UCLA Hoops Roundup: Confidence and Conditioning

Head coach Ben Howland of the UCLA Bruins needs to open his eyes to the fact the Bruin bench has no confidence and the starters have no conditioning. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

UCLA's loss last night puts the Bruins in a tough spot.  While losing to UW at home and SUC on the road were not unexpected, it does mean that UCLA must win its next four games against the Oregon Schools on the road (arguably the easiest road trip) and at home against two weak Cal and Stanford teams.  The losses to UW and USC are not fatal, but as Coach said: "Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."

And what needs to be changed?  Well our starting big guys are not able to play a whole game or anywhere close and our bench (with a notable exception) is not up to playing real minutes:

Nelson had 14 points and eight rebounds but wore down considerably in the second half, scoring only two points.

"I was pretty tired," acknowledged Nelson, who played 17 first-half minutes, "but I thought I needed to play that many minutes in the first half because of the way the game was going."

. . .

Smith started out on Vucevic before picking up a quick reaching foul. Lane then tried to defend the USC forward, and that didn't go so well.

Vucevic spun around Lane for a layup, made a baby hook and then elevated for a jump shot that gave the Trojans a 25-22 lead. Howland immediately called a timeout and put Smith back in for Lane and had Nelson guard Vucevic.

Smith only had one foul in the first half and only played 12 minutes.  The second half the foul demon came back but 12 minutes a half without foul trouble is still only 24 minutes a game, which is about what Smith seemingly can play:

The UCLA freshman center fouled out for the second consecutive in the Bruins' 63-52 loss to USC at Galen Center on Sunday night and now has 14 fouls in his past three games.. . .

"I have a lot more energy, I can run harder, I can play longer," Smith said. "Playing 20-, 25-minute college games is like the equivalent of a whole high school game. I can feel it.

Reeves was awesome in the first half at times.  Making his first five shots, getting rebounds and even limiting Vucevic when he was on him and UCLA was winning.  But then Reeves hit the wall.  He was tired and for the rest of the game he was 1-6, even missing point blank layups.  While Reeves has been streaky, it appears part of the problem, may be like Smith, he simply can't play that many minutes. Reeves led UCLA in points but also in minutes played.


So why does Reeves play so many minutes?  Listen to Brendan Lane:
With Joshua Smith again played by early foul trouble, stopping USC's Nikola Vucevic quickly became Brendan Lane's problem.

And Brendan Lane's nightmare.

Vucevic did what he wanted, scoring a game-high 20 points -- his fifth time this season scoring at least 20 -- on 9-for-16 shooting. Take away three misses from beyond the three-point line and he was 8-for-12. Vucevic had averaged 15.9 heading into Sunday.

"He's just real skilled," Lane said. "When he's on the block, he can shoot that jump hook from real far out. He gets it out real quick. It's tough to contest, he's just so big. Sometimes you can get up quick enough to contest. Tonight I wasn't ready sometimes, I wasn't low enough. That was on me. I didn't execute on defense."

Lane could not play with Vucevic.  Smith would foul him and Nelson could play but not that many minutes.  But Lane is 0-5 in FGs in three Pac 10 games despite playing more minutes than Smith and only 10 rebounds in 73 minutes.  Lane seems like a really good kid but the question is he a PAC 10 player?  On the other hand, a lot of people talk about how good he was on offense in high school.  Yet now he seems scared to shoot.  Is this also on CBH?

CBH, has to figure out a solution.  Go zone occasionally (would have been great against SUC who can't shoot outside), play TH at power forward or get some confidence to Lane.  Lane only has to score when left all alone, it seems like he could do that.  He can play more aggressive on D, it is okay if he fouls more.

The conditioning problem goes deeper though.  Malcolm Lee did a great job last night on Fontan who only had 10 points and 1 assist to 3 TOs.  Lee had a couple of great defensive sequences where he stopped breakaways BUT it's as if Lee cannot play offense and defense.  He chooses defense which is nice but he did not have a FG in the second half and was 1-5 or the game. Just like the UW game, he wore out in the second half.

His backup Tyler Lamb looks scared on offense and just may not be a good 3 shooter.  Lamb needs to go to the basket and start passing better.  He does not have an assist in 3 PAC 10 games.  He needs to be aggressive on offense and be okay with making a TO. 

For there is a lot of room for the backups to take what is given them.  Let me close on the one positive note, Jerime Anderson.  Steve Kerr kept saying how USC wanted Anderson to shoot outside and were going to give him the shot.  Anderson was perfect (2-2 from 3 and 4-5 from the field) and took what was given him.  Anderson is nowhere near a healthy Jones but he does not have to be.  He is trying on defense and taking what is given him on offense.  Lane and Lamb need to learn and have the confidence to do  the same.

CBH needs to figure out how to either get some confidence for the bench or get some conditioning in the starters to play 35 minutes.  UW is in first place because they are so deep.  USC beat UCLA in part because their two big guys played 34 and 38 minutes without looking tired.

UCLA can be there too, but CBH must right the ship in a hurry.   It is on you CBH.

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