Saturday, February 4, 2012

Smith throws weight around as UCLA beats WSU 63-60

Sophomore center Joshua Smith makes a dunk past Cougar redshirt sophomore forward D.J. Shelton. Smith finished the game with a team-high of 19 points. Photo: Daily Bruin Blaine Ohigashi

Men's basketball edges out Washington State, 63-60

Daily Bruin in Men's BasketballSports
Published February 4, 2012, 7:47 pm                      

PULLMAN, Wash. — Ben Howland had the solution for the Bruins’ struggles. The UCLA men’s basketball coach befuddled Washington State with a mid-game switch to a zone defense. Sophomore center Joshua Smith took it from there, sending UCLA home with its first win outside Southern California.

The Bruins closed out a 63-60 win, a relief given their late-game struggles on the road. While their road woes were halted, their domination inside Beasley Coliseum continued, marking the 18th straight win here.

Two days after he admitted that UCLA’s lack of execution against a zone defense – which led to a crushing 71-69 loss to Washington – was his fault, Howland unleashed a zone defense of his own on the Cougars.

But after the win, Howland was more preoccupied with how to keep up the play of his dominant man in the middle. Smith had a team-high 19 points, giving him a total of 43 in two games back in his home state.

Fresh off a shrewd coaching maneuver, Howland offered another solution.

“We’re moving all home games the rest of the year to the state of Washington,” he joked. “We’re on the road anyway, right?”

Smith once again had a perfect first half, like he did against Washington, hitting all five of his field goals for 11 points. But his major damage was done in a five-minute stretch in the second half.

The Bruins had just climbed back to take their first lead of the second half when Smith took over and UCLA (13-10, 6-5 Pac-12) followed suit. He banged the Cougars (12-11, 4-7) inside for two layups, then nailed two free-throws that gave UCLA a seven-point lead.

“We’ve been seeing it in practice – it’s transitioning over into the game,” senior guard Lazeric Jones said of Smith. “I was telling him before the game to just be patient in (the post) and he was doing a great job. People can’t take charges if he’s down there taking his time and being patient. You’ve just got to straight-up guard him, and it’s hard for them to do it.”

Two consecutive big performances gives Smith something he can build on. He dominated once again, but he was happier that he was able to repeat what he did two nights ago.

“For me to be the player I know I can be, it’s just going to have to be a sustained effort,” Smith said. “Last year was the same.”

The Bruins wouldn’t relinquish the lead like they had in the past.

Even after fouling out with 1:42 left, Smith confidently walked to the bench and toyed with the Cougar crowd by forcing some premature “Sit Down!” chants. His teammates didn’t let this lead vanish and left the state of Washington content with a 1-1 split.

Jones and redshirt sophomore forward David Wear each had 15 points for the Bruins, who were playing without the injured Travis Wear (sprained left ankle), their second-leading scorer.

As for the zone, the reason for the switch was simple.

“Both their bigs, (Abe) Lodwick and (Brock) Motum, were such good perimeter shooters,” Howland said. “They stepped out on the perimeter and it was hard for us to match up with, it was hard for (Smith) to match up with.”

So Howland went with the zone defense, something he had previously said the team wasn’t practicing anymore.

Motum, in particular, gave the Bruins fits with his range and post moves. The 6-foot-10-inch Australian forward had a game-high 25 points on nine-of-18 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers.

But only six of those points came after the break. The zone defense slowed the Cougars down and helped the Bruins account for Motum.

“We were just aware of where he was at,” said David Wear, who Motum blew by on a few first-half possessions. “He was getting a lot of his other shots off pick and rolls.

The bigs were getting caught up in them. When we did (go zone) we didn’t get caught up in screens or anything like that.”

The zone defense also kept Smith, who was in foul trouble, at a lesser risk of picking up his final one. He played almost six minutes before fouling out, staying effective until the game was out of Washington State’s reach.

The element of surprise also worked in UCLA’s favor.

“That surprised (Washington State) because we hadn’t played zone in a while,” Howland said. “We had barely talked about it that much. That obviously really helped us.”


Published: Feb. 4, 2012 Updated: 7:31 p.m.

PULLMAN, Wash. – When Joshua Smith finally emerged from the UCLA locker room, he was wearing a New England Patriots stocking cap and a wide smile, in no hurry to return to Los Angeles.

