Halftime from the Honda Center: UCLA leads Penn 39-35

ANAHEIM — The Bruin Road Show’s first half in Anaheim – also its first without last year’s leading scorer and rebounder, junior forward Reeves Nelson – went relatively well as UCLA leads Penn 39-35 at the Honda Center.

UCLA looked energized on defense but was slow to rotate at times, giving up five 3-pointers. Coach Ben Howland turned to a zone when redshirt sophomore center Anthony Stover came into the game after sophomore center Josh Smith picked up his second foul midway through the half.

UCLA hit on 6-of-11 3-pointers but that may not be a good thing with the obvious size advantage the Bruins have. There haven’t been a lot of good looks in the post. Smith got the ball a handful of times down low but botched two of them although he did clean one of them up and finished it with a 3-point play the old fashioned way.

Senior point guard Lazeric Jones leads the Bruins with 14 points. Senior Jerime Anderson has eight.

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Pregame from Anaheim: Bruins look for third win of season v. Penn

ANAHEIM — Sam Strong (otherwise known as the other fat guy) here at the Honda Center. I realize it’s been a busy day for UCLA fans with the football hiring of Jim L. Mora but we’re about 30 minutes from tip as Ben Howland’s Bruins look for their second D-I win this season.

The court looks about the same as it did for previous Wooden Classic games but they’ve added the circular UCLA logo at center court.

I don’t know much about Penn other than that the Quakers are 5-5 on the year lost to the only ranked team they’ve played. Penn lost to then-No. 17 Pitt 78-58 on Nov. 25 in the Philly Hoop Group Classic.

Ben Howland said yesterday that he thought getting the Reeves Nelson monkey off the team’s back would be a positive for UCLA. We’ll see shortly.

A reminder to follow me on twitter @SamStrong for in-game updates.

Game is on Fox Sports West with Joel Meyers and former Bruin Don MacLean on the call.

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Depth chart released

UCLA released a “tentative” depth chart today. Here’s an update on some of the interesting position battles.

*The strong guard spot lists Chris Ward or Albert Cid.

*Cory Harkey remains ahead of Joseph Fauria at tight end.

*The wide receiver position opposite Rosario lists Shaq Evans or Randall Carroll.

*Cassisus Marsh is ahead of Nate Chandler at right defensive tackle.

*Glenn Love beat out Jordan Zumwalt at sam linebacker.

*Dalton Hilliard beat out Dietrich Riley at strong safety.

“He was just really consistent,” Neuheisel said of Hilliard. “I think coach Tresey has shared with all of those kids that they’re all going to play. This competition doesn’t need to stop just because we’re going to play a game.”

*Jeff Locke is listed to kickoff, punt and hold with the place kicking spot listing all three candidates.

*Josh Smith is your kickoff return man while Taylor Embree is slotted to handle punt returns.

I asked special teams coach Angus McClure if Embree is the “safe” choice for returning punts.

“A lot of people are running what you call a shield punt in college football,” McClure said. “A shield punt is spreading everybody out and they don’t block. They release the guys downfield. You need a guy that’s sure handed because the coverage team is there much quicker than the traditional punt. You need a guy that has sure hands that can catch the ball in traffic. You don’t have more time to gather yourself anymore, the shield punt has changed a lot.”

Asked if Jordan James or Shaq Evans have sure enough hands, McClure said he expects two out of those three (James, Evans, Embree) to see action returning punts.

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Post-practice update: quarterback announcement tease

*No announcement from coach Rick Neuheisel on the starting quarterback. He did, however, say that he would talk to both Prince and Brehaut this afternoon, after which he will hold a conference call with media members. I was told the call will be at 6 p.m. and both Prince and Brehaut would be on the line. I’ll try to post as quickly as I can after the call. Looks like he’s going to clear his 48-hour deadline in plenty of time.

When asked why he wouldn’t wait until gameday since he’s dragged it out till now, Neuheisel had this to say.

“I don’t think Houston cares. I wasn’t doing it to befuddle Houston. I was doing it to get the most out of these kids and I don’t want it to become a distraction as we get closer to game time. I wanted to make sure everybody was continuing to compete and continuing to improve and I got that out of them.”

