Sunday, January 8, 2012

Smith shuts up and puts up, leads Bruins over undermanned Devils 75-58

Sun Devils' coach Herb Sendek suspended leading scorer Keala King along with Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin on Thursday for "unacceptable conduct," leaving the trio in Tempe.

UCLA center Joshua Smith (34) dunks after getting by Arizona State center Jordan Bachynski (13) as teammate center Ruslan Pateev (23), of Russia, looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. Photo: AP

Smith helps Bruins silence Sun Devils

Published: Jan. 7, 2012 Updated: 11:06 p.m.

Anaheim – Joshua Smith decided to give Arizona State the silent treatment.

After his verbal sparring with Sun Devils center Jordan Bachynski in the first half drew lectures from both the officiating crew and Bruins coach Ben Howland, the UCLA sophomore center took a vow of silence for the second half Saturday night.

"I just decided to keep my mouth shut," Smith said later.

Smith still made a resounding statement nonetheless.

Smith set the tone in a 75-58 rout of undermanned ASU in front of 9,076 at Honda Center with a performance that suggested he might finally be regaining the form that made him the dominant big man in the Pac-10 during the second half of last season.

Smith, cleared to play only hours earlier after missing UCLA's victory against Arizona on Thursday because of a concussion, finished with 18 points in 21 minutes. More important, his quickness, agility, fitness and aggressiveness reminded his teammates of the player USC coach Kevin O'Neill suggested was the conference's top NBA prospect last year.

"I thought Josh had his best game of the year," Howland said. "He was very aggressive to score and when he was going to score he was going to dunk it, not just lay it in."

It wasn't all Smith for the Bruins.

UCLA's man-to-man defense helped the Bruins come back from a 10-point first half deficit and then open the second half with a 36-13 run.

Forward Travis Wear added 16 points, the first 10 coming on second-chance shots. His twin brother David pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.

Jerime Anderson controlled the game on both ends in his new role as point guard, finishing with seven points, four assists, four steals and no turnovers. Lazeric Jones, moved to the wing, dished out 10 assists with but a single turnover.

"Some wonderful passes," Howland said.

But none of the above would disagree it was Smith who had the biggest impact Saturday.

"Josh is a force in there," Jones said.

Smith's rim rattling emergence in a 73-72 victory against the Sun Devils in Tempe, Ariz., last season set the tone for a six-game UCLA winning streak and eight victories in UCLA's final eight regular-season games.

"Jerime reminded me of that today," Smith said.

Smith had been a question mark until Saturday morning.

In the past week, extra conditioning was finally starting to show signs on the 6-foot-10, 300-something Smith.

"His weight is down to the best it's been in a year," Howland said.

But he suffered a concussion when he took a knee to the head in Wednesday's practice. He was cleared to play Saturday after passing a computerized test at UCLA.

Smith announced his arrival shortly after coming off the bench Saturday with a two-handed jam. A 3-point play by Smith with 2:32 remaining in the first half put the Bruins up for the first time and for good, 31-30.

"I'm very optimistic about his direction, where he's headed right now," Howland said.


Smith, Wear twins overpower the Sun Devils in UCLA's victory against Arizona State

The Daily Bruin in Men's BasketballSports
Published January 8, 2012, 2:01 am

ANAHEIM — The squad Arizona State brought to Honda Center on Saturday didn’t have enough players for a soccer team. The Sun Devils could have played a game of baseball, but couldn’t have played a five-on-five game of basketball amongst themselves.

It stood to reason that ASU couldn’t hang with UCLA’s men’s basketball team, at least not for a full 40 minutes. The overmatched Sun Devils got off to a quick start but quickly lost momentum against the Bruins as UCLA ran away in the second half for a 75-58 win.

The Sun Devils could have used a few more bodies to throw at Joshua Smith. UCLA’s sophomore center became a surprising source of energy for the Bruins (9-7, 2-2 Pac-12) in his most dominant performance of the season.

The 6-foot-10-inch, 305-pound center, back after a one-game absence, came off the bench and quickly delivered a two-handed dunk. He finished with 18 points on shots of the highest percentage, totaling three backboard-shaking slams.

“Did you guys notice his energy level today?” a smiling Ben Howland asked reporters. “There was a lot of energy with Josh tonight.”

What made Smith’s performance even more surprising was what he had to go through before the game. Three days after suffering a concussion in practice that kept him out of UCLA’s win over Arizona on Thursday, Smith was driven from the team’s Orange County hotel up to UCLA Saturday morning to pass a test required by the team doctor’s concussion protocols.

