UCLA: Preview

Football: Bruins fishing for good catch

March, 28, 2011
You've probably seen college football highlights, specifically touchdowns, and wondered, "Why can't UCLA do that? Others make it look so simple."

Julio Jones' back-shoulder grabs, A.J. Green's leaping snags, Jeff Maehl's catch-and-runs -- they're all examples of recent, and common, occurrences that most likely found their way into a highlight reel last season.

But can you vividly remember one UCLA touchdown catch? Maybe Randall Carroll's 46-yarder at Arizona State? Or Ricky Marvray's score at Texas? Tight end Joseph Fauria's late, meaningless touchdown against USC?

Perhaps the countless drops were more memorable.

UCLA has potential to replace the bad memories with good ones -- all of its receivers and tight ends from a year ago are back. There's experience, namely with seniors Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree. There are also building blocks in place, with the aforementioned Carroll (true junior) and Marvray (redshirt sophomore) waiting in the wings.

Embree led the way last year with 32 catches, but none were for touchdowns. Rosario had only one scoring catch. Carroll, Marvray and Fauria each had two. Christian Ramirez (graduated) and senior Josh Smith had one apiece to give the Bruins a whopping total of nine for the season.

Nine touchdown catches in 12 games is probably not going to get it done, let alone get the Bruins into a bowl game.

There were 26 players in college football who had at least 10 touchdowns by themselves. Green, the Georgia standout who many expect to be the first receiver taken in next month's NFL Draft, matched UCLA's total with nine. Oregon's Maehl had 12. Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon (20) and Texas Tech's Lyle Leong (19) each doubled the Bruins' combined output.

Coach Rick Neuheisel has said he wants more balance in the offense, so the Bruins' aerial numbers should rise next season. But which, if any, receiver will have a breakthrough year?

Will the starting quarterback, whoever that is, have a go-to guy?

Note: This is the last of our five issues leading up to Tuesday's opener. Question 1: Will Brett Hundley threaten for starting gig? Question 2: How will the replacements fare? 3. Football primer: The defense; 4. Football primer: The offense.

UCLA vs. Cal: Notes and quotes

January, 19, 2011
A few notes to preview Thursday night's home game against California:


California (9-8, 2-3 Pac-10)
C Mark Sanders-Frison (10.1 points, 8.1 rebounds)
F Harper Kamp (13.8 points, 5.6 rebounds)
G Allen Crabbe (11.1 points, 5.5 rebounds)
G Jorge Gutierrez (12.2 points, 4.0 assists)
G Brandon Smith (4.5 points, 3.3 assists)

UCLA (11-6, 3-2 Pac-10)
F Brendan Lane (3.9 points, 4.4 rebounds)
F Reeves Nelson (13.9 points, 7.8 rebounds)
F Tyler Honeycutt (13.4 points, 7.9 rebounds)
G Malcolm Lee (12.4 points, 1.7 assists)
G Lazeric Jones (10.4 points, 3.2 assists)


Tyler Honeycutt vs. Allen Crabbe -- Maybe Gary Franklin's transfer was for the better of Cal basketball. With local product Allen Crabbe (Los Angeles, Calif./Price) leading the charge, it sure looks that way. Crabbe, last year's Gatorade State Player of the Year, has averaged 17.4 points in five Pac-10 games, highlighted by a breakout, 30-point performance against Washington State last week. He has netted an average of 20 points since Franklin (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) departed Jan. 5.

"It's coming easy to me now," Crabbe told reporters at Cal's weekly news conference. "The more I'm playing, I'm just getting into the flow and letting it come to me instead of thinking too much."

That leaves Tyler Honeycutt with a big chore Thursday night. It promises to be an interesting battle on both ends. Can Honeycutt, who is coming off a season-low seven points, squeeze every inch out of his height advantage?

"He's 6-8, so that's going to be a challenge," said the 6-foot-6 Crabbe. "Honeycutt is a good player, a really good player. Playing against good people, I tend to step up. I believe in myself. It's going to be a good matchup."


