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Bruins spend time on free throws

UCLA BASKETBALL FYI

UCLA is making a woefully low percentage of its foul shots, a situation Coach Ben Howland aims to improve.

January 27, 2010|By Chris Foster

UCLA freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt was one free throw from being done in practice Monday.

"I had made 79 of 99 free throws," Honeycutt said. "I just needed one more and I missed it. So I had to start all over again."

Call it 15 feet to frustration.

If there is a glaring weakness for the UCLA basketball team, it comes when players stand alone, unguarded. The Bruins shoot like Bob Dylan sings these days . . . poorly.

UCLA has made a woeful 61% of its free throws this season, ranking them last in the Pacific 10 Conference and 323rd out of 334 Division I teams.

The question at this point is, can they get better?

"It won't be for lack of trying," Coach Ben Howland said.

UCLA spent Monday focusing considerably on the inability to make free throws, especially at key moments. The Bruins made 16 of 28 free throws Saturday against Washington State and were only 10 for 18 from the line in the last five minutes.

It was hardly an anomaly. UCLA's free-throw percentage has been above 70% in four games this season. They are un-Howland-like numbers. UCLA shot 72% from the line last season and 73% in 2007-08.

The solution?

"Just working at it, working at it, working at it," Howland said. "We have been putting them in different situations in practice, having them do it after they were tired."

"Bigs" (power forwards/centers) had to make 70 of 100 and "smalls" (perimeter players) 80 of 100 during Monday's practice. Coming up short meant starting again.

The problem is that simulating a game situation is difficult.

"You can stand there and just shoot them, and make a lot, but it's different in a game when you have the crowd, you have to score and there is little time left," Honeycutt said. "It's a whole lot different when you're shooting two down by one at the end of a game. You have to try to mentally prepare for that."

Honeycutt is shooting 55% from the line, one of four regular players under 60%. Jerime Anderson is shooting 58%, Reeves Nelson 55% and James Keefe 36%. "I shot free throws better in high school," said Nelson, a freshman. "To be honest, the crowd is not much of a factor. It's all in my brain, like I'm fatigued in my mind."

Porter patter

Howland's biggest concern about facing Oregon on Thursday is the Ducks' 5-foot-6 guard Tajuan Porter, who is averaging 12.5 points per game. The Bruins are now a committed zone team and Porter is a zone-buster. "He's a little guy who is a nightmare for a zone, especially at home," Howland said. "His range is 30 feet."

The Bruins handled Washington State's Klay Thompson, who was five for 17 from the field Saturday. But Porter "is more a penetrator with his size. He can get into gaps easier because he's low to the ground."

Etc.

This is the last season Oregon will play in creaky, noisy, hostile McArthur Court, so for each game honorary captains are chosen. Oregon's captain will be Greg Ballard, whose number will be retired. UCLA's captain will be Bill Walton, whose last game at McArthur was a 56-51 loss to the Ducks. . . . UCLA's Anderson, who has played only nine minutes the last two weeks (hip flexor injury), practiced a half-hour Monday, but remains questionable for the game.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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