Smith was whisked back down to Honda Center after passing the test and made it in time for the Bruins’ walkthrough. He entered the game as a reserve and played 21 minutes through foul trouble but still delivered what his coach called his best performance of the year.

“No matter how many fouls I have, I’m still going to be aggressive for our team,” Smith said. “I’ve got to be as aggressive as I can.”

Arizona State (5-10, 1-2) entered the game down to just six scholarship players and three walk-ons after a trio of Sun Devils were suspended prior to their trip to Los Angeles.

They were able to defeat USC on Thursday night and kept up their inspired play Saturday, jumping out to an 18-8 lead. That’s was when Smith entered the game and put down his first dunk. UCLA chipped away at the lead and was able to take a three-point lead into halftime.

“We did a good job showing composure,” Howland said. “When you’re down 10 to them, it’s like being down 20 because they play so patiently offensively.”

Shortly after intermission, UCLA went with a full-court press to kill any residual momentum the Sun Devils might have had.

Arizona State freshman walk-on Max Heller, forced into major minutes with the suspensions, immediately fell victim to the first use of the trap and turned the ball over before he could reach the halfcourt line. The 5-foot-9-inch Heller was forced to foul the 6-foot-10-inch Travis Wear to prevent an easy basket, a play that summed up the disparity between the two teams Saturday night.

The Bruins even their Pac-12 record with a steady dose of the Wear twins, who followed up dominant performances of their own against Arizona with a combined 24 points and 16 rebounds.

“We came out (of halftime), started playing more physical, attacking and forcing them into worse shots than they were taking at the beginning,” Travis Wear said.

The performances of Smith and the Wear twins were what Howland expected going into this year. It took more than half the season for their dominance to materialize, but Howland likes the direction his team is headed in.

“It was a positive step,” Howland said. “(The Wears) played with a lot of physicality this weekend, more so than earlier in the season, and it’s helping us.”


Josh Smith is UCLA's spark in 75-58 win over Arizona State

Returning to UCLA's roster after a concussion, Josh Smith makes a big impact in limited minutes. He scores 18 points in 21 minutes to lead the Bruins to a 75-58 win over Arizona State.

By Diane Pucin
The Los Angeles Times
10:15 PM PST, January 7, 2012

Josh Smith played as if he had taken a vacation at some spa, as if he somehow received magic rejuvenation treatment in the past two days.

Smith, UCLA's massive sophomore center, missed Thursday's game because of a concussion received in practice Wednesday.

Coming off the bench and playing restricted minutes Saturday, Smith was still the catalyst with spirited play that included big dunks and dainty tap-ins as UCLA won its second straight Pac-12 game, 75-58, over Arizona State on Saturday night at the Honda Center.

"I thought that Josh had the best game of the year," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "He was aggressive to score. When he was going to score, he was going to dunk it. He was aggressive, and it was really fun to see."

Arizona State, which made this Los Angeles road trip with only six scholarship players after coach Herb Sendek suspended three Sun Devils last week because of an unspecified rules violation, was worn down by Smith's strength and energy.

After the Sun Devils (5-10 overall, 1-2 in the conference) came within two points of UCLA with a Carrick Felix free throw to start the second half, the relentless move ahead by UCLA began a with a Smith layup.

The 6-foot-10, 305-pound sophomore center finished with 18 points (one below his career-high) and four rebounds in 21 minutes.

Besides Smith's powerful play, UCLA (9-7, 2-2) had a dominating 14-0 run in the second half, and as Smith continued to call for the ball and grab post position, his teammates seemed to feed off the energy.

Not all statistics matter, but here's one that seemed significant after the Bruins outscored Arizona State 19-6 over the last 9:48 of the first half and finished with a 9-0 run in the final 4:26 of the first 20 minutes to take a 33-30 halftime lead: UCLA had been 8-1 this season when it led or was tied at halftime but hadn't won a game in which it trailed at halftime.

The loudest roar from the crowd came with 28.4 seconds left. Smith maneuvered with emotion, created space commensurate with his height and weight and scored a layup that was punctuated with a little fist pump.

The Bruins had fallen behind on the Sun Devils' first offensive possession of the game, when Arizona State's 7-foot junior Ruslan Pateev made a layup 19 seconds in.

With 12:32 left in the half, junior guard Trent Lockett completed a three-point play by converting a layup and a free throw to give the Sun Devils an 18-8 lead.

