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UCLA BASKETBALL FYI : Defense focus of Bruins' practice

November 13, 2009|David Wharton

Defense has always ranked among Ben Howland's favorite topics, so it makes sense to hear the UCLA coach talk about double teams and help-side rotation leading up to the season opener.

"We're still having a problem defending the dribble," he said Thursday after watching film of a recent victory over Humboldt State. "There were a number of times we were getting beat off dribble penetration."

This is a young team that has yet to adopt Howland's trademark pressure defense. He expressed concern about an athletic Cal State Fullerton visiting Pauley Pavilion on Monday night.

"A bunch of really good athletes who can really break you down on the dribble," he said. "So that's something we'll be working on."

The Bruins planned to install double teams -- something new for the freshmen -- at Thursday's practice.

"It'll take a little bit of time to develop," senior James Keefe said. "I think it's going to be a team defense that's going to make us go."

Learning curve

The Bruins are looking for more good things from freshman Reeves Nelson, who had four points and two rebounds in 11 minutes against Humboldt State.

"We need to keep bringing Reeves along because Reeves is a good rebounder," Howland said.

Another freshman, Mike Moser, played well his first time on the floor, then came back with a pair of quick misses. The message from coaches: patience.

"College games are a lot faster than high school games were," Moser said. "I need to just really take my time and really get warm before I try to take any tough shots."

Senior service

The Bruins have not seen the performance they expect from senior Nikola Dragovic, their only returning starter, who is shooting six of 23 in two games.

"Obviously he hasn't shot it well," Howland said. "And I thought his defense left something to be desired in the second game against Humboldt."

With freshman Tyler Honeycutt injured, Dragovic has been asked to play more minutes at small forward, a change that pits him against smaller, quicker opponents.

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david.wharton.latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesWharton

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