Saturday, December 17, 2011

UCLA grinds out 60-47 victory over EWU

UCLA grinds out 60-47 victory over EWU
December, 14, 2011 11:16 PM PT

LOS ANGELES--UCLA's performance against Eastern Washington certainly won't win any beauty pageants any time soon, but that's of little importance to the Bruins.

UCLA won, 60-47, in a slow, plodding non-conference game at the Sports Arena, stringing together consecutive victories for the first time this season and building a bit of momentum toward turning around an season that got off to a rocky start.

The Bruins (4-5) made 11-of-16 free throws in the final five minutes and have now won three of their last four games after a 1-4 start.

"Style points are nothing," guard Tyler Lamb said. "We just have to try and get the win."

Lazeric Jones had 19 points and Lamb added 14 for UCLA. The Bruins played without starting forward Travis Wear, who was hospitalized because of a skin infection on his foot.

Five observations from the game:

1) Slow was the right tempo

Eastern Washington surprised UCLA by playing a stalling offense early on. The Eagles routinely held the ball until there were 15 seconds or so left on the shot clock before running a play.

It led to an ugly, 28-18, halftime score, but wound up benefiting the short-handed Bruins, who have had issues with speed and conditioning all season.

"The stall helped us," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I wasn’t disappointed in it. We got off to a great start and it allowed us to rest being short a man in our rotation."

2) The bench came up big

With Travis Wear out and Joshua Smith again finding foul trouble, Anthony Stover and Brendan Lane played 18 minutes each -- a season high for both players -- and made them count.

While they combined for only four points they both played excellent defense. Stover was especially active with three blocked shots and three rebounds. Lane had two rebounds.

"It was very important for myself and Brendan Lane to get in there and do some things that Travis normally does for us on a nightly basis," Stover said. "Get rebounds, play hard defense, hedge and everything we do on the floor."

Norman Powell also played well off the bench with four points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.

3) Lazeric Jones continued his roll

Jones started the season in a dreadful slump, making only 12 of his first 49 shots (24.5 percent) but has averaged 18.8 points while shooting 26-41 (63.4 percent) over the last four games.

He made his first three three-point shots Wednesday, extending his streak of consecutive three-pointers to eight over the last three games before missing late in the first half.

"Zeek really was off keel to start the season and he’s really got it back now," Howland said. "He's very much under control and really playing well and steady for us. That’s what I expected out of him and I think he’ll show that the rest of the way."

Jones suffered a cut on his chin during the game and required stitches. He also aggravated a left wrist injury suffered last season, but Howland didn't seem all that concerned. Jones was not available to the media because he was getting medical attention.

4) The Bruins didn't need a zone

After playing mostly zone Saturday against Penn, the Bruins showed no zone Wednesday and had their best defensive performance of the season.

UCLA held the Eagles to a season-low in points and their 25.9 percent shooting was the lowest by a UCLA opponent this season. Eastern Washington made only 15 baskets for the game and the Eagles, shooting 36.4 percent on three-pointers this season, made only five of 22 (22.7) from beyond the arc Wednesday.

"I was afraid to zone this team because they shoot almost 37 percent from three on the season and really spread you out," Howland said. "Our man defense as far as the field goal percentage defense was good."

The rebounding wasn't so hot, though. UCLA was out-rebounded, 42-32, and Eastern Washington had 19 offensive rebounds. Howland said the Eastern Washington long-range shots led to a lot of long rebounds.

"Our guards have to rebound better," Howland said. "I though Zeek [Jones] did a good job in the first half with four. He got tired, got worn down because I played him too many minutes."

Jones finished with six rebounds, tying David Wear for the team high.

5) The Bench got awfully thin

Travis Wear was already out and Joshua Smith got into foul trouble, so the Bruins were already going deep into the bench, but then David Wear went crashing hard to the floor early in the second half and it didn't look like he would be able to return.

He bruised his tailbone, but managed to come back after sitting out for a bout 10 minutes and finished with seven points and six rebounds.

"That gave me a big scare," Howland said.

Moments after Wear fell, Jones cut his chin and sat out for a few minutes while trainers bandaged it. At that time, only six scholarship players were available: Stover, Lane, Smith, Tyler Lamb, Jerime Anderson and Norman Powell.

Howland used Smith sparingly, subbing him in for offense and out for defense, and he never really found a rhythm. He had seven points and two rebounds in only 19 minutes.

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