One of the best defenders in Weber State basketball history, Ben Howland remembers shuffling his feet — and taking his share of charges — three decades ago in tradition-rich Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s very loud. I actually played my last college game ever in Allen Fieldhouse. We lost to Arkansas in the second round of the tournament,” Howland, UCLA’s eighth-year hoops coach, said earlier this week.
He was reflecting on Weber State’s 74-63 loss to the Razorbacks in an NCAA Tournament Round of 32 game in March of 1979 in Lawrence.
“Their floor ... I’m trying to remember what it was made out of. It’s one that Pepperdine used to have. I forget what surface it was,” Howland said, adding, “It was very bad. They’ve gone back to the hardwood now.”
His unranked Bruins (3-2) will find a state-of-the-art playing surface in the fieldhouse for both this afternoon’s shootaround and an 8 p.m nonconference clash against No. 4 Kansas (6-0).
The Jayhawks played and practiced on a hard-on-the-knees tartan court from 1973-79.
“This is going to be a big challenge,” Howland said of tonight’s Big 12-Pac 10 Hardwood Series matchup.
“They were obviously really good last year (in going 33-3 and defeating UCLA, 73-61, on Dec. 6 in Pauley Pavilion). They were the No. 1 team going into the NCAA Tournament. You are talking about three guys in the NBA off that team, and they are still loaded. Bill (Self, KU coach) has done a fantastic job with that program year in and out.”
Howland is wary of KU frontcourt players Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson, who average 19.0, 12.3 and 10.7 points per game to lead the team through six games.
“They have a great scheme of getting them the ball, getting the ball in good scoring areas,” Howland said.
A year ago, Markieff Morris scored 19 points off 8-of-13 shooting versus the Bruins in L.A. Of KU’s returning players, Tyshawn Taylor was next in line in scoring with eight.
UCLA junior guard Malcolm Lee scored 12 points, while sophomore Reeves Nelson contributed nine points and nine boards.
“It was one of his (Markieff’s) best games by far last year. He dominated down low when the big fella (Cole Aldrich, seven points, 12 boards) was in foul trouble and when I couldn’t get going,” said Markieff’s brother, Marcus Morris, who scored four points at Pauley Pavilion.
“He (Markieff) stepped up in trying to put our team on his back and dominated them.”
Noted Markieff: “I think it was my best game all year scoring-wise. I didn’t think they were ready for me to produce like that.”
The 6-foot-8 Nelson leads UCLA in scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.4 rpg). Last year, he was poked in the eye by Marcus Morris while driving to the hoop in the second half. Suffering from blurred vision, Nelson was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he was treated for a severe corneal abrasion.
“I know he’s a good player. I respect him as a player,” KU sophomore forward Robinson said of the Modesto, Calif., native.
The Bruins opened the 2010-11 season with home victories over Cal State Northridge (83-50), Pepperdine (79-69) and Pacific (57-44) before dropping Preseason NIT games to Villanova (82-70) and Virginia Commonwealth (89-85) in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Howland held a three-hour film session following the VCU game.
“We really studied it, really tried to learn from it, tried to understand all the mistakes we made,” said Howland, a two-time Weber State defensive player of the year who took his love for stifling defense into his coaching career.
“Of the first 11 baskets they made, eight of them were layups. It’s our defense, our execution offensively, setting screens, making the effort to go every time to the offensive glass, understanding rotations, staying in front of the ball. It’s taking care of the ball. It’s a lot of things,” Howland added of the Bruins’ recent shortcomings.
UCLA has double-digit scorers in Nelson, Tyler Honeycutt (14.6), Lazeric Jones (12.6) and Lee (11.5).
“They will definitely guard us,” Self said. “It will be a game where there are very few easy baskets. I’m excited, and our guys will be excited about playing arguably as storied of a program as there is in the country. I think our fans will be excited about that, too.”
Recruiting: DeAndre Daniels, a 6-foot-8, 180-pound senior forward from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., will attend tonight’s game as part of an official recruiting visit to KU, Rivals.com reports. Daniels, who decommitted from Texas in mid-August, also has UCLA on his list of schools that still includes Texas, Florida, Kentucky and Oregon. He’s Rivals.com’s No. 9-rated player nationally.
Stars: Marcus Morris was asked about KU’s visit to Pauley Pavilion last season.
“I remember seeing a lot of stars at the game,” Morris said.
The most famous?
“Cuba Gooding, Jr.,” Morris said. “He’s a good actor.”
This, that: UCLA leads the all-time series with KU, 10-5. UCLA beat KU, 68-55, in the West Regional finals of the 2007 NCAA Tournament in San Jose, Calif. ... UCLA has beaten KU five times against no losses in NCAA Tourney play. ... This series dates to 1958. UCLA won the first eight meetings, but KU has won five of the last seven. ... Heading into the 2010-11 season, the Big 12 holds a 20-16 advantage in all matchups against the Pac-10 in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. KU is 2-1 in the series. The Jayhawks defeated Arizona, 76-72, in overtime in 2007-08 in Allen Fieldhouse and the Wildcats won 84-67 in 2008-09 in Tucson. ... KU is 8-4 against Pac-10 foes in the Bill Self era. ... UCLA is 19-11 against ranked teams in the last five seasons. UCLA was 11-2 against ranked teams in 2006-07, 7-2 in 2007-08, 1-4 in 2008-09, 0-2 in 2009-10 and 0-1 in 2010-11.