Cal, a No. 8 seed in last year's NCAA tournament, lost to eventual champion Duke, 68-53, in the second round. ... Coach Ben Howland has enjoyed success against the Golden Bears. Howland's teams are 15-6 against Cal. ... On the flip side, Cal coach Mike Montgomery is 55-30 (.647) in his two-plus seasons in Berkeley. It's the best winning percentage for a Cal coach since Pete Newell (.730) was at the helm from 1955 to 1960. ... Cal knocked UCLA out of the Pac-10 tournament last year, slashing the Bruins' hopes of going dancing. Michael Roll's career-high 27 points were not enough, as UCLA fell 85-72 in the semifinals at Staples Center.


Crabbe is one of five Southern California players on Cal's roster. The others are: Bak Bak (Sun Valley, Calif./Village Christian), Nigel Carter (Los Angeles, Calif./Dorsey) and Richard Solomon (Los Angeles, Calif./Price). Justin Cobbs (Los Angeles, Calif./Bishop Montgomery) is sitting out this season after transferring from Minnesota.

"I think it's going to be a fun weekend," Crabbe said. "I'll get to see friends and family at the games. ... I've been waiting for this weekend for the longest. I'll get to play against some L.A. guys that I used to play against in high school. ... It's just going to be fun playing in front of them. Many of them haven't seen me play since high school. ... I considered UCLA, it was one the schools I wanted to go to when I was younger, but I'm glad I'm here. Cal is a good fit for me."

Bruins look to make it six straight at Gill

January, 12, 2011
A few notes to preview Thursday's game at Oregon State:


UCLA (9-6, 1-2 Pac-10)
C Joshua Smith (9.9 points, 6.6 rebounds)
F Reeves Nelson (14.9 points, 8.1 rebounds)
F Tyler Honeycutt (14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds)
G Malcolm Lee (12.2 points, 1.8 assists)
G Lazeric Jones (10.1 points, 3.3 assists)

Oregon State (7-8, 2-2 Pac-10)
C Angus Brandt (5.2 points, 2.8 rebounds)
F Omari Johnson (9.0 points, 6.5 rebounds)
F Devon Collier (4.4 points, 2.8 rebounds)
G Jared Cunningham (14.6 points, 2.1 assists)
G Calvin Hayes (11.0 points, 2.7 assists)


Tyler Honeycutt vs. Creativity -- Tyler Honeycutt is the first to admit that, sometimes, he tries to do a bit too much. The stat sheet shows it. Honeycutt goes into Thursday's game with a team-worst 47 turnovers. The next closest player, point guard Lazeric Jones, is far behind with 30. Let's just say Jones has no plans of making a run at Honeycutt. And we're not sure he could catch up even if he tried to.

Not all of it is Honeycutt's fault, though. Balls slip through hands, passes are unexpected, opponents make good plays, etc. Sometimes Honeycutt's creativity gets the best of him; teammates just aren't on the same page and Honeycutt's numbers suffer because of it. The turnovers have come in bunches in large part because he is a key component of the team's transition offense. That's just how it goes.

The problem is that Honeycutt's giveaways outweigh his good decisions. He has a nauseating 0.81 assist-to-turnover ratio. Keep an eye out for the choices he makes against Oregon State, one the nation's leaders in steals.


Oregon State has lost 11 consecutive games to UCLA, including five straight at Gill Coliseum. ... Is Gary Payton still suiting up for the orange and black? The Beavers rank No. 2 nationally in steals per game (10.87); Payton is third on the NBA's all-time steals list, behind John Stockton and Michael Jordan. ... Malcolm Lee has his work cut out for him: Jared Cunningham has averaged 19.2 points over the past six games. ... Oregon State allowed 103 points to Washington last week.


Don't be surprised if Reeves Nelson is the target of some loud boos -- or opponent animosity -- on Thursday. As you may recall, Nelson broke sportsmanship code when he dunked in the final seconds of last year's 62-52 win at Gill Coliseum. UCLA led by eight before his emphatic, buzzer-beating flush gave the Bruins a double-digit win. "I was kind of upset, I tried to take it out on the rim," Nelson said afterward.

