LOS ANGELES (AP) -- UCLA coach Ben Howland has had all of his
banged-up Bruins available for the same practice once this season.
And they're ranked 12th in the country.
Their schedule may suggest to some that the Bruins (10-1)
haven't played enough marquee schools to earn that spot. But
Howland insisted after Friday night's 86-56 rout of Sacramento
State that they have been tested enough for whatever challenges the
Pac-10 schedule brings.
"We've played some very good teams this year, and I'm very
pleased with how our team has responded to all the adversity,"
Howland said following the Bruins' final non-conference tuneup.
"If we get everybody healthy, I think we have a chance to be an
Coming off a 74-72 victory over unheralded Wagner College, the
Bruins opened this one with an 18-2 run and were never seriously
threatened in their first-ever meeting with Sacramento State (8-5).
Half of UCLA's wins have come against schools that never faced
them before this season, including Wagner, Albany, Drexel and
Coppin State. All five of those games were at Pauley Pavilion,
where the Bruins have won 10 straight.
"The last time I checked, we were one of two schools going into
today that had played against five top 50 teams in the country,"
Howland said in defense of UCLA's schedule. "The RPI that they're
using for the NCAA tournament is largely based on strength of
schedule, and we were fourth out of 330 teams. So we've absolutely
"To get road wins over Nevada in a neutral site, and Michigan
in a very hostile environment. Temple is a team that's expected to
be in the NCAA tournament, and I have no doubt that Wagner is going
to be in the tournament coming out of their conference," Howland
The Bruins extended their winning streak to seven games. Their
only loss was to Memphis in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals at
Madison Square Garden on Nov. 23. It's the school's best start
since 1994-95, when the Bruins finished 32-1 and won the NCAA
championship under Jim Harrick.
UCLA begins its conference schedule next Thursday against
Stanford at Pauley Pavilion, and expects to have sophomore forward
Josh Shipp back in the lineup for the first time since undergoing
arthroscopic surgery on his right hip in September. The Bruins tied
for third in the Pac-10 last season at 11-7, finished 18-11 overall
and made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002.
"We've played a lot of tough teams and we've been pretty
solid," Afflalo said. "The fact that we had 28 assists tonight
was very gratifying to me. It's a good feeling, going into Pac-10
play, that we're all one team right now."
Jason Harris scored 16 points for the Hornets, who are 1-26
against Pac-10 teams. The only victory was during the 1953-54
season, 45-44 over Washington State.
UCLA's swarming defense held Sacramento State to one field goal
over the first 6:25 and blocked six shots in the opening half,
while the Hornets shot 33 percent and didn't make a jumper until
Clark Woods' 15-footer with 6:24 left before intermission.
"Being down 18-2 obviously put us in a big hole," Sacramento
State coach Jerome Jenkins said. "We already had a large enough
mountain to climb just by playing them. UCLA is the No. 12 team in
the nation for a reason. If we win the Big Sky Conference, this is
the type of team we will play in the NCAA tournament. So this was a
great learning experience for the program, but we have a long way
Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds,
gave the Bruins their biggest lead of the first half on a dunk that
made it 36-17 with 5:38 left.
After shooting 19-for-27 over the first 20 minutes, UCLA opened
the second half with a 9-0 run fueled by six points from Afflalo.
His 16-footer increased the margin to 51-28 with 17:36 remaining,
and the Hornets got no closer than 20 points the rest of the way.
The Bruins committed 21 turnovers.
"That was the one negative about tonight," Afflalo said.
"That team came in averaging 19 turnovers by their opponents, and
that's definitely something we don't expect out of ourselves. Maybe
we got a little lackadaisical, due to the fact that we were up 20.
But we will improve on taking care of the ball."