UCLA thinks it is making progress
November 24, 2009
LOS ANGELES – From baby steps to a full stride, the young UCLA Bruins believe they are on the move.
Forward Drew Gordon had 18 points and nine rebounds, and guard Michael Roll added 17 points and five assists as the Bruins overwhelmed Pepperdine 71-52 Monday night.
It was UCLA’s second consecutive victory after a disappointing double-overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton in its season opener.
“We’re starting to improve and learn each other’s tendencies,” Roll said. “We’re going to get better.”
UCLA (2-1) trailed 6-4 at the game’s start before slowly taking control. The Bruins’ lead was down to five points 10 minutes into the second half when they went on a 16-4 run to pull away from the Waves (1-3).
“We got a couple of stops and them Michael hit some big shots for us,” said UCLA coach Ben Howland.
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Roll knocked down 5-of-9 from 3-point range. UCLA, which hit only 33.3 percent of its field goals in its opening loss to Fullerton, shot 54.3 percent from the field against the Waves.
Pepperdine (1-3) was led by guard Keion Bell’s 22 points, but no other Wave reached double figures in scoring.
Bell has scored at least 20 points in each of Pepperdine’s four games. He reached the 20 mark only three times last season despite being the Waves’ leading scorer.
“We played very good, but we broke down defensively in the second half,” said Pepperdine coach Tom Asbury. “We will learn from this. We are young. We have no seniors, no leadership, but it will evolve.”
UCLA played its second consecutive game without suspended forward Nikola Dragovic since he was arrested for assault Friday. Dragovic was dressed in street clothes on the team bench.
Howland said he had no update on when Dragovic might rejoin the team. Dragovic is UCLA’s only returning starter.
Without him, the Bruins played seven underclassmen Monday, including sophomore starters Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson and Gordon. Anderson played only the opening minute of the second half before leaving with leg cramps.
Lee added 13 points for the Bruins. Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, getting extensive time in the second half in place of Anderson, scored a career-high 10 points off the bench.
With Roll, Lee and Abdul-Hamid hitting from outside, the Bruins frequently were able to find Gordon open inside.
“We all have to keep contributing,” Roll said. “Drew is a great presence inside, which just opens it up outside for me.”
UCLA kept the pressure on at the end, outscoring Pepperdine 25-11 in the final minutes.
“Day by day, we’re getting better,” Gordon said. “We’re just going to see where this takes us.”