LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Coach Ben Howland looked at his lineup in the
first half and saw three freshmen wearing UCLA uniforms on the
"God, we are young," he said. "I don't remember ever playing
a game this early that counted. This is early in the season and
But it was a few older hands who guided the Bruins to an 83-70
victory over New Mexico State in a first-round Preseason NIT game
Sophomore Arron Afflalo scored a career-high 23 points, sophomore Jordan Farmar had 14 of his 18 points in the second half, and senior Cedric Bozeman added 13 points after missing all of last season because of knee surgery.
"We have expectations this year," Afflalo said. "We're still
young, but we're a good team. This team could be very special."
The Bruins never trailed and maintained a double-digit lead most
of the second half, with 10 players getting minutes, including
three of the team's highly touted freshmen.
"We weren't quite on the same page, but we had enough
individual efforts and big-time plays to get it done," Farmar
said. "But in order for us to be a good team and compete in that
kind of environment and go deep into the tournament, we all have to
be on the same page."
UCLA will host Temple in a second-round game Thursday night. The
Owls advanced with a 69-37 victory over Army.
John Wooden, still a magnet for autograph seekers at 95, watched
the Bruins win their season opener for the third straight year
Elijah Ingram led New Mexico State with a career-high 24 points
after not playing for more than 1½ years because he transferred
from St. John's. Shaun Davis added 15 points.
"I was seeing visions of Elijah Ingram in [Madison Square]
Garden," Howland said. "He was making those two 3s in a row when
we were up 17, made a bad turnover, he scores and we come down and
shoot it quick, up 14 and he makes another one. But we'll learn
Ingram scored 21 points when St. John's beat UCLA 71-55 in
January 2004 at the Garden in New York.
"We're not that far away from being a good team," he said.
"It felt like we beat ourselves with a lot of turnovers . I
was a little nervous and anxious. I had to calm myself down and
find my rhythm."
The Aggies lost their opener under new coach Reggie Theus, who
grew up down the freeway in Inglewood and starred at UNLV and in
the NBA. He took over a team that went 6-24 last season and has
just two returning starters.
"I have had so many emails, text messages and phone messages
from the gang back home. They're all wishing me well," Theus said.
"We helped ourselves a lot. We played in front of a large crowd, a
lot of pepole out here have never seen us play."
The Aggies outscored UCLA 12-5 to end the half trailing by
Afflalo did most of his damage in the first half with 16 points,
including hitting all five of his free throws.
"I'm going to definitely get some career marks scoring-wise and
that's all because Dijon [Thompson] is gone and coach is looking
for me to score," he said. "When I step on that floor, I still
take pride most in my defense, so that's what you're going to get
out of me first."
The Bruins started the second half with an 18-10 run that
increased their lead to 59-44. Afflalo ignited the spark with a
3-pointer before 7-footer Michael Fey ended it with a jumper.
Fey had practiced just twice before the opener, having been
bothered by a severe groin strain for five weeks.
"It felt good to be out there and help the team," he said.
Down the stretch, the Aggies couldn't muster any momentum
against UCLA's defense. The Bruins ran off eight in a row for a
79-61 lead with 2:22 remaining.
UCLA freshman Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of Cameroon got his first
start and had six points and a team-leading eight rebounds before
fouling out in the final minute. Freshmen Darren Collison had four
points and two assists, and Michael Roll added five points, two
rebounds and two assists.
"They were a little jittery," Farmar said. "That's one thing
I told them, there's going to be ups and downs. There was for me."
The Bruins are playing in the Preseason NIT for the first time
since 1996, when they were upset by Tulsa in overtime of the
opening round in Steve Lavin's first game after taking over from
the fired Jim Harrick.
UCLA was without sophomore starter Josh Shipp, who is recovering
from hip surgery and freshman Alfred Aboya, who had left knee
"This team is going to look that much better when Josh and
Alfred come back," Afflalo said. "I can't wait for that."
- Curtis Shaw
- J.B. Caldwell
- John Hampton