Saturday, December 17, 2011

Smith, Wear play big part in UCLA rout

UCLA's Joshua Smith battles his way to the basket in the Bruins' victory over UC Davis, 82-39, at the Honda Center on Saturday afternoon.MICHAEL GOULDING, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Smith, Wear play big part in UCLA rout

Published: Dec. 17, 2011 Updated: 7:20 p.m.

ANAHEIM - Remember those backyard big brother vs. little brother basketball games where a much older and larger brother did nothing but use his size advantage, grab rebound after rebound and lay every shot up with ease?

Well, UCLA's game against UC Davis on Saturday unfolded the exact same way.

The Aggies had no answer for the 6-foot-10 tandem of Josh Smith and David Wear as the towering duo fueled the Bruins' 82-39 victory at Honda Center.

"UC Davis is a better team than they showed today," Bruins coach Ben Howland said. "It was a good combination of them not playing well and us playing real well.

"We're pleased to get the win and get a little momentum with one week left before we go into conference play."

Smith led all scorers with 18 points and Wear added 15 as the duo finished a combined 14 of 20 from the field with 16 rebounds.

"Josh played well getting a double-double today so that was nice," Howland said. "Josh is our most dominant scorer ... he's playing better and better and we need that. We're counting on him."

UCLA guard Tyler Lamb did a bit of everything on the perimeter, setting career-highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (seven) to go along with nine points.

"Tyler played very well today," Howland said. "He played outstanding defense and had a really well-rounded game."

Around the hoop, the shot-blocking abilities of Smith (three blocks) and 6-foot-10 Anthony Stover (five blocks) altered countless shots and forced the Aggies (1-9) to settle for contested jumpers.

As a team, UC Davis shot 23 percent from the field.

"Blocking shots helps us with our post defense because then guys think about what they do before they even go up," Smith said. "As bigs, we have to defend the middle. We can allow some points, but if we're around, we're going to block it."

UCLA freshman Norman Powell grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds off the bench as a handful of Bruins finished with five or more boards.

"I was really just trying to make my presence known on defense," Powell said. "Coach said he wanted somebody to grab more than five rebounds in a game, so I took it upon myself to get him there."

Smith scored six of the Bruins' first 10 points as they jumped out to an early lead that got as high as 35 in the first half.

The 43-point difference was UCLA's largest margin of victory since a 113-62 triumph over Wyoming on Dec. 23, 2008.

UCLA (5-5), which has won three in a row, will face UC Irvine on Tuesday at the Sports Arena.


Change continues to be good for UCLA in 82-39 rout of UC Davis

The Bruins improve to 3-0 since the dismissal of forward Reeves Nelson, and 5-5 overall. Joshua Smith gets 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Coach Ben Howland says his team 'has become more cohesive.'

By Baxter Holmes
The Los Angeles Times
6:26 PM PST, December 17, 2011

Addition by subtraction.

That was the argument being tossed around when UCLA dismissed volatile forward Reeves Nelson on Dec. 9 — that it lost a good player but was better off for it.

It might be too early to know if that equation is accurate, but these numbers don't lie:

The Bruins have added three consecutive wins to their record and evened it at 5-5 since Nelson left, the latest an 82-39 demolition of UC Davis before 5,132 at the Honda Center on Saturday.

"Our team has become more cohesive, obviously," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

UC Davis Coach Jim Les, whose son Tyler led the Aggies in scoring with nine points, agreed.

And so did UCLA center Joshua Smith, who scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double this season.

"With the guys we have, the chemistry is getting really good," Smith said. "Our practices are harder."

The Bruins had it together against UC Davis (1-9), which has defeated only Division III Santa Cruz, in what became UCLA's most lopsided win since rolling Wyoming by 51 in December 2008.

But it's easy to look together in what amounted to a varsity vs. JV scrimmage.

UCLA led by as many as 35 points in the first half and by 47 in the second.

