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November 5, 2009The UCLA men's basketball team opened their season avoiding a major upset against the Concordia Eagles by hitting a three point shot with sixteen seconds left to win the game by one point, 62 to 61. After being behind for almost the whole game, the Bruin's Mustafa Abdul-Hamid nailed his only three point shot from the top of the key to put his team ahead to stay.
The Eagles still had time to come down and win the game, but couldn't put the ball in the basket despite getting several shots off with the clock running down. UCLA finally got the ball out of bounds with .8 seconds left on the clock and hung on for the win.
The Concordia team was in mid-season form and simply out played and out hustled the Bruins for most of the game. The Eagles were up by eight points in the second half before UCLA started hitting some three pointers and made their come-back. Then, with the Bruins down by one, 56 to 55 with 4:14 left in the second half, Malcolm Lee lost the ball and then fouled out, allowing the Eagles to go ahead by three points on two free throws.
UCLA's Nikola Dragovic then scored on a layup to bring his team within one point. Concordia's Justin Johnson, who was the game high scorer with 21 points on 9 for 12 shooting, hit their last basket to go up by three with 2:29 left in the game. Concordia then made a free throw to go up by four but Gordon scored again to bring the Bruins within two 59 to 61 and the Bruins kept the Eagles scoreless to win the game on Abdul-Hamid's three pointer.
The high scorer for UCLA was Drew Gordon with 17 points on 8 for 11 shooting; Gordon also got 11 rebounds to lead the Bruins in that category as well. James Keefe had a fine game with 11 points and 6 boards. Dragovic scored 12 points and also grabbed 6 rebounds. Malcolm Lee scored 11 points but got only 2 assists while turning the ball over three times.
In fact, one of the Bruin's major problems in the game was having 20 turnovers. Concordia proved to be quicker and tougher than the Bruins for most of the game. They attacked the ball all over the court and clearly bothered the UCLA players with their hustle.
Coach Ben Howland conducted his post-game press conference by complimenting the Concordia team and saying that the Bruins have a lot of work to do. He cited his team's 20 turnovers as an example of the Bruin's poor execution. Howland stated that Lee will play more at point guard in future games. He also said that the freshmen had problems on defense, that the Bruins didn't handle the Eagles press well and that the Bruins are behind right now and that they played like they practiced. He wants his players to stay in front of the ball on defense and play with more intensity throughout the game.
This Bruin team is as young as advertized and must make significant progress to get back in the top 25 rankings. There is a lot of talent on this squad and the future looks bright. Coach Howland has his work cut out for him, but he has proven to be up to the task. When the injured players come back in the next two games, including Michael Roll and Jerime Anderson, the team will be much improved and winning these pre-season games should be easier, except for top ranked Kansas, which will give the inexperienced Bruins all they can handle.
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