When the Bruins (3-1) take the court today at Pauley Pavilion (4:30 PST televised on Prime Ticket) against Florida International (3-3) look for an improved defense from this young team. During UCLA's head coach Ben Howland's press conference, he inferred that the Bruins can't allow the opposition to hit 45 percent of their shots from the field.
Defense has always been a staple for Howland's UCLA teams and there is no reason now to doubt that as the youngsters gain experience this statistic will also improve.
Even though the Bruins start three seniors and junior, it is still a relatively young team when you consider actual game experience on the court.
This team is just learning to play together and out of the 11 scholarship players, five of them are true freshmen so it obvious that this group will have to go through some growing pains, but one thing you can count on with a Howland coached team they will improve and hopefully that improvement will start its accent when Pac 10 play rolls around.
The Bruins have been working on the motion offense so they will be less predictable, but this too, has some kinks in it and may be the reason that the Bruins have had a penchant for turning the ball over. Limiting turnovers is another thing the Bruins have been working on in practice.
Howland wants to see senior point guard Darren Collison shoot more so watching the speedy point guard unleashed today may be worth the price of admission.
UCLA will play a Florida International team that runs about eight players deep. FIU's leading scorer is Nikola Gacesa (6-9, 238) who is averaging 10.8 points per game (ppg) and he also averages 4.3 rebounds per game (rpg). He like Bruin junior forward Nikola Dragovic is originally from Serbia.
FIU's second leading scorer is junior guard Michael Dominguez (6-3, 185) who averaging 10.5 ppg and he is chipping in 4.7 rpg.
The point guard is sophomore Tremayne Russell (6-0, 180) 9.2 ppg
Senior Russell Hicks (7-0, 260) plays center for the Golden Panthers and averages 9.2 ppg and accounts for 5.3 rpg.
FIU's leading rebounder is Freddy Asprilla (6-10, 280). He averages 6.3rpg and chips in 8.8 ppg.
Off the bench the minutes are given to sophomore guard Nick Taylor (5-10, 165) who helps the cause with 4.8 ppg, junior guard Harley Fuller (6-1, 180) adds another 4.8 ppg and junior forward Cedric Essola (6-9, 215) who averages 4.2 points.
Essola is originally from the Cameroon, a country that has produced a couple of popular Bruins of late, starting senior center Alfred Aboya and starting forward for the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
The Golden Panthers played UCLA's Pac 10 rival, the Washington Huskies and the Dawgs got the better of the Panthers 74-51 earlier in November.