UCLA beat Pepperdine 71-52 and is starting to look like a completely different squad from the one we saw lose to Fullerton in double OT a week ago.
Our shooting was much better - FT 13-15, 3 point shooting 8-19, and FG percentage 54%. Compare that to last week's Fullerton debacle when we shot 31% out of a total 84 shots, which is by far the most shots a Howland coached UCLA team has ever thrown up at the rim.
Drew Gordon has arrived as a force inside. He put up 19 points on 8-10 shooting, 3 blocks, 6 boards on Friday and another 18 points on 6-7 shooting, 3 blocks and 9 boards yesterday. While on Friday he had one of the best blocks I've ever seen (where he wound up, swatted it cleanly with no body contact and then gathered in the ball), more impressively, last night he scored 9 points, including 5 clutch FTs, late in the 2nd half after Pepperdine had pulled within 5 points to help UCLA go on a 14-2 run to put the game away.
Michael Roll - I would bet that if Roll shoots above 50% on his 3s, we would win that game. He really is our only consistent outside threat right now. He also might be our best distributor with 5 assists last night. I've noticed that his defense has improved so much over the years under Howland.
Malcolm Lee's shooting form looks better. I'm sure someone has worked with him this week since it almost seemed like he was purposefully working on extending his arm all the way, especially on FTs. He also plays less frantically, now that he's had a few games under his belt.
Our defensive rotations look much improved. Also, our team has started to draw a few of those vintage Howland charges on out of control players.
The one positive I see out of Drago being out, is that our freshmen big men are getting a lot more playing time especially Lane and Nelson. They clearly will both be big contributors to our program.
A double digit win over an inferior team is a good way to springboard us into a tough 3 game schedule over this weekend.
We still need work on attacking a zone defense, just like all Howland teams. There were a few bright spots such as Keefe's flash to the FT line for a jumper or Jerime's penetration for a layup early in the first half. But more often than not, we passed the ball around the perimeter without really knowing what to do.
James Keefe needs to score. He only took 2 shots in 31 minutes of play. I think eventually his baseline jumper, which extends out to the 3 point line, will be important for us.
Bobo needs to play. What a sad commentary on Bobo that freshmen Lane and Nelson are getting almost 10 minutes a game in Drago's absence while Bobo never got off the bench. He needs to really apply himself to the point that Howland trusts him.
Mustafa hit 4 big jumpers for us and looked a lot more settled on the ball yesterday. So why is he listed in the negatives? Because Mustafa should never play. We will get hurt by good teams when this liability is on the court.
Dragovic under arrest
For the 2nd time in 2 years, Dragovic couldn't help but get involved in some kind of physical confrontation that was investigated by authorities. Last year it was his girlfriend and this year it was a stranger at a concert whom Dragovic pushed through a glass case, lacerating the guy's achilles tendon. This time the DA has decided to press charges of felony assault. While there are conflicting reports as to who's really at fault, there is no question that trouble follows Dragovic around.
In my opinion, since he's a senior anyway who doesn't play sound defense or good team ball AND we're probably not going to win anything this year, I hope he doesn't come back. (Its not like he was shooting lights out anyway.) I'd rather we get Nelson, Lane and even Bobo more minutes so that we can compete for a national championship next season.