Lacking spice early, the Bruins shake it up with a 26-2 run to grind out a zesty victory over the tasty Waves
Who needs a Shooting Guard? UCLA triumphed over Pepperdine on Monday night, with very little help from their “2” position. Thanks to an ankle sprain sustained by Malcolm Lee after 6 minutes, and thanks to an off shooting night by his replacement Tyler Lamb, the Bruins were forced to rely on the other 4 positions. For some teams — like the Lakers — that might be a problem. But for UCLA, it just meant that their Point Guard and their big boys had to step up. It took quite a while, but step up they did.
For the first 11 minutes that Lee was sidelined, the Bruins struggled to find their rhythm, and were outhustled and out-played on both ends of the court. The Waves were the ones running the floor, dominating the paint, and attacking the basket. Also, the Waves’ Zone Defense had the Bruin Offense stymied. Then suddenly, after Pepperdine went up 34-26 with 2:40 left, the Bruins woke up. Behind the strength and speed of Reeves Nelson and the court-awareness of Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA closed out the half on a 10-0 spurt. Nelson jump-started the running game, and also toughened up on Defense and on the Boards, while Honeycutt started finding holes in the Wave Zone with crisp, clever passes and by moving smartly without the ball. Aided by the good vision and good shooting of Point Guard Lazeric Jones, the Bruins finally became the agressor.
After Halftime, the onslaught continued, with the same three players doing all the right things. Center Joshua Smith got into the act too, using his quick hands and good instincts on Defense to cause Turnovers, and using his nifty footwork and positioning to get several key Rebounds and put-backs. The Bruins built a 20-point lead before cruising home with a 79-69 win, with the Waves never cutting the lead back to single digits. It didn’t help the Wave cause that their star player committed 8 Turnovers all by himself.
Honeycutt also committed too many Turnovers (5) again, most of them being attempts to make tough passes through traffic. However, Honeycutt more than made up for it with 16 Points, 4 Caroms, 4 Assists, and 3 Steals. Smith and Jones added 13 Points each, and Brendan Lane contributed mightily off the bench, with a sweet Three-pointer, 7 Points, 3 Assists, and 4 Boards.
Also contributing off the bench was Jerime Anderson. JA shook off his weak performance against CSUN to grab 3 big Boards and score 4 Points, with 3 Assists and a Steal. He did commit one really ugly Turnover, but it was his ONLY Turnover in 22 minutes. He still looked out-of-sync for some of the game, but it wasn’t embarrassing. The one thing his performance proved was that Lazeric Jones doesn’t have to look over his shoulder as the STARTING PG… just like Smith doesn’t have to worry about Anthony Stover stealing his minutes. Stover played only 9 minutes, and was a non-factor for the first time this season. He didn’t even register a Block, which has become his trademark in this young season.
But the biggest concern was the performance of Tyler Lamb. Perhaps he was pressing due to Lee’s unavailability, but whatever the reason, he was just awful from the field, shooting a horrendous 1-for-10, missing open shot after open shot. Maybe Kobe can shoot his way out of a shooting slump, but on this night, Lamb could not. At least we know he has unshakable confidence in his shot, and that confidence will probably be a good thing in the future. But on Monday night, it was like watching Nikola Dragovic on a bad night, where he just refused to stop shooting, despite his frigidity.
Luckily for Lamb and Bruin fans, they had Reeves Nelson to clean up the carnage. Nelson led the Bruins with 20 Points, and he also led the team with 11 Rebounds. He even led the team in emotion, at one point demanding the crowd make more noise. The Bruins need a leader, and last night, Nelson submitted his application for that job.
On Tuesday night, the Bruins take on the University of Pacific Tigers, who beat Nevada in the early game. Hopefully, either Lee will be back, or Lamb’s shooting touch will be back, because it’s hard to win on back-to-back nights without a Shooting Guard.
[Note: Don’t trust ESPN.com’s “play-by-play” listed on their site — As of late Monday night, it isn’t even close.]