If UC Davis put up any fight, it came when it outscored UCLA, 12-11, just after halftime.

Then the Bruins responded with a 20-0 run, the equivalent of a roundhouse knockout punch.

"UC Davis is a better team than they showed today," Howland said. "It was a combination of them not playing well and us playing really well."

Well enough that seldom-played Tyler Trapani, the great-grandson of John Wooden, saw some final-minute floor time. (He missed his only shot.)

Travis Wear missed his second straight game because of a skin infection on his left foot that could be related to an injury suffered while snorkeling in Hawaii last month.

Fellow sophomore forward David Wear scored a career-high 15 in his twin's absence.

Howland said Travis Wear, the Bruins' second-leading scorer (10.6 points per game), probably will return Tuesday against UC Irvine (2-8).

The Aggies missed 42 of 55 shots, so there were plenty of rebounds to grab and UCLA grabbed more for a change, outrebounding UC Davis, 50-34.

Guard Tyler Lamb had career highs in rebounds (nine) and assists (seven), and Smith was one point short of a career high, but his mostly-dominant 21 minutes of playing time stood out more.

That's the most the 6-foot-10, 305-pound Smith, who's struggled with conditioning, has played since logging 22 minutes against Chaminade on Nov. 21, and he said he could've played more.

"I know it's going to be my issue the whole year until I get in great physical shape," Smith said.

Smith said he feels "great" compared to earlier this season and that tweaking his diet — not what or how much he eats, but when he eats — has helped.

"Like, before I go to class, grabbing a banana, a water, just to take to get it in you so you're not going straight to practice just empty-bellied," Smith said.

That's a small change compared to what the team has dealt with in losing Nelson.

But minus one key element — the Bruins have improved their record.

Said Smith: "We're kind of getting our chemistry back."


Five observations: UCLA 82, UC Davis 39

By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
December, 17, 2011 5:24 PM PT

ANAHEIM--It took a game against hapless UC Davis, but UCLA seemed to finally rediscover its identity in a dominating 82-39 non-conference victory over the Aggies Saturday at the Honda Center.

The Bruins played staunch defense and center Joshua Smith showed signs of emerging from a season-long slump as the Bruins (5-5) won their third consecutive game and reached .500 for the first time this season.

It was UCLA's largest margin of victory since a 103-62 victory over Wyoming on Dec. 23, 2008. That it came against UC Davis (1-9) is a bit of a disclaimer because the Aggies have lost six consecutive games and have defeated only Division III UC Santa Cruz.

Still, the Bruins can use all the victories they can get after a dreadful start to the season.

"UC Davis is a better team than they showed," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "It was a good combination of them not playing well and us playing real well. We’re pleased to get the win and get a little momentum here with one week left before we go into conference."

Smith led the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds and added three blocked shots. David Wear had a career-high 15 points, Lazeric Jones had 12 points and Tyler Lamb had a well-rounded performance of nine points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Five observations from the game:

1) Joshua Smith dominated the paint

Smith has struggled with foul trouble and and conditioning most of this season, but showed little trouble on either of those fronts Saturday when he finished with season highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.

Howland expertly subbed Smith in and out of the game to keep him fresh, and it seemed to pay dividends as both coach and player seemed to find a rhythm to keep the big man effective. He seemed spry at times with three of his baskets coming on powerful dunks and he also blocked three shots.

"I was just being aggressive, to be honest," Smith said. "I felt great out there tonight. I know it’s going to be my issue the whole year until I get into great physical shape, but since the start, I feel great now compared to our first couple of games."

Howland said Smith's improvement is causing a case of deja vu. Last season, Smith struggled early but played himself into game shape as the season went on and became a dominant force by the end of the season.

"It’s about two months in now kind of like last year," Howland said. "Things are all of a sudden coming easier and he’s playing better and better and we need that. We’re counting on Josh obviously."