The Washington native's 19-point performance in UCLA's 63-60 victory against Washington State at Beasley Coliseum on Saturday afternoon capped the best week of the sophomore center's college career and was instrumental in the Bruins (13-10, 6-5 Pac-12) securing their first conference road victory this season outside of Los Angeles.

Article Tab: UCLA center Anthony Stover (0), guard Khalid McCaskill, center, and guard Lazeric Jones (11) congratulate each other after defeating Washington State, 63-60, on Saturday in Pullman, Wash.
UCLA center Anthony Stover (0), guard Khalid McCaskill, center, and guard Lazeric Jones (11) congratulate each other after defeating Washington State, 63-60, on Saturday in Pullman, Wash.DEAN HARE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

"Huge," UCLA backup center Anthony Stover said of the victory.

So was Smith's homecoming this week, his play finally matching his physical stature. Saturday's effort followed a career-high 24 points at Washington on Thursday night.

"We need to play all our games in Washington where Josh Smith is concerned. We're moving all home games the rest of the year to the state of Washington. We're on the road anyway right?" UCLA coach Ben Howland said, referring to a 2011-12 schedule that has the Bruins playing all their games off campus because of the renovation of Pauley Pavilion.

Even with Smith's dominance, UCLA had a series of nervous moments in the closing minutes.

The Bruins blew a 15-point lead at Oregon last month and a 10-point advantage in the second half at Washington.

Saturday UCLA overcame a 19-point first half by Cougars forward Brock Motum by switching to a 2-3 zone in the second half. It helped hold the Australian to just six points after the intermission and scoreless the final 9:44. The zone also helped the Bruins create an 18-3 advantage on points-off-turnovers.

"The key to the game was holding him to six points in the second half," Smith said.
UCLA led, 61-54, with 21.2 seconds remaining only to watch a pair of Reggie Moore 3-point jumpers in the final 13 seconds cut the gap to 62-60 with two seconds remaining.

When Bruins guard Lazeric Jones made the first of two free throws and missed the second, Motum had one last chance to send the game into overtime. However, his three-quarter court heave fell short. UCLA had finally finished off a close conference game and had done so on the road.

"We're more excited than anything just because we played hard and it was a battle the whole game and we were able to pull it out in the end and finish this one off, finish a close game off," said Bruins forward David Wear, who finished with 15 points.

The Bruins were just as excited about the play of Smith, who until this week at best had been inconsistent, out of shape and ineffective. He scored 18 points in a 75-58 victory over Arizona State on Jan. 7 only to be held to six in the next game against USC.

Smith was held without a field goal until the final 37.9 seconds in the loss at Oregon.
"For me to be the player that I know I can be it's going to have to be a sustained effort," said Smith, a McDonald's All-American at Kentwood High, south of Seattle. "I mean last year was the same. I had big games where I might score 19, come back and score six."

Back on his home turf, Smith for the first time this season displayed the type of sustained effort the Bruins are going to need to build momentum heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.

"He's been playing great," said Jones, who scored 15 points. "These are the games he probably needed. Now his feel is starting to come back."

As he walked through the Palouse chill to the bus, Smith continued to talk about changing his mindset. A half-hour earlier, Howland had suggested some visualization.

"All our games are in Seattle, they're in the Pullman," Howland, smiling, recalled telling Smith. "Put yourself in that framework."


He scores 19 points in a 63-60 victory at Washington State that improves the Bruins to 6-5 in Pac-12 play.
Associated Press
via The Los Angeles Times
February 5, 2012

PULLMAN, Wash.— Joshua Smith scored 19 points Saturday, leading UCLA past Washington State, 63-60.

David Wear and Lazeric Jones added 15 points each for the Bruins (13-10, 6-5 Pac-12).

Smith was the catalyst for the Bruins, scoring six points in 2 minutes midway through the second half and holding the Cougars' top scorer, Brock Motum, scoreless for much of the half.

Motum, who led all scorers with 25 points, scored 19 in the first half.

"Motum is a great player," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "And we knew that. He had 34 two games ago, 26 against USC. He's one of the better players in the conference."

The Bruins were down, 34-29, at the half, due in part to Motum. But they dropped into a zone, and that was the difference.

"Our zone defense really helped us today," Howland said. "[Washington State was] trying to screen high. Jerime [Anderson] did a good job fighting over the top of those screens. … Both their bigs, Motum and [Abe] Lodwick, are such good perimeter shooters it's hard to match up."

