This year team is very different from any other in the CBH era. Without Reeves Nelson the team struggled a bit at first and it struggled to run! But when it started to run the game was over. Yes this UCLA team runs and will run a lot.
UCLA broke the exhibition contest open midway through the first half, using a 32-4 scoring run that extended into the second half. The Bruins led 19-15 with 10:50 to play in the opening half and expanded their cushion to 32 points, leading 51-19, after Honeycutt nailed a three-pointer with 17:59 remaining in the game.
While two games is not a good sample size, the importance of Nelson and running was shown:
Brendan Lane replaced Nelson on Tuesday at the power forward spot and had 14 points and four assists, but he is more of a spot up shooter where Nelson likes to drive.
"We have to slow down a little when Reeves isn't in there, but not much," point guard Lazeric Jones said. "But Brendan gives you other options, so there's not a huge dropoff."
Lane did indeed have a good game especially early when we were having a little trouble running it early. He also led us in assists and points in the first half. But Lane brings up an interesting point, how well will the Bruins play defense this year. Although Lane talks about himself below, it is arguably an issue for all players outside of Malcolm Lee:
Lane, starting in place of sophomore Reeves Nelson, who missed the game with a strained hip flexor, had 12 points in the first half and helped shut out CSULA behemoth center Carl Hoffman.
"That was one of the biggest things I worked on (during the offseason)," Lane said. "Last year, I wasn't able to defend some of the bigger players, and that really hurt us on the team. I wasn't able to hold my own inside."
Hoffman was a big guy and as a D-2 player it was probably the first time he played against someone bigger than him in Smith. Smith completely shut him down and made him look comical at times. But while the Bruins were better on defense they are still very much a work in progress.
But coach Ben Howland said the Bruins must show improvement on the defensive end if they are to have a successful season.
"You can see we're going to have problems guarding the basketball," Howland said. "The biggest problem we had was too many turnovers and getting beat off the dribble."
Even a bigger worry than the defense is the uncontrollable: the need to avoid an injury. While Smith played, as was speculated, mainly for conditioning purposes it is scary to only have 10 scholarships. We need to stay healthy.
The Bruins hope to get closer to full strength by the time they open their season Friday against Cal State Northridge and begin a stretch of three games in five days. Howland said Nelson should be able to practice by Thursday.
Freshman guard Matt Carlino, who did not play Tuesday after suffering a concussion in practice, will be reassessed Thursday.
Freshman center Joshua Smith had six points and four rebounds in 20 minutes while playing with a heavily wrapped right thumb that he acknowledged was a big reason he took only three shots.
"I just wanted to go up and down and get rebounds and assists," Smith said.
"He plays very well when the lights come on," Bruins coach Ben Howland said.
Coming off the bench, Lamb hit 6 of 9 shots from the field, including 3 of 4 in the second half.
"Sometimes shots don't fall in practice," said Lamb, who also had three assists, three rebounds and four turnovers. "When the game comes I just try and go out there and play my heart out." . . .
"Well, the preseason is over now and on to the real deal," Howland said.
On to the real deal indeed. Go Bruins!