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Sunday, December 9, 2012
Updated: December 10, 8:36 AM ET
UCLA needs to ride momentum

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

UCLA stole a win away from Texas on Saturday.

The UCLA Bruins really needed a win badly, and for a long time, it appeared they would fall short versus the Texas Longhorns. Then, a sense of urgency changed the defensive intensity and the Bruins forced several turnovers down the stretch. Texas saw an eight-point lead disappear and UCLA went back to the West Coast fortunate to escape with a victory. Now they are 6-3 and can build some momentum with a six-game homestand ahead.

A loss would have been tough for Ben Howland & Co. I really believe that this was a bigger game for the Bruins even though both teams came in 5-3.

I am sure that Texas coach Rick Barnes had a sleepless night as his team missed several uncontested layups that would have made a difference.

UCLA has some solid athletes, and they must focus on playing defense and guarding opponents. They allowed too many easy shots to the Longhorns. It is tough to get to the winner's circle when the opposition can execute whatever they want on the offensive end.

Coach Howland wants his team to be more physical and show toughness on the defensive end. He can flat-out coach, understands the game and is a disciplinarian. Some of his kids think they are better than they really are.

Sometimes players are thinking of those three letters, NBA, instead of the four letters on the front of their current jersey, UCLA. That becomes part of the mental process when they hear from their entourages and people around them, telling them how great they are. You know what the end result is: They eventually will go to the pros.

That is a talented team out in Westwood. Kyle Anderson plays in spurts and is better with the ball in his hands. He can make teammates better with his passing skills, and he is not as effective when he doesn't possess the rock.

Larry Drew III has to be a leader as a fifth-year player. He cannot allow opponents to beat him off the dribble; he must force himself to stay between his opponent and the basket.

There are plenty of people capable of scoring, from Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, the Wear brothers, Norman Powell, Adams to Anderson. They have to be more consistent as a unit on the defensive end. They got stops and forced turnovers at the right time on Saturday. Perhaps they can build on that.