove to the basket and tried to penetrate, but had his shot blocked at the buzzer instead of finding a wide open Tyler Lamb or stopping for a jump shot. Thursday, he played the entire game as if he were on a mission to make up for that play.

"We were upset that we got that loss up there," Jones said.

Jones basically won the game in a stretch of about a minute and a half when he made a 3-pointer with 3:35 to play after Stanford had pulled to within three at 56-53. On the next possession he hit Jerime Anderson for a jump shot with 2:44 to play and then scored on a layup on the next UCLA possession as the Bruins opened a 63-53 lead. He got a steal on the other end of the court and Anderson made one of two free throws after getting fouls and UCLA had a 64-53 lead with 1:52 to play.

He also made the highlight play of the night, taking a tipped pass at mid court and making a behind-the-back pass to Anderson for a slam dunk that gave UCLA a 46-36 lead.

"Zeek is our captain," Howland said. "He's really stepped up and he played great tonight."

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UCLA looking to erase bad memory against Stanford

February, 8, 2012
Lazeric JonesJason O. Watson/US PresswireUCLA guard Lazeric Jones says of the earlier loss to Stanford: "It's been eating at me for a while now."

LOS ANGELES--Ben Howland was saddled with the unfortunate task of watching the game film from UCLA's first go-round with Stanford this season.

"It brought back a lot of bad memories," Howland said.

Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson and the rest of the Bruins have been replaying that nightmare in their heads for the last six weeks. The Bruins lost, 60-59, at Stanford on Dec. 29 when Anderson missed a wide-open, 3-point attempt with 11 seconds left, the Bruins got the rebound and then Jones tried to drive the lane and had his shot blocked by Stanford's Josh Huestis at the buzzer.

"It’s been eating at me for a while now," Jones said.

"That’s really bothered me since that game because I had a chance to win the game," Anderson said.

The Bruins (13-10, 6-5 Pac-12) get a chance at redemption when they meet the Cardinal (16-7, 6-5) Thursday night at 8 p.m. at the Sports Arena. It begins a critical stretch during which the Bruins play five of their final eight games at home as they try to regain footing in the Pac-12 Conference standings.

It could be argued that they lost that footing in that game against Stanford because the season has been a broken record since then with UCLA getting in close road games but unable to pull out the victories. The Bruins were within a point at halftime before getting blown out by Cal, blew double-digit, second-half leads at Oregon and Washington and forgot how to play defense in a three-point loss at Oregon State.

Poor free-throw shooting also hampered the Bruins in those games, but the inability to close out games on the road haunted UCLA until the Bruins held off Washington State last Saturday in Pullman, Wash. Before that, UCLA had not defeated a Division I team away from Southern California.

"It’s a huge boost," center Anthony Stover said. "We love winning in L.A. but to win someplace else it just makes us a lot more happy. When we come out and we know we won a game on the road, it gives us a little bit of a boost."

This weekend, the Bruins will be at home to play Stanford and California in what the Bruins are looking at as revenge weekend. The players feel as if they could have won both of their earlier matchups and will be looking for redemption.

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UCLA zoning out for Washington road trip

February, 2, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- When UCLA faces Washington on Thursday in Seattle, the Bruins will face a three-guard starting lineup that is quick, athletic and difficult to defend.

It's exactly the type of team that might call for the zone defense UCLA unveiled for a brief period this season, but coach Ben Howland said that the team is no longer practicing the zone and hopes to use a man-to-man for the remainder of the season.

UWUCLA"We could bring it back in certain situations but we’ve really been focusing on our man," Howland said. "I think we’ve improved with our man defense as the year has progressed."

The Bruins (12-9, 5-4 Pac-12) have, indeed, improved in the man defense. Since ditching the zone after winning against Arizona State, the Bruins have held three of five opponents under 40 percent shooting. Before the zone, three of UCLA's first seven opponents shot better than 50 percent.

The Bruins had some success with a 2-3 zone against Penn, Richmond and in a loss at Stanford, but Howland has used it sparingly since and it's been pretty much nonexistent the past two weeks.

"Our man has picked up recently," forward Travis Wear said. "I think our team is just really confident in our man defense right now. We’re forcing teams to take bad shots and for the most part consistently holding them to lower field goal percentages, but right now I think we’re just confident in our man and fell like we don’t have to work on our zone."

Whatever defense the Bruins play against Washington, they'll need to play it well. The Huskies (14-7, 7-2) have three of the top seven leading scorers in the Pac-12 in Tony Wroten (17.1 points per game), Terrence Ross (15.1) and C.J. Wilcox (14.8). They are second in the conference in scoring at 76.7 points per game.