With 11:40 left, the Cougars led, 49-45. But they scored only one basket in nearly 9 minutes. During that span, the Bruins outscored Washington State, 13-2, and took a 58-51 lead with 4:49 left.

Lodwick broke the run when he hit a three-pointer, narrowing the gap to four.

Howland said when Lodwick hit that shot, he told his players they'd have to hit their foul shots down the stretch.

The Bruins didn't hit them all, but they hit enough to seal the win, going five of eight in the final 30 seconds.

The Cougars outrebounded the Bruins, 37-30, but UCLA took advantage of sloppy play by the Cougars (12-11, 4-7), outscoring them, 18-3, off turnovers.

"I thought the guys played hard, but sloppy turnovers really cost us," Washington State Coach Ken Bone said. "We don't have a defense for those turnovers. They end up in breakaway layups, and that really hurt us."

The win gave the Bruins a split in Washington for the week, and Howland said while he wanted to leave with two wins, getting at least one was vital.

"I would have liked to be 2-0, and I felt we had a good opportunity to do that, but it's important for us to get this win on the road," he said. "And we needed it desperately. We're going on a real tough stretch here."


Rapid Reaction: UCLA 63, Wash. St. 60

By Peter Yoon
ESPN Los Angeles, UCLA Report
February, 4, 2012 5:08 PM PT

UCLA won for the first time against a Division I team away from Southern California, defeating Washington State, 63-60, Saturday at Beasley Coliseum.

It was the 19th consecutive victory for UCLA (13-10, 6-5 Pac-12) at Washington State and the first loss at Beasley Coliseum this season for the Cougars (12-11, 4-7).

OVERVIEW: Neither team could pull away for most of the game, but UCLA finally opened a 58-51 lead with 3:11 to play by going on an 8-0 run and then hung on down the stretch.

The Bruins had a 61-54 lead with 21 seconds to play, but Washington State's Reggie Moore made two 3-point shots in the final 13 seconds and the Bruins made only 5-of-9 free throws over that stretch, but David Wear and Lazeric Jones each made 1-of-2 in the waning seconds to seal the victory for UCLA.

TURNING POINT: UCLA switched to a zone defense with about 15 minutes to play and pretty much took over the game after that. Washington State led, 40-38 at the time of the switch and extended it to 45-39 shortly thereafter, but struggled against the zone the rest of the way.

The Bruins held Washington State to only four field goals over the final 11:30 -- including the two desperation 3-pointers by Moore at the end of the game. Washington State shot 45.5 percent in the first half, but were 9-of-30 (30 percent) in the second half when UCLA played mostly zone.

UCLA STAR OF THE GAME: Joshua Smith turned in a second consecutive solid performance with 19 points and five rebounds as he dominated the middle whenever he was on the floor.

Smith played only 22 minutes and fouled out with 1:42 to play, but made 8-of-9 shots and 3-of-4 free throws. He also added two blocked shots and a steal as he became a physical presence on both ends of the floor.

David Wear, Jones and Tyler Lamb deserve mention for turning up their games in the second half. That trio combined to shoot 4-for-15 in the first half, but were 7-for-11 in the second half. Jones and Wear finished with 15 points each and Lamb, who had seven points, had two key blocked shots and a steal in the final five minutes of the game.

STAT OF THE GAME: Washington State leading scorer Brock Motum was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half and early in the second, but seemed to be most affected by UCLA's switch to a zone.

Motum finished with 25 points, but scored only six in the second half -- two coming when he was credited with a basket after Lamb accidentally tipped a ball in for the Cougars. Motum made 9-of-15 shots for the game, but was 2-of-7 against the zone and did not score in the final 14 minutes of the game.

WHAT IT MEANS: UCLA's road woes have finally come to an end.

The Bruins had only one road victory this season -- against struggling USC -- and their only victory away from Southern California had come against Division II Chaminade at the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21.

Washington State was 8-0 at Beasley Coliseum this season and had an 11-game winning streak there. Earlier this season, the Cougars defeated Stanford and conference-leader California there, so it's not an easy feat to win in Pullman.

It's also a good sign for UCLA that they were able to close out the game on the road after blowing double-digit, second-half leads in their last two road losses at Washington and Oregon.

As far as the conference standings go, UCLA is currently in a tie for sixth place with Stanford and three games out of first with seven games to go. Chances of winning the Pac-12 title are slim with six teams standing between UCLA and the top spot so the Bruins will be looking to climb into the top four over the last month of the regular season in order to receive a coveted bye in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
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