[Updated w/1 correction, 1/8/12]
Adding insult to insult of injury — Arizona fans start their “U of A” chant while Tyler Lamb is on the floor writhing in agony, and UCLA makes them regret it with a painful 65-58 beating
“Class” was NOT in session on Thursday night at the Honda Center, when the Arizona Wildcat fans showed their true colors. Bruin Tyler Lamb took a hard fall, and was on the floor in pain, grasping his knee as the second half was halted. It looked like an ACL tear at the time, as even TV viewers could hear Lamb’s cries of pain. But then, Lamb’s moans were drowned out, by Arizona fans’ sudden chorus of “U of A.”
Bruin fans were so appalled that they booed the Cat fans into submission… and then the Bruin players PLAYED the Cats into submission. Ever since a 10-0 run about 5 minutes into the game, the Bruins held the lead, which fluctuated between 3 and 11 Points for the rest of the night. Despite being without concussed Josh Smith for the whole game, the Bruins dominated the Paint, and controlled the pace of the action throughout. The Wear twins led the way, seeming to thrive without Smith in their way. Travis Wear scored a career-high 20 Points and brother David added 14, while (both) also playing tough Defense in the Bruins’ rejuvenated Man-to-Man scheme.
With Anthony Stover coming in and adding resistance to their penetration, the Wildcats resorted to firing away from outside, and most of them could not find the range. But late in the game, they went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 3. Most of the run came right after David Wear fouled out and Brendan Lane came in. But the Bruins responded to adversity, and never relinquished the lead.
Travis Wear was the Game MVP, but it was Point Guard Lazeric Jones who was the ultimate hero. In the final moment, he drove for a sweet little banker to get the lead to 6, then stole an ill-advised behind-the-back pass in the lane (by knocking the ball to Lamb), and finally iced the game by sinking 2 Free Throws to make the final score 65-58. Laz had been having an off-shooting night, performing overconfidently at times, trying to do too much, but when the chips were down, he didn’t lose his confidence, and he came through.
Norman Powell also had an off-shooting night, and Jerime Anderson didn’t add much either, so it was a great time for the Wears to find their Offense. The Wildcats don’t start anyone over 6′ 7″, so the Wears were able to get leverage, and get their inside shots to fall.
The win was the Bruins’ first victory in Conference play, and since no team except Colorado in the Pac-12 is undefeated in League play, UCLA is only 1 game out of 2nd place. And while everyone but Colorado has at least 1 loss, only 1 of the 12 teams has ZERO wins, and that team is u$c, who lost to lowly ASU on Thursday night, despite the Sun Devils suspending 3 players for that game. It is not known whether they, OR Josh Smith, will be back for the UCLA-ASU game on Saturday night, but either way, the Bruins will be favored, by more than the 1 point they were favored by against Arizona. Of course, if the oddsmakers knew that Josh was not going to be available, that spread might have shifted in the Wildcats’ favor. As it turned out, the Bruins put together their best effort of the season, despite Smith being in street clothes. Maybe the Wears worked better together in a freer-flowing attack, or maybe they stepped up knowing that they HAD to. Either way, it was like Lamar Odom excelling when Andrew Bynum was injured — Even though the Defense could now key on them, they still were more productive with the Star Center out of action.
And speaking of out of action, Lamb is NOT out of action — He recovered from the knee injury, re-entered the game in crunchtime, and contributed to the Bruins’ best and biggest win of the year, as if he and his teammates were motivated by the Cat fans’ classless behavior during Lamb’s injury timeout.