*Both still looked to be taking equal reps with the first team and throwing the ball pretty well. The receivers didn’t help either of their cases as the team struggled with hanging on to the ball. Cory Harkey dropped two catchable balls, one from each quarterback, and Joseph Fauria dropped a sure touchdown. Nelson Rosario was a victim of the drops as well.

*Datone Jones continues to impress. He came flying across the field from his left end position to pick off a Kevin Prince pass and head up the right sideline. Prince clearly didn’t see him coming, I’m not sure anybody did. That guy could do some really big things this year.

*The crowd noise continued today and the players seemed to respond well to it. With just two more practices until gameday, everything looks crisp and polished, leaps and bounds ahead of the first week of camp (with the exception of those drops, of course.)

*Transfer offensive lineman Albert Cid came late to practice. Neuheisel said they were clearing up a paperwork issue but that he’s good to go now.

*No sign of Brandon Willis today. Neuheisel said he couldn’t comment on him yet.

*Neuheisel announced that he awarded long snapper Kevin McDermott a scholarship. Apparently, he didn’t notify the depth chart people because he’s still listed as a non-scholarship player there.

“It’s always a fun thing to be able to put somebody on scholarship that has earned their spot on this roster and has become a frontline player,” Neuheisel said. “Kevin has certainly done that and he’s very deserving. Hopefully he’ll have an outstanding year as we’ve been lucky here to have a great long snapper in the program. I’m excited for him.”

Videos of Neuheisel and Taylor Embree coming later today along with the quarterback announcement.

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Quotables: Houston coach Kevin Sumlin

I thought everyone might enjoy reading a few things from the Conference USA teleconference yesterday. Houston coach Kevin Sumlin talked about sixth-year senior quarterback Case Keenum and what he expects to see out of UCLA.

(Opening statement on how camp has gone so far.)
“It’s been hot. We’ve got a lot of things done. Things have gone pretty well. We’ve had one serious injury Phil Causey. We’ve had nicks and bruises but we’ve stayed relatively healthy which is always a plus. We’re just trying to get the best 22 on the field and it’s an ongoing process. With Case coming back, managing him during two-a-days has been fun. We’ve learned a lot about where we are on the perimeter. Our offensive line has been a question marks as far as experience but for ability and talent, we’ve more depth and size than we’ve ever had. We’ve got some new faces but more so on the offensive line than anywhere else.”
“It’s game week and we’re excited to hit somebody else instead of our own guys.”

(On what he expects to see out of UCLA.)
“UCLA has an extremely talented team. They’ve recruited very well in a great area. They’ve got tremendous tradition. They’re full of players who have bought in. They had some struggles last year with injuries last year that hurt them. They’ve got a big strong offensive line and a couple 260-pound tight ends. Embree and Rosario are 6’5″ and 6’3″ and they have arguably one of best running backs in country in Johnathan Frankin. They’re going to be talented and defensively it’s the same deal. They’re going to have a hieght advantage. They’ve been to Texas and they know how to play in the heat. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

(On Case Keenum’s health.)
“I don’t know that you ever get completely back to where you were in less than a year. I’ve said many times that he has stuck to a rigid schedule. He went through rehab in the summer and into two-a-days. With the 25 practices that we’ve had, we’ve only held him out of two or three. He didn’t want to be held out so from that standpoint, that’s the kind of guy you’re dealing with. He’s got the majority of reps the first couple weeks and this week, we’ll get it to how we do it on game week with our backup qb situation. We’re still training both of those guys too. I’ve been pleased with how he’s progressed this camp and I think he has too. It’s a matter of where he is mentally. Physically, we can’t say he’s completely back to where he was. I think he’s there mentally and I I like where he is and how he’s throwing it around. He feels good about it and so do we.”

(On what he expects to see out of UCLA schematically.)
“They’ve got new coordinators and new coaches on both sides of the ball. We’ve watched a bunch of different video defensively from the new coordinator at different schools. Offensively, you’ve got the traditional spread offense that Mike has been used to and we’ve watched a bunch of Nevada video too from some coaches that we’ve hired. We don’t know a lot but what we have assumed is that they’re not going to abandon the pistol attack too much. They’ve got quarterbacks who have been in that system, they’ve got a great running back, they’ve got a big, strong offensive line and tight ends. They’ll probably add a little more spread to it but look for the same pistol attack that we had problems with last year. They had success running it right down our throats and I don’t know why that would change a whole lot coming into this year.”

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