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Bruins don't give Lions early gift

UCLA isn't about to be the first team to lose to Loyola Marymount, which falls to 0-11. / UCLA 75, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT 44

December 18, 2008|David Wharton

No one wanted to talk about the number.

Ten.

The coach skimmed right past it. The players insisted they didn't even know.

Ten.

It was a fact: UCLA's opponent at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night -- Loyola Marymount -- had yet to win in 10 games this season. The Bruins acted as if that were somehow intimidating.

"We don't want their first one to be against us," forward Josh Shipp said.

It wasn't.

On a night when the 14th-ranked Bruins struggled to shoot the ball with consistency -- maybe there was a reason to worry -- they mustered enough motivation for a 75-44 victory before a crowd announced at 6,852.

"I'm glad we won," Coach Ben Howland said. "I feel bad for the other guys. . . . They're going through tough times."

The normally deliberate Bruins (7-2) came out looking like they had a previous engagement. They rushed shots and fired from long range, on their way to a season-high 33 three-point attempts. They occasionally seemed distracted on defense, leaving opponents alone under the basket.

Meanwhile, injury-plagued Loyola Marymount played well enough to hang around, especially when forward LaRon Armstead made a series of baskets to cut UCLA's early lead to six points.

But the Lions also suffered the kind of miscues that befall losing teams. Passes glanced off their fingertips. They fumbled away rebounds.

With neither team shooting much better than 35%, the Bruins took a 39-24 lead into halftime.

"They didn't feel sorry for us," Loyola Marymount Coach Max Good said. "They came after us, which is what they should do."

Loyola Marymount had arrived with an RPI number south of 300, one of several teams that make up UCLA's final games before the start of the Pacific 10 Conference season.

Still to come are Wyoming and Louisiana Tech.

Earlier this week, Howland was asked if he might use Wednesday night as an opportunity to experiment with different lineup combinations or perhaps give the reserves more playing time.

This suggestion did not go far with a coach who is meticulous if not painstaking in his approach to pretty much every day of the season.

"I'm not planning on tinkering with anything," he said. "We'll just come out and play hard."

The starters remained in the game for the first six or so minutes, at which point reserves made their way onto the floor. Howland stuck with his bench even as Loyola Marymount stayed within striking range.

Freshmen such as J'mison Morgan and Malcolm Lee got quality time.

"Any time those guys get minutes," senior guard Darren Collison said, "it's going to be good for the program."

Down by 15, Loyola Marymount continued to play hard in the second half, sending UCLA center Alfred Aboya to the bench with a bloodied nose. They also stuck to the zone defense, packing the lane, which accounted for UCLA's shot selection.

"A lot of wide-open shots," UCLA swingman Michael Roll said. "A 2-3 zone leaves a lot of open spots up top."

The Bruins' shooting improved in the latter stages of the game -- they finished at 39%. When Lee made a three-pointer and forward James Keefe sank a turnaround in the lane, the lead had stretched to 28.

Loyola Marymount was headed the other direction, making only 25% of its shots.

"I think we're getting worn down," Good said. "It's just really frustrating because we're really short-handed."

Roll, who made four of his five three-point attempts, led UCLA with 12 points. Collison added 11 and Keefe had eight rebounds.

Armstead led all scorers with 18 points and had eight rebounds, which wasn't near enough to keep his team from acquiring another, less-pleasant number.

Eleven.

--

david.wharton@latimes.com

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