2) UCLA's man defense is showing some life

Much has been made about UCLA's need to play more zone defense with it's current cast of players, but the Bruins have played a suffocating man-to-man defense the last two games.

UC Davis shot only 23.6 percent Saturday as UCLA played predominately man-to-man. It was lowest shooting performance by a Bruins opponent since Mississippi Valley state shot 19.7 percent on March 20, 2008.

Tuesday against Eastern Washington, the Bruins played all man-to-man and held the Eagles to 25.9 percent from the field. In the last two games, UCLA has given up and average of 43 points per game.

"Our defense hasn’t really changed that much but we’ve just really been focusing on help," Smith said. "Just making the extra rotation in help defense because a lot of times in the first games, we weren’t helping. A lot of guys were just playing one on one defensively. We didn’t have guys coming over to rotate and getting blocks and changing shots."

Blocked shots contributed a great deal to the defensive performance. Anthony Stover had five blocks and Smith had three.

3) UCLA crashed the boards

One of Howland's big points of emphasis coming in to Saturday's game was the need for UCLA to rebound better and they did so in a big way. The Bruins out-rebounded UC Davis, 50-34, setting a season-high for team rebounds.

Smith had 10, Norman Powell had 10 and Lamb had nine. Rebounding was a key part of UCLA's defensive performance as the Aggies had only six second-chance points.

"Coach said he wanted somebody grabbing more than five rebounds a game so I took it upon myself to get in there and grab more rebounds and try to be the leading rebounder today," Powell said.

4) The three-guard lineup proved the winning formula

UCLA's obvious strength this season is size with four players at 6-10, but sometimes there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Howland has tried using lineups filled with trees, but early on that formula led to slow-footed performances and losses.

During UCLA's current three-game win streak, Howland has used a three-guard approach more often than not, putting Jerime Anderson, Lamb and Jones on the floor with Smith and David Wear. It's created more quickness, better ball handling and a better defensive team.

"I feel that us with three guards on the floor it gives us more options," Powell said. "When we get defensive stops, we can push. If we have three guards on the floor, it’s harder to guard us because we can go inside out. Get the ball to Josh, space out, let him draw the double team and kick out for the open shots. It’s easier with the three guards."

Travis Wear missed a second consecutive game with a skin infection on his foot so his absence made it easier to use the three-guard lineup. He's expected to come back next week and Howland said he'd have to figure out his rotations based on opponent.

"We’re going to play big at times," Howland said. "There’s going to be times definitely with Travis at the three and depending on the team we’re playing against, it’ll be a team we’re zoning more when he’s at the three."

5) Momentum is heading the right way

It's been a difficult start to the season for the Bruins with Reeves Nelson's on-the-team, off-the-team situation disrupting chemistry as well as new faces David Wear, Travis Wear and Norman Powell trying to carve out roles.

With Nelson permanently gone now and 10 games in the books, things have settled and it's showing on the floor.

"We’re starting to get a feel for each other’s game, starting to make that extra pass," Powell said. "Not looking for your shot but looking for others coming off the second option of the play."

The early-season adversity easily could have torn apart the team, but instead it seems to have brought the team together. And even though the victories have come against teams the Bruins should have no troubles beating, UCLA players are growing more and more confident as more time passes from their 1-4 start.

"Everybody needs those games where you start to gel together and start to get wins," Jones said. "I feel like we’ve been doing that lately. We’ve been real confident and aggressive and real supportive of each other when we’re out there."

And lest anyone forget, UCLA was a preseason top-25 team and picked to win the Pac-12. Getting back to that level is still within reach, Smith said.

"We had high expectations and we still do," he said. "The season didn’t start as well as we wanted to and now it’s one of those where we have to put ourselves in the best position to get to the tournament. We know we’ve lost five games and we’re just kind of trying to keep it like that, keep winning our non-conference games which is kind of big for us to get wins before we go into conference play."

Click on boxscore to enlarge (Yahoo!

No comments: