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College Basketball | UCLA REPORT

Ballhandling Not on Board

January 04, 2003|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Bruins are running and running, but they can't run away from themselves.

The 29 turnovers that accompanied a 77-67 victory over Washington were addressed at practice Friday after a short flight from Seattle to Spokane and a rain-soaked drive to the site of the Washington State campus.

Another up-tempo game is expected today against the Cougars, a quick, undersized team led by freewheeling point guard Marcus Moore. So UCLA can crank up the pace, score in transition, press and expect to be pressed.

But the Bruins need prudent ballhandling. They must cut down on traveling, double-dribbling, tossing passes into the stands and letting opponents strip the ball like a Pike Place Market pickpocket.

They know not every opponent will be as cold as Washington, which shot 33.3%.

"The defensive pressure on both sides created the scrambling, chaotic, Keystone Kop sequences," UCLA Coach Steve Lavin said. "One time the ball bounced off the head of [Washington forward Mike Jensen]. That put it in perspective. There was an odd pace to that game."

Most impressive was the Bruins' resilience. They hustled back on defense after every turnover and made the Huskies earn shots. Plus, UCLA forced 17 turnovers of its own, mitigating the damage.

"Before the game we talked about this being a new year and the beginning of the [Pacific 10] conference," Lavin said. "We decided that we may make mistakes, but we can bring great energy, passion and togetherness game in and game out."

Forward Dijon Thompson, who had eight turnovers but also made five of seven shots for 14 points, typified the uneven, yet spirited, performance.

"We can't be careless, that's all," he said. "We have different combinations in there, but regardless of who is in the game we can take care of the ball."

*

Thompson and Moore were high school teammates for one year at Redondo Union. Thompson was an impressionable freshman and Moore already was regarded as one of the top players in the Southland.

Moore transferred to Compton Dominguez for his senior year and Thompson moved to point guard as a sophomore.

Now Thompson is a 6-foot-7 forward and perhaps the most talented Bruin. Moore, a junior, is the leading scorer in the Pac-10. They will greet each other today, although Thompson isn't sure what the charismatic Moore will say.

"He's a funny guy, he can talk," Thompson said. "He's a very crafty guy too."

Moore has assumed a scoring role this season, averaging 21 points. He scored 20 and had seven assists in the Cougars' 97-90 loss to USC on Thursday.

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Thompson was encouraged Friday because he had little pain in his left knee despite playing 25 minutes off the bench against Washington.

He had not practiced since Christmas and was not sure he would play until reaching Seattle. Midway through pregame warmups he rode an exercise bike to loosen the knee.

"I didn't expect to play so many minutes," he said. "But it's getting better, not worse."

*

Freshman center Michael Fey had friends and family in the stands Thursday night. The Olympia, Wash., product played eight minutes and did not score, although he did block a shot and notch one rebound and one assist.

"Every time I looked in the stands I saw somebody I knew, my old AAU coach, my friends, a lot of people," he said.

Husky followers also were curious about Bruin freshman center Ryan Hollins and transfer guard Brian Morrison.

Hollins, who did not play, nearly followed Coach Lorenzo Romar from Saint Louis to Washington. Hollins was released from his commitment to Saint Louis when Romar became Washington coach but decided to attend UCLA.

Morrison, from Seattle, went to UCLA after playing two seasons at North Carolina and is sitting out this season under transfer rules. Late last summer he had second thoughts about UCLA and tried to enroll at Washington, but he reconsidered when UCLA would not reimburse him for tuition and fees.

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