What pleased UCLA Coach Ben Howland more than his team's scoring basket after basket during a game-opening 15-0 run Friday was its ability to make stop after stop.
The Bruins effectively utilized double teams, stepped into passing lanes for steals and generally made putting the ball in the basket almost impossible for Cal State Northridge over the first 4 minutes 46 seconds of an 83-50 victory at Pauley Pavilion.
Perhaps the most flustered Matador was forward Lenny Daniel, who finally broke the scoreless drought with a free throw but missed all four of his shots in the game and finished with only one point. UCLA continually pestered Northridge's only returning starter with double teams, forcing him into five turnovers.
"I think that really bothered him," Howland said. "I don't know if he was expecting it."
Daniel nearly lost the ball on an early possession when Bruins big men Joshua Smith and Reeves Nelson trapped him in a corner. Howland said the trap was probably farther away from the basket than he would have liked but noted that it was effective with the 6-foot-10, 305-pound Smith creating some panic.
"Believe me, he's coming at you, yelling and screaming; it was a good trap," Howland said.
Smith wasn't the only UCLA player to cause problems. Junior guard Lazeric Jones, repeatedly beaten off the dribble during two exhibition games, did a better job staying between his opponent and the basket after getting some advice from Howland.
"Coach was telling me I was getting a little too close [to the opposing player] sometimes," Jones said. "I need to move my feet and stay within the range so I can stay in front of someone."
Howland said he also liked his team's help defense. Partially obscured by the fact that UCLA forced 27 turnovers and held Northridge to 29% shooting was that the Bruins also took four charges.
"I love to see that," Howland said.
Going the distance
Nelson was supposed to become a three-point threat this season after moving from center to power forward. But the sophomore missed both of his attempts from beyond the arc in an exhibition game, creating some skeptics.
"My friends from back home were reading stuff online and telling me people were kind of doubting my shot," Nelson said.
Nelson made the only three-pointer he took Friday.
"I'm going to keep shooting because I have confidence in my shot, Coach has confidence in my shot, and it felt good," Nelson said.
Smith's sprained right thumb did not appear to bother him as much as it did in the Bruins' final exhibition game. "You could see his thumb was getting a little better," Howland said, "[because] he was grabbing some difficult passes." Smith finished with nine points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes. … Howland said freshman guard Matt Carlino, who sat out the opener because of a concussion, was examined by a doctor Friday, but the report was not immediately available.