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|UCLA's problems exposed|
NEW YORK -- UCLA escaped, and we underscore that word, with a one-point consolation win over Drexel Friday night.
But the win, earned after point guard Jordan Farmar followed an airball free throw with a make in the final second, didn't mask the Bruins' problems.
"They're already at the surface," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We've got to execute offensively, get production in terms of rebounding out of the pivot."
UCLA is pointing to injuries as one of the main reasons it has looked so sluggish here in New York after losing to Memphis and climbing back to beat Drexel. The Bruins have had only a handful of practices with their projected starting lineup of Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Josh Shipp (out for another month with a shoulder injury), Michael Fey, and Alfred Aboya (left knee surgery), who will practice next week and possibly play against Coppin State (Dec. 4) or Nevada (Dec. 10).
Farmar said there was one time late in the game where one of the freshmen didn't know the plays. He, like everyone else, referenced the lack of practice time as a reason for the Bruins' struggles.
"We need Josh and Alfred," UCLA assistant coach Kerry Keating said. "We need another scorer and rebounder."
Still, the Bruins had 18 turnovers against Drexel and got zero points and three rebounds out of centers Ryan Hollins and Fey. Sophomore Lorenzo Mata saved the center position with eight boards and eight points.
"If we get back healthy we can get back to where we started as a top 25 team that can beat anybody on a given night," Howland said.
The one-point win over Drexel should hardly be dismissed. The Dragons were a few possessions away from winning this tournament. Just listen to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: "The most significant story of the whole NIT is Drexel & I mean Drexel could have won the tournament. They came out 0-2 but they played the best basketball of the four teams for 80 minutes."
Drexel didn't get the stellar effort out of Dominick Mejia (1 of 8 for two points) after he led the Dragons with 25 points in the 10-point loss to Duke on Wednesday. Mejia didn't start because he was late to a team meeting. Still, the Dragons were right there at the end before two costly plays in the final stretch, a turnover and then the foul on Farmar.
"If they're the seventh-best team in the Colonial then good luck to [Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth]," Keating said of Drexel being picked seventh by the coaches in the Colonial Athletic Association.
"That's a very good team," UCLA senior Cedric Bozeman said. "They have a chance to go to the tournament."
So should UCLA, assuming it gets healthy, executes and starts to get something out of the post. The Bruins are fortunate that they're playing in a conference where the top teams have had their hiccups of late (Stanford losing to Cal-Irvine, Arizona going 1-2 in Maui, Cal losing to Eastern Michigan and even supposed upstart Oregon State getting blown out by Tennessee Tech).
"This was a big win for us," Farmar said. "Because we beat a very good team that played Duke very tough."
-- Andy Katz, ESPN.com.
Collins' reference to Paulus was just with his eight assists and four turnovers and one seal in 38 minutes. Sure, he didn't shoot as well, going 1-for-7, but his first half of six assists and one turnover helped guide Duke. The confidence in him from everyone on the roster is growing with each possession.Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said that McRoberts and Paulus had deferred a bit to the seniors prior to Friday but got more assertive. Redick said every time he turned around in the second half Paulus was making a big play. Memphis has its share of star freshmen. The Tigers, who should be in play for a Final Four berth after this run in the NIT, have a stud in Shawne Williams, and an impressive lot with Antonio Anderson, Cooper, Robert Dozier, Douglas-Roberts and Andre Allen. Still, they weren't ready to handle late-game situations as well as Duke's veteran players. And it didn't help matters that guard Darius Washington was not 100 percent with a thigh contusion. As talented as Memphis is and as well as the Tigers played throughout this tournament, they couldn't finish like Williams did Friday. "He doesn't stop playing," Calipari said. "We got in foul trouble and our guys wanted to complain. But I was watching and they were late getting to the ball & the last two plays were effort plays, an offensive rebound -- who tipped it? Williams. And who got the last offensive rebound? Shelden. Think about it. Those were the plays."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.