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Bruins can enjoy the view in opener

Turnovers are a concern, but freshmen show signs of potential in easy victory.

November 13, 2008|David Wharton | Wharton is a Times staff writer.

There were plenty of good things for the UCLA basketball players to talk about after their season opener.

The rebounds and defensive stops, the fastbreak points.

But there were a few too many turnovers. And a stretch in the second half when they struggled.

"Your first game out there," guard Darren Collison said. "You're a little anxious."

So the fourth-ranked Bruins came away from an otherwise lopsided 82-58 victory over Prairie View A&M at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night with mixed emotions.

They suspect, as guard Jrue Holiday put it, "we could have blown up that team by 40 or 50 points." And, having advanced to the second round of the 2K Sports Classic, they know tonight's opponent will be tougher.

UCLA will face a Miami of Ohio team that likes to keep the pace slow.

That means the Bruins will have to clean up some of their sloppy play and get ready to work harder.

"They're going to be happy to play it in the 40s," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said of Miami. "We're going to need our legs because there are going to be long periods of defense."

Defense was no problem in the first half against a smaller and outmanned Prairie View A&M team.

The Bruins came out shooting well enough and, more important, playing a familiar style of man-to-man defense, pressuring the ball, forcing missed shots.

With Collison on his way to a team-high 19 points, they opened up a lead in front of a crowd of 7,190 and Howland felt comfortable putting four of his vaunted recruiting class on the floor together.

Freshman forward Drew Gordon responded with a team-high eight rebounds. During one stretch, freshman guard Malcolm Lee scored six consecutive points.

"I just think their firepower wore us down," Prairie View Coach Byron Rimm II said, adding: "Honestly, we don't see teams this big."

But after UCLA extended its lead to 27 points midway through the second half, the Panthers crept back.

Forward Darnell Hugee got hot on his way to a game-high 22 points. At the same time, UCLA suffered from those turnovers, 24 in all.

Collison and his backup, freshman Jerime Anderson, had six each. Forward James Keefe had three.

"You can't get away with that," Collison said.

It also hurt that the Bruins were without forward Nikola Dragovic, arrested last week for suspicion of misdemeanor battery stemming from an argument with his girlfriend. Dragovic sat at the end of the bench in street clothes.

The city attorney was still reviewing his case Wednesday. No charges had been filed.

"I had him sit out as part of his discipline," Howland said. "Even though I'm behind him 100%, it still is his responsibility."

As Prairie View A&M closed to within 14 points, Howland could not longer afford to rest his starters with an eye on tonight's game. The veterans returned and the final margin of victory was restored.

Afterward, the coach said he planned to use Dragovic tonight. He also talked to his players about taking care of the ball.

At the very least, the Bruins impressed Miami Coach Charlie Coles, whose team advanced to the second round with a 70-66 win over Weber State.

"I'm not sure it's such a good thing we won," Coles said after watching the Bruins warm up. "I see a lot of big, strong, talented guys out there."


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