UCLA Basketball: Hedges and the Nelson Show

UCLA needs to keep its starting five on the floor.  With Jones' injury and his having to play with a splint on his finger for the next month, UCLA Center Joshua Smith becomes even more important. He has to find a way to not foul.  Most of Smith's fouls are questionable calls against him because he is so big OR questionable decisions by a big guy.  We don't want Smith fouling 25 feet out on the floor.  Going for an offense rebound or a block, sure.  Hedging against a 5'-8" PG six feet above the three point line, NO. 

And CBH realizes the problem

Howland said he was reconsidering the way he has Joshua Smith defend ball screens in the wake of the freshman center's foul trouble against the Huskies.

Smith fouled out for the first time in his career after committing two of his five fouls while hedging screens.. . .

"We may have to use him as a plug instead of a hedge," Howland said, "which means then he's going to have little guys coming right at him all the time trying to cross him over and he's going to have to be able to play defense without reaching or gambling, and that's also a foul opportunity." . . .

"So I don't know if it's going to be any better in terms of foul trouble," Howland said of the alternate approach. "It might be easier for him because he's not sprinting out there."

More after the jump.

Smith has to not reach in this scheme.  He has been tempted to do so in the past.  While Smith does have great hands and a good sense for the steal for someone of his size, he is too important to gamble on steals against guards.  He needs to focus on what the team needs him to do, own the paint. 

Yesterday, we talked about the bench, today let's briefly review the starters.

LAZERIC JONES

Jones sat on Friday in the second half because he was not aggressive.  The finger made him not shoot.  I think everyone can admire Jones toughness.  The injury was apparently pretty gruesome with his middle finger pointing the wrong way and Jones popped it back in.  

However, the long term effects of having to wear a splint on the finger of this shooting hand are unknown.  We need Jones at a 100%.  This again shows the failures of CBH to recruit a PG.   If Jones struggles, will Lee be forced to play PG again?

MALCOLM LEE

Malcolm Lee played 39 minutes guarding UW best scorer and PG.  Malcolm played PG during the last three minutes of the first half.  As always Malcolm played all out and as a result of being tired his offense suffered.    He scored 10 points in the first half on 3-4 shooting and in the second half he only scored 2 and missed a dunk.   CBH said he played ML too much.  ML is a true Ben Ball Warrior.  He is always giving his all for the team whether it is playing the other teams best player or filling in at PG.

TYLER HONEYCUTT

Tyler got in foul trouble early and stopped playing.  He did not have a rebound in the first half.  Justin Holiday beat him for easy layups as Honeycutt put his hands in his pockets.  At halftime, CBH told Honeycutt and Nelson they would have to step up to fill in for Jones.  Yet, Honeycutt got his 3rd foul immediately to start the second half. 

Honeycutt did play better in the second half but it was probably appropriate for this game that he missed the three that  would have cut it to a one possession game before Gant hit the three for UW that effectively ended it.  

REEVES NELSON

In an ideal world Reeves would be a sixth man.  You would bring him off the bench to change things up.  When he is hot, you keep him in the game a long time, play him starter minutes.  When he is cold, you play him just enough to rest the starter. 

But right now this is Reeves' team.  How Reeves goes, so does UCLA.  This is the first time in UCLA loss when Reeves has shot 6 or more FTs.  Reeves disappeared for parts of the game but he also stepped it up after half time as CBH asked and did his part to make up for the loss of Jones in the second half. 

It was not just the second half were Reeves took over that you can see his positive effect on the game when he is "on"  According to the game tracker UCLA was down 13-20 with 10:22 left in the first half when Reeves scored his first points a traditional three point play.  The next possession he got the defensive rebound and scored again to cut Washington's lead to 2.  Reeves kept in the game and eventually with 6:22 left in the first UCLA led by 1 after another Nelson basket.  Then Reeves went out.  When he came back in, he did not get another defensive rebound and UCLA fell down by 7 at half.

In the second half, he would score 12 Points and get 6 rebounds.  He responded to CBH's call to step up.   Even when he was out on the bench he was the leading cheerleader. Yet, if you want to criticize Nelson you have plenty of room.  His man, Bryan-Amaning, for UW scored 21 points.  (In fairness to Nelson, Lane was covering him as well.)  On a break he did the worst attempt at a behind the back dribble I have seen in a while but was bailed out by a questionable foul call.  

Against a good team like UW, Reeves dominant effort for part of the game was not enough, as it has been in other games. Nelson is a good player but could learn from Malcolm Lee on consistency of effort, especially on the defensive end. Nelson also needs to be a more consistent rebounder.  

But the fact of the matter that while Nelson has improved and is improving, this should not be his team.  Nelson is an up and down emotional player who is going to be awesome at times but in a funk at others.  On the other hand Smith can dominate and change a game just by staying on the floor.  Honeycutt has the most talent of any player on the floor.  Those two need to step up and make UCLA 2010-11 more than the Nelson show.

Go Bruins.

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