Basketball: Players remember 21-point rout

January, 8, 2011
A brief video and few notes to preview Sunday's game at USC, winners of the last three rivalry meetings:


UCLA (9-5, 1-1 Pac-10)
C Joshua Smith (10.0 points, 6.9 rebounds)
F Reeves Nelson (15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds)
F Tyler Honeycutt (14.6 points, 7.6 rebounds)
G Malcolm Lee (12.8 points, 1.8 assists)
G Lazeric Jones (10.7 points, 3.5 assists)

USC (9-6, 1-1 Pac-10)
F Alex Stephenson (10.0 points, 8.7 rebounds)
F Nikola Vucevic (15.9 points, 10.0 rebounds)
G Marcus Simmons (5.5 points, 3.3 rebounds)
G Maurice Jones (10.3 points, 3.9 assists)
G Jio Fontan (14.4 points, 2.8 assists)


Joshua Smith vs. "Plug" Defense -- It took 14 games for coach Ben Howland to pull the plug on Smith's hedging. So it's only fitting that starting with Sunday's contest, Howland will have Smith "plug" on screens -- meaning he'll wait for guards to come at him rather than forcing them go around him. Despite ranking just sixth on the team in minutes played, Smith leads the Bruins with 44 fouls. He fouled out with nearly three minutes remaining in UCLA's loss to Washington last week.

"In retrospect, he should have plugged all the way from the beginning, getting better and better at it," Howland said. "He can't get out there and hedge right now like we want him to. He's not going to be doing that as much, it's going to be more of a plug. I think it will help keep him out of foul trouble. He's going to have little guards coming at him and trying to cross him over.

His habit right now -- and it's really hard for him to break it -- when you bring the ball at him and cross the ball in front of him, he reaches. That's what he's always done. He's going to have to learn not to reach and stay out of foul trouble. We need him in the game. ... When he plays 25 minutes or more, it's better for us. I think in the future he'll be able to (hedge). ... (Plugging) doesn't make it any easier. It makes it harder for the guards because now they have a guy turning the corner and they've got to be coming from behind."


USC is 5-2 in its last seven games against teams with a winning percentage of .500 or better. ... Like UCLA, USC lost at No. 3-ranked Kansas this season. If we use each team's loss in Lawrence, Kan., as a measuring stick, then there should be an exciting finish at Galen Center on Sunday. The Bruins fell to the Jayhawks on a controversial last-second foul call; the Trojans led by two before Josh Selby sank a clutch three-pointer with 26 seconds left. ... Second-year coach Kevin O'Neill is 2-2 all-time against UCLA, with both victories coming last season. His two losses came in 2008 as interim coach at Arizona. ... Senior forward Alex Stephenson (North Hollywood, Calif./Harvard-Westlake) chose USC over UCLA when he transferred from North Carolina in 2008.


"It's a big deal. It's always a big deal. Our guys will be ready to play, (USC) will be ready to play. There will be a great crowd, I'm sure. It's UCLA-USC. That's true in everything we compete with them in. So is there added importance because it's crosstown? Always. They approach it the same way. That's just how it is."

Basketball: How will UCLA close out 2010?

December, 30, 2010
A few notes to preview Friday's crucial game against Washington, the preseason favorite to win the Pac-10 title:


Washington (9-3, 1-0 Pac-10)
C Aziz N'Diaye (5.3 points, 6.3 rebounds)
F Matthew Bryan-Amaning (14.3 points, 6.7 rebounds)
F Justin Holiday (12.5 points, 6.2 rebounds)
G Isaiah Thomas (15.3 points, 3.8 assists)
G Abdul Gaddy (9.0 points, 3.9 assists)

