LOS ANGELES – When an opponent crossed halfcourt against UCLA last season, a successful pass was difficult and finding an open shot nearly impossible. So as the Bruins tried to regroup during a Saturday practice after the horrific loss to California in the first round of the Pacific-10 Conference tournament, it made perfect sense that defense was the starting point. “We have to go back to our roots, go back to our defense,” Bruins point guard Darren Collison said. “We’ve been allowing teams \ a little over 45 percent from the field. That’s not our game. We like to hold teams under 35 percent. “We have to bring back that mind-set, and I think we have. This team is capable of doing that. We just can’t get away from that.” In winning 20 of its first 22 games, UCLA (26-5) held opponents to 41.9 percent from the field. In going 6-3 in its final nine games, opponents shot 46.9 percent from the floor, with three teams shooting better than 50 percent. Once the NCAA tournament seedings were announced Sunday, UCLA coach Ben Howland said he would not contact his former assistant and current Northern Arizona coach Mike Adras for a scouting report. Since Weber State and NAU both play in the Big Sky Conference, Howland said he didn’t want to put Adras in a difficult position. The Bears shot 48 percent from the field in the 76-69 overtime win, continuing a disturbing trend for a UCLA squad that is best known for its tenacious defense. As No. 2 seed UCLA heads into Thursday’s meeting with No. 15 seed Weber State in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Sacramento’s Arco Arena, the Bruins need to tighten defensively. Of course, Howland didn’t need to talk to Adras, since the two spoke about 11 p.m. Saturday. Adras said he was on a recruiting trip when he called Howland. “I thought for sure, and I think (Howland) also felt it was going to be Weber,” Adras said. “They know what they’re doing.” Bruins junior guard Arron Afflalo said he relieved a lot of his anger and frustration over his three-point effort against Cal by setting a personal-best in the bench press with 265 pounds. “It’s funny how it gives you that inspiration,” Afflalo said. “Our strength coach told me lifting weights gets rid of nervous energy, any type of anxiety, any type of frustration. It’s true. Afterward, I felt calmer.” Afflalo was named first-team All-American by The Sporting News, the fifth team he’s made. He was also a first-team selection by the basketball coaches (NABC), SI.com, ESPN.com and Dick Vitale. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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