The injury-plagued Bruins (11-2, 1-1) lost to a determined Cal Bear team (8-3, 2-0) that played tenacious defense and was very patient on offense. It was one of those games for the Bruins where they seemed flat and a step slow. Still they were in the game until the end before falling 68-61.
Cal's hard-nosed defense contested just about every shot that the Bruins attempted and it showed as UCLA only shot 36.7 per cent from the floor while the Bears hit a 52.2 percent of their shots.
While Cal sophomore forward Leon Powe was contained on offense being held 1-7 shooting from the floor, he was dominating off the glass accounting for a game high 12 rebounds.
Bear center DeVon Hardin also had solid game inside scoring 10 points and adding eight rebounds.
Cal's guard play was also outstanding. The trio of guards was led by talented junior Ayinde Ubaka. Ubaka is really coming into his own for the Bears on and off the court. He did his damage on the court against the Bruins leading the Bears with 18 points and in assists with four. Ubaka was a perfect 7-7 from the charity stripe.
Senior guard Richard Midgley hit a clutch three-pointer when the Bruins were on a nine point run in the second half. That shot reestablished Cal's confidence and the Bears went on a run of their own to pretty much put the game away.
Midgley ended up with 12 points hitting on 4-6 from the floor, including 2-3 from behind the three point stripe.
The third guard from this deadly trio is the son of former Bruin great Jamal Wilkes, Omar Wilkes. He took a page out of his Dad's playbook when he hit a three-point jumper to open the game and get Cal on the scoreboard.
Like his Dad, the younger Wilkes was smooth as silk all game long and made several key plays that helped the Bears win. He hit on 5-8 shots, including 2-3 from beyond the arc for a total of 12 points. He also contributed three assists.
Bruin guard Arron Afflalo played his usual solid game on both ends of the floor. He led all scorers with 19 points. He also had five rebounds.
Afflalo needed some help in this game especially with his guard mate Jordan Farmar obviously not up to his normal game.
Farmar, ever the warrior, battled through his ankle sprain and played 36 minutes scoring five points and leading the Bruins with three assists. He shot an unlikely for him 2-11 from the floor and ended up with six points.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had the unenviable task of guarding Powe and he did a good job there holding the future NBA player to five points, but he didn't get his normal amount of rebounds and for the first time this season Mbah a Moute didn't lead the Bruins in rebounds. He ended up three points and three rebounds on the game.
Lorenzo Mata did some nice things defensively but his offensive game needs some work, but his all-around improvement this season is one of the reasons that the Bruins up to the Cal game have been playing with a spark.
Josh Shipp had 10 points in a losing cause and played a nice game for only his second game back.
True freshmen Darren Collison and Alfred Aboya had eight points apiece off the bench. Collison, a point guard, failed to get one assist.
The Bears really tightened down the clamps on the defensive end of the floor. They were very physical and aggressive.
Would have the Bruins have benefited if they had their more experienced big men available to play? It is hard to say.
Perhaps the Bruins will be able to answer that question when they take on Bears up in Berkeley later in the season.
The Bears have reason to celebrate the New Year, for the first time since 2000, Cal swept the two Pac-10 Los Angeles schools on the road.
The Bears are getting healthy and are playing good basketball. If they continue to play the way they did in Los Angeles then they will be a team that the whole conference will have to reckon with.
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