UCLA (9-4, 1-0 Pac-10)
C Joshua Smith (10.1 points, 6.8 rebounds)
F Reeves Nelson (14.7 points, 8.0 rebounds)
F Tyler Honeycutt (14.8 points, 8.1 rebounds)
G Malcolm Lee (12.8 points, 2.0 assists)
G Lazeric Jones (11.3 points, 3.5 assists)


Reeves Nelson vs. Himself -- If we've learned anything about UCLA this season, it's that sophomore forward Reeves Nelson is his own worst enemy. The yin and yang tattoo on his left shoulder says it all -- it's about balancing his two energies. At times he's the most determined player on the floor, hustling and battling for every rebound and loose ball. Other times, he's way off (a combined 13 points in the games against Montana and UC Irvine serving as proof). And when he's going good -- as he was in the second half of the Bruins' 80-71 win against Washington State on Wednesday -- UCLA appears to be an entirely different offensive machine. He turned it on Wednesday, scoring 13 of his 21 points after the break to help the Bruins erase an eight-point halftime deficit.


Washington was ranked as high as No. 11 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll on Nov. 22, but has not appeared in the top 25 since Dec. 6. ... The Huskies, 73-67 overtime winners at USC on Wednesday, have not swept an L.A. road trip since 2006 (which is also the last time Washington won at Pauley Pavilion). ... Washington leads the Pac-10 in nearly every category, including scoring (89.1 points per game), scoring margin (+21.0) and three-point field goal percentage (41.9%). ... Senior forward Justin Holiday, the older brother of former UCLA guard Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia 76ers), led North Hollywood Campbell Hall to the state Div. IV championship. ... There are two other local products on Washington's roster -- sophomore forward Tyreese Breshers (Los Angeles, Calif./Price) and junior forward Darnell Gant (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw).


One of the lone bright spots from last year's disastrous 14-18 season was former walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid's buzzer-beater that gave UCLA a thrilling 62-61 win over Washington at Pauley Pavilion. Adbul-Hamid is currently playing for KK Hemofarm in Serbia.

Basketball: Bruins brace for Wazzu

December, 29, 2010
A brief video and few notes regarding tonight's Pac-10 opener against visiting Washington State:


Washington State (10-2)
F DeAngelo Casto (9.3 points, 5.8 rebounds)
F Abe Lodwick (2.8 points, 3.8 rebounds)
G Marcus Capers (6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds)
G Klay Thompson (22.3 points, 4.3 assists)
G Reggie Moore (8.1 points, 4.0 assists)

UCLA (8-4)
C Joshua Smith (10.3 points, 6.9 rebounds)
F Reeves Nelson (14.2 points, 7.8 rebounds)
F Tyler Honeycutt (14.9 points, 8.0 rebounds)
G Malcolm Lee (12.1 points, 2.2 assists)
G Lazeric Jones (11.4 points, 2.9 assists)


Malcolm Lee vs. Klay Thompson -- With coach Ben Howland ditching his man-to-man scheme for a zone last year, stopping Thompson wasn't a one-man job like it will be tonight. Thompson struggled -- by his standards, at least -- in two games against UCLA, scoring 21 points on 7-for-26 (.269) shooting in 71 combined minutes. The Bruins will take those numbers in a heartbeat, but the task falls on Lee.

"Klay is going to be tough," Lee said. "He's a big-time scorer. I think if we hold his numbers down, we have a good chance at beating them."


Washington State's only two losses have come against then-No. 5 Kansas State (by five points) and defending national runner-up Butler... Junior guard Marcus Capers has the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the nation at 5.80 (29 to 5)... Klay Thompson's younger brother, Trayce Thompson, signed a letter of intent to play baseball at UCLA, but never made it to Westwood after signing with the Chicago White Sox out of high school (selected in second round of 2009 MLB Draft).


UCLA is 92-2 (.963) against the Cougars in Los Angeles and has won 33 of the last 35 overall meetings. The Bruins lead the series 97-14 (.874) in 111 overall meetings.



B. Hundley392271315522
P. Perkins25115756.39
B. Hundley1596444.110
J. Payton6795414.27
D. Fuller594477.61