Not only that but Washington is a notoriously tough place to play, especially for UCLA, which hasn't won at Alaska Airlines Arena since 2004.

"They have a good crowd," guard Jerime Anderson said. "They’re right on top of you. It’s not too big of an arena, but it’s big enough to where they fill it and it gets really loud. And they play inspired there."

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Five Observations: UCLA 77, Colorado 60

January, 28, 2012
Anthony Stover, Travis WearJayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireAnthony Stover, left, and Travis Wear helped a strong UCLA defense in a victory over Colorado.

LOS ANGELES -- Some wins mean more than others.

UCLA coach Ben Howland will tell you that every win is equally important, but his body language and enthusiasm said something different after the Bruins defeated Colorado in convincing fashion, 77-60, Saturday in a Pac-12 game at the Sports Arena.

This victory meant more simply because it came against a team that was tied for first in the Pac-12 and it helped erase doubts that UCLA could, in fact, pull out a victory against an upper-tier conference team. UCLA's last three wins had come against conference cellar-dwellers Utah, USC and Arizona State, but the Bruins (12-9, 5-4) stayed afloat in the conference race with the victory over Colorado (14-7, 6-3).

"I was very enthused," Howland said. "I knew this was a big game for us to get us back above .500 in the conference against a good Colorado team that has been playing extremely well. That was a very solid win for us against a very good team."

Five observations from the game:

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Rapid Reaction: Oregon 75, UCLA 68

January, 21, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. -- UCLA blew a 13-point halftime lead and lost, 75-68, to Oregon on Saturday at Matthew Knight Arena, a devastating loss for a Bruins team that appeared as if it would be able to salvage a split on the Oregon trip but remains without a victory over a Division I team away from Southern California.

The Bruins (10-9, 3-4 Pac-12) return to the Sports Arena this week to face Utah and Colorado.

Overview: UCLA dominated the early going, building a lead as big as 15 points and taking a 37-24 lead at halftime by playing sound defense. Oregon shot only 22.6 percent from the field in the first half and went the last 9:56 of the half with only one made field goal.

Things were much different in the second half for the Bruins, who gave up 51 points and allowed Oregon to shoot 50 percent from the field. Oregon forward E.J. Singler was a one-man wrecking crew as he scored a career-high 26 points with seven rebounds. He made 16 of 17 free throws.

The Bruins had four players score in double figures. Travis Wear led the way with 17 and Lazeric Jones added 14. Jerime Anderson added 10 and David Wear also had 10 points before hyper-extending his left knee late in the game. He will have an MRI exam when the team returns home.

Turning point: Oregon began the second half with a 15-2 run to tie the score at 39-39 and rattled UCLA. The Bruins fought back to take a 50-42 lead, but Oregon never let up, taking a 52-50 lead on a put back by Singler with 7:49 to play and the Ducks (15-5, 5-2) never again lost the lead.

UCLA star of the game: Anthony Stover's final stat line won't stand out much as he had only two points and four rebounds, but his defensive presence changed the game every time he was on the floor.

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Poor defense puts Joshua Smith on bench

January, 20, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. -- Joshua Smith's on-again, off-again relationship with the starting lineup is currently off, and this time it has nothing to do with foul trouble.

Smith, averaging 9.7 points per game and a significant presence on the offensive end, has come off the bench the last three games after starting the previous six and coach Ben Howland said it's because Smith's defense is lagging.

"Right now, Josh has got to help us more than he’s doing right now defensively," Howland said. "He’s got to be more of a presence for us in there on the defensive end of the floor. We know when he’s in there and we’re trying to get him the ball offensively, but we need him to step up and play better defense for us."

Howland pointed out that Smith, a 6-foot-10, 305-pound center, has no blocked shots in five conference games. In comparison, backup Anthony Stover has seven blocks in Pac-12 games despite playing less than half the minutes as Smith. Travis Wear, starting in place of Smith the last four games, has six blocked shots in conference games.

Howland said Smith's ongoing conditioning issues were "a big part" of his defensive deficiencies. Thursday against Oregon State, the Beavers' starting post players combined to score 33 points on 14-for-21 shooting and Howland called out his post defense after the game.

"We got hurt today at the post," he said. "I thought Stover was the one guy who gave us good post presence defensively. He was the one guy."

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Five observations: UCLA 65, Arizona 58

January, 5, 2012
ANAHEIM--UCLA finally has a victory it can brag about.

The Bruins defeated Arizona, 65-58, in the Wooden Classic Thursday night at the Honda Center, posting their first Pac-12 win and also their first win against a major conference opponent.

