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UCLA BASKETBALL FYI

UCLA's Malcolm Lee has become the Bruins' defensive stopper

The junior guard has been able to frustrate some of the nation's top scorers, including BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Washington State's Klay Thompson.

January 19, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • UCLA guard Malcolm Lee pressures Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette during a game on Dec. 18.
UCLA guard Malcolm Lee pressures Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Seemingly no statistic is too obscure to be included in the thick media release UCLA distributes before each game. The number of dives for loose balls, free-throw percentage in the last four minutes, success controlling jump balls … it's all there in black and white.

Too bad for Malcolm Lee there are no figures for staying in front of your man, contesting shots and generally making life miserable for opposing players when they're on offense.

The junior guard might lead the Bruins in each category.

Lee has become a defensive stopper, frustrating such prolific scorers as Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette, Washington State's Klay Thompson and Oregon State's Jared Cunningham.

"Every time Coach [Ben Howland] tells us who he's guarding," UCLA guard Lazeric Jones said of Lee, "we have faith that he's going to if not neutralize him, just basically stop him, period."

Lee's assignment Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion could be one of his toughest: California's Allen Crabbe. The freshman guard is the Golden Bears' top scorer in Pacific 10 Conference play, averaging 17.4 points.

The more college games the former Los Angeles Price High standout has played, the more productive he has become. But his career-high 30-point outburst against Washington State last week didn't surprise just the Cougars.

"I was shocked to see him get 30 the other night," Cal Coach Mike Montgomery said. "I mean, you just wouldn't expect that from anybody really as a freshman, but he can shoot the ball and he's playing with a lot of confidence right now."

Lee called the task of defending the 6-foot-6 Crabbe "just another challenge," something the 6-5 Lee has mostly excelled at this season.

He flustered Fredette into seven turnovers and two-of-eight shooting from beyond the three-point arc on the way to 25 mostly meaningless points during UCLA's 86-79 victory over BYU.

He continually kept Thompson out of rhythm, the Pac-10's leading scorer getting 26 points for Washington State but making only six of 17 shots in the Bruins' 80-71 win.

He never let Cunningham get an open look at the basket, Oregon State's top player managing only five points on one-for-nine shooting during UCLA's 62-57 victory.

Two days later, Cunningham scored 24 points against defens-minded USC, making six of seven shots.

"I saw that," Lee said. "It's just showing what he is capable of doing, and he didn't do that against us."

Lee scored a game-high 18 points against Oregon on Saturday but said he was more thrilled by his defensive effort against Oregon State because it probably had a greater impact on the game's outcome.

Lee's scoring production occasionally suffers as a result of the effort he expends on the defensive end. He acknowledged that the only time he takes a play off is on offense, but he's still the Bruins' third-leading scorer, averaging 12.4 points.

Jones said Lee's defense-first mind-set takes "a whole lot of guts."

"Every day, he goes into practice and works hard and when it's time to guard the best player, he goes out there and gives it all he's got," Jones said. "You can't ask more of anyone."

Does Lee get enough credit for his defensive prowess against top players?

"I really don't know," Lee said. "I feel like if I did a good job and kept their field-goal percentage [down], I just give myself credit."

Donation levels reduced

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero announced that Wooden Athletic Fund donation levels required for priority seating at Pauley Pavilion would be reduced by 20% as the result of strong fundraising efforts for renovation of the 46-year-old facility.

Guerrero said the athletic department was well on its way to meeting its $100-million goal, with $65 million committed in cash and signed pledges and an additional $22 million potentially being generated through proposals under consideration. A sponsorship and naming-rights deal is also a possibility, though Pauley Pavilion would remain part of any name change.

The reduction in donation levels impacts more than 11,000 seats and takes effect when the refurbished facility opens for the 2012-13 season. As an example of the reductions, the donation for a prime lower-level seat between the baskets will go from $4,000 to $3,200.

"Based on feedback, we believe that this reduction will be welcome news to our fans and supporters," Guerrero said in a statement.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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