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Bruins hang tough

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Dec. 19, 2005

Fans at Pauley Pavilion have a lot to be excited about. UCLA has been plagued by numerous injuries already this season, but coach Ben Howland's team has hung tough.

The Bruins (8-1) have to be more confident after going into Ann Arbor and leaving with a big 68-61 win over the previously unbeaten Wolverines on Saturday. Howland is in his third season at UCLA, and in the past, the third time has been the charm. Just look at his track record; he has experienced breakthrough seasons in his third year at Northern Arizona and Pittsburgh.

I was so impressed with the poise of the Bruins on Saturday -- especially in a hostile environment, with the Maize Craze, Amaker's Army, in full force. Howland and company did a great job of doubling up on the Michigan big men, taking Courtney Sims and Graham Brown out of the game.

Great guard play is a major positive for UCLA, and the tandem of Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar has been outstanding. Each scored more than 20 points against the Wolverines. This duo can control the tempo of a game and score from anywhere on the court.

The Bruins have already scored wins over Michigan, previously unbeaten Nevada and Temple. Their lone loss this season came against a very talented Memphis squad.

More good news for Howland. He should get wing player Josh Shipp back from hip surgery in the next couple of weeks. Shipp could give the Bruins another scorer to complement the Farmar-Afflalo duo. I see UCLA battling Arizona and Washington for supremacy in the Pac-10 this season.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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