Despite playing without center Joshua Smith, who sat out with a concussion, the Bruins (8-7, 1-2) controlled the paint against the smaller Wildcats (10-5, 1-1) and got an all-important victory after getting swept by Stanford and Cal in their Pac-12 openers last week.

"It’s a big win," guard Lazeric Jones said. "It’s our first Pac-12 win. I said before that you have to win games to learn how to win and hopefully we can learn from this and continue to get wins."

Five observations from the game:

1The Wear twins turned into the wonder twins

Travis and David Wear, who have played inconsistently and passively most of this season, were completely different players Thursday when they combined for 34 points, 10 rebounds. They were 13 of 16 from the floor and eight of eight from the free throw line while also playing passable defense against Arizona's post players Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill.

"I was especially pleased with both the Wears," coach Ben Howland said. "I thought they made a step forward this week in practice and it carried over to the game which you like to see as a coach. Being more aggressive. Getting to the line more."

Travis Wear had a career-high 20 points with five rebounds and three blocked shots. He also made six of six free throws. David Wear made six of seven shots, mostly from close range, and finished with 14 points.

"A big emphasis was making sure everything was going toward the basket," David Wear said. "No fadeaways, no shying away from contact. We really emphasized trying to get to the basket. We got in foul trouble and couldn’t be as aggressive as we would have liked to be but we set the tone early that we were going to play hard and hold it down down low."

2Lazeric Jones played more shooting guard than point guard

Jones has been the team's point guard all season, but played off guard for most of his 36 minutes Thursday in an effort to take more advantage of his scoring punch. He's the team's leading scorer at 13.6 points per game and had 13 points again Thursday.

Jerime Anderson ran the point most of the night and though he had only three assists, he did a nice job of orchestrating in the half court.

"I’ve never played off the ball in my life," Jones said. "I’m just trying to get used to it. If it’s going to help us get wins, I’ll do whatever coach tells me to. It helped us get a win tonight so I guess we’ll probably stick with it a little bit."

3Joshua Smith's concussion may have been a blessing in disguise

You never want to lose a 6-10 center, but when Smith banged his head against Travis Wear's leg in practice Wednesday, it forced him out of the lineup against Arizona and gave the Bruins a better matchup with the Wildcats.

Smith is dominant down low, but can be a defensive liability against smaller, quicker teams because he gets beat off the dribble and picks up a lot of fouls because of his lack of mobility. Against Arizona, which starts 6-6 Solomon Hill and 6-7 Jesse Perry at the post positions, Smith might have had trouble.

"It probably helped us defensively against Arizona because Josh would have a hard matchup whether he’s guarding Perry or Hill," Howland said. "Both Hill and Perry can step out and shoot and that would have been a hard matchup."

4Team defense was greatly improved

The Bruins got back to their defensive ways Thursday night, holding Arizona to 36.2 percent from the field--a far cry from the 65.4 percent they gave up in their last game at California.

The surprising part was that the Bruins did so using mostly a man-to-man defense, which has been a weakness for the team for the most part this season.

"That was the reason we won," Howland said. "We played good team defense and man was better for us today looking at the overall possessions. We were a little quicker and we had good practices leading up to today and now we have to build on this."

Howland made a concerted effort to stop Arizona's transition game by sending only to rebounders to the offensive glass and having three players fall back on defense after UCLA shots. That helped slow the quicker Wildcats and gave the Bruins a chance to set up their defense.

"I think we had a sense of urgency tonight to help a teammate if they were beat," Travis Wear said. "Just recover to anyone who got beat or who helped. We closed every gap and contested every shot, didn’t allow open shots. Our team defense was excellent."

5The bench played a vital role

The statistics won't blow anybody away as Anthony Stover, Brendan Lane and Norman Powell combined for only five points and 11 rebounds in 54 minutes, but those were valuable minutes as the Bruins were playing with an eight-man rotation.

With Smith out Lane played a season-high 24 minutes and had a very good first half with five rebounds. Stover played 12 minutes, the third most he's played all season, and had some crucial defensive stops late in the game against Hill, who led Arizona with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Stover also got to the free throw line six times, making three. They were the first free throws he made this season after going 0-5 through the first 14 games. His three points were a season high and the UCLA bench erupted in cheer when he made the first.

"He's been talking about making his first free throw for a while," Jones said. "And he made some big free throws, too. It was a tight game and it showed a lot about his character."



B. Hundley81576863
P. Perkins633044.82
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J. Payton1926614.01
D. Fuller14835.90