Bruins need work for big board exam
The UCLA players got a surprise this week when Coach Ben Howland announced their latest ranking.
He wasn’t talking about the Bruins’ rise to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll. He was talking about their fall to 10th place -- dead last -- in the Pacific 10 Conference when it comes to defensive rebounds.
“That’s terrible,” swingman Michael Roll said. “I’m sure we’re going to work on it a lot this week.”
The Bruins were outrebounded 31-24 and gave up 14 second-chance points at Oregon last weekend.
Their lowly average of 21.7 defensive rebounds is all the more noteworthy because they face crosstown rival USC on Sunday. The Trojans lead the conference in that category with an average of 27.1.
“They’re killing people on the boards,” Howland said. “Taj Gibson is playing unbelievable when you look at his numbers.”
With no dominant rebounder in the lineup, the Bruins said they need to work harder at blocking out.
All five men are supposed to go to the glass every time the opponent shoots, but players said they have been getting sloppy, trying to sneak off to start the fastbreak.
“It’s really a team thing,” center Alfred Aboya said. “Something we definitely need to fix.”
Along with concerns about rebounding, Howland praised his team for starting Pac-10 play with two victories on the road. He was particularly happy about Darren Collison’s performance.
The senior point guard had a combined 38 points and 13 assists against only two turnovers at Oregon State and Oregon.
“He is playing really well for us,” Howland said.
The team had a rough trip home from Oregon on Sunday, making a stop in Seattle where the plane got caught in a snowstorm and sat on the tarmac for several hours.
“We didn’t get back till 3 in the morning,” Howland said. “So it wasn’t really a great day off Monday.”
At least the Bruins get a break with USC being the only opponent this week. That gives them a chance to prepare for the triangle-and-two, the box-and-one and “all those different defenses that [the Trojans] have used this year and in the past,” Howland said.
And also time to rest.
“We’ve had a good amount of games now,” Roll said. “We’ve beaten each other up in practice, so this will help our legs and hopefully our conditioning.”
Malcolm Lee increased his workload to more than an hour in practice Wednesday, reporting no undue pain in the left knee he injured late last month.
The freshman guard, who first tested the knee Tuesday, is out of shape from spending two weeks on the bench, Howland said. He is considered probable for Sunday’s game.