It was Smith who also gave the Bruins their first lead of the game with 2:32 left when he also converted the traditional three-point play, drawing a foul from Pateev and making the free throw to put UCLA up 31-30.

After coming off the bench early in the game, Smith was quickly called for a foul and protested to the officials. Howland shouted at his center, "Shut up and play." And Smith did.

In the second half UCLA gradually wore down the undermanned Sun Devils.

Travis Wear put back a rebound after two Smith misses to give UCLA its first double-digit lead, 49-39, and Smith pounded down a slam dunk, then followed with a dainty finger roll on an alley-oop pass from Lazeric Jones that put UCLA ahead 53-41 with 12:08 left.

From that point, Arizona State seemed without enough energy to keep fighting Smith.


UCLA 75, ARIZONA STATE 58: Bruins' victory is brokered by return of middle man Joshua Smith

By Sam Strong Special to the City of Angels Daily News
Posted: 01/07/2012 10:25:10 PM PST
Updated: 01/07/2012 11:39:23 PM PST

ANAHEIM - UCLA center Joshua Smith's impact was felt Saturday night late in the first half.

After missing UCLA's win over Arizona with a concussion, the sophomore didn't start Saturday against Arizona State.

Upon entering, he picked up two quick fouls and had to sit for much of the first half.

He returned to the game with about three minutes to play in the half and the Bruins trailing by two.

Two powerful post moves and one three-point play later, Smith had UCLA heading into the halftime locker room leading by three, a lead they would not relinquish in a 75-58 win at Honda Center.

And it couldn't have been more timely for the Bruins, who haven't won a game all year when trailing at the half.

"No matter how many fouls I have, I'm still trying to be aggressive for my team," said Smith, who finished with 18 points - one short of his career high - and four rebounds.. "I have to be as aggressive as I can."

Smith had to return to Westwood on Saturday morning to pass concussion protocol in order to get cleared to play and UCLA coach Ben Howland was thankful.

"His energy level was up," Howland said. "I'm pleased for him because he played aggressive and he looked to score. That's what we're going to continue to expect out of Josh."

Short-handed Arizona State started hot, carrying over the momentum gained from a nine-point win over USC on Thursday despite missing two starters.

Sun Devils' coach Herb Sendek suspended leading scorer Keala King along with Kyle Cain and Chris Colvin on Thursday for "unacceptable conduct," leaving the trio in Tempe.

The suspension left Arizona State with only six scholarship players for the road trip and until early in Saturday's second half, it didn't show.

With less than 15 minutes to play in the second half, Howland decided to apply full-court pressure that helped UCLA's halftime lead to balloon to 10 on a two-hand dunk from Smith.

The idea to press in the second half came from senior guard Jerime Anderson who saw that both of Arizona State's standard point guards were missing.

"I thought our players seized the opportunity to make some plays," Howland said.

UCLA (9-7, 2-2 Pac-12) looked out of sorts offensively in the first half, complaining about foul calls and appearing frustrated by Arizona State's defensive schemes.

The second half had a different feel as things started to open up, including UCLA's lead. The foul calls started to come, too.

Sun Devils center Ruslan Pateev fouled out with 9:55 to play much to the delight of the Bruins student section who proceeded to give him their standard "left, right" treatment on his way to the already sparse visitors' bench.

Late in the game, the Bruins went on a 14-0 run in just more than four minutes to put things out of reach.

"We wanted to keep chipping away at their lead bit by bit," senior guard Lazeric Jones said. "We finally got the lead. We were going with what was working down in the post. We wanted to keep pounding it down."

The Sun Devils would counter with a late 9-0 run of their own led by 5-foot-9-inch walk-on point guard Max Heller, the first of many walk-ons for both teams who would see action in the waning moments.

Arizona State (5-10, 1-2) was led by forward Jonathan Gilling, who had a career-high 17 points on the night.

Saturday's victory gave UCLA a sweep of the Arizona schools in Orange County after dropping its first two games in the Bay Area last weekend.

With so much parity within the conference, the disappointing start against Stanford and California may not prove to be as costly as once thought.

It's foreseeable that a team could win the conference with as many as five losses, according to Howland.

"It wouldn't surprise me in the least," Howland said, adding that he thought the magic number would be closer to four.

UCLA has almost a week off before taking off on a three-game road trip, which starts with USC on Jan. 15 at the Galen Center.

Despite being on a two-game win streak, Howland is happy for the time off.

"We need this time," Howland said. "Our players won't have anything until Tuesday. This is probably the last time they'll get two whole days off in a row."

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