UCLA at Washington Preview: The Seventh Man and Forty Minutes

Achilles first laid out the recent bad history at Hec Ed and Tydides laid out how tonight's game may be 8 on 5.   And then Osewgo laid out the history of both in a way, how we always lose some players to fouls at Hec Ed.  Today  I will review  how that may work out tonight but also how it may be one of the reasons for UCLA's problems playing 40 minutes. 

FWIW, I think UCLA wins the first game against Washington if Lazeric Jones does not get hurt and is effectively out for most of the game after dislocating his finger.  That game we had a number of related problems which forced Blake Arnet into the game in the first half.   UCLA just can't go that deep and expect to win.

But that may be the key tonight.  How does the UCLA bench play tonight because this is a game they will likely play a key role (even though Smith does not start, I consider him a starter for this purpose).  Further, Jermie Anderson has been solid off the bench and has become a true sixth man.  But the reason I write the seventh man in the headline is because Lamb, Lane and/or Stover may be the key if UCLA is to pull off an upset tonight. 

CBH's use of these three has been fascinating.  In the one of the last three games each of them has been the seventh man and played over 10 plus minutes while the others have barely played in the other two games.  And arguably CBH has done a great job rotating these three.

Lane had the best 4 minutes of offensive of his career against Cal.  Lamb played solid defense against the little guys of Arizona State.  Stover was amazing on defense against Arizona.  But that is the problem: all three of these guys are usually liabilities on one end of the floor.

More after the jump.

Let's start with Stover.  Tracy Pierson of Bruin Report Online, the scout who sees the game as defense first, was rightly glowing about Stover after the Arizona game and wrote:

There were two guys who made all the difference in the game defensively, and that was Reeves Nelson and Anthony Stover. See, now this is why you can’t be a stats scout. If you were just looking at a box score, you could immediately understand why Nelson was the player of the game, scoring 27 points and hauling in 16 boards. But why would you even consider giving the honor of difference-maker to Stover, whose stat line is modest (except for, perhaps, that big "4" in the blocks column)? If you watch the game again you’ll see that Stover was a huge influence in every one of his 18 minutes played, blocking or altering just about every shot near him, making it near-impossible for any Wildcat to score around the basket. But it wasn’t just his shot-blocking; Stover is, by far, the best screen hedger of any big man on the team, and perhaps the best that Howland has ever had. His hedges are so good it completely disrupts the opposing team’s offensive flow, to the point they have to pretty much re-start their offense. See, now, these are the kind of little things that don’t show up on a stat sheet – hedging and altering shots – that make a huge impact on a game. The players on the court, too, aren’t robots, they have emotions, so that kind of defensive effort and performance by one of their teammates is infectious. Every time Stover is on the court it’s not coincidental that his teammates step up their defense.

Seriously, perhaps the most exciting thing about this season is imagining what Stover, who is only a redshirt freshman, is going to be like by the time he’s a senior.

Stover's defense is impressive and inspiring but let's look at Stover's offense even in that great game.  First, the obvious that he only scored one point in 18 minutes.  But it is more than not scoring that hurts on offense when Stover is in the game.  Stover was -5 on the +/- for the game in a game we won by 22 points.  Stover was incredible on defense but he hurts UCLA on offense.  One of the keys to our recent blowouts is cutting down on turnovers.  But despite not having any turnovers himself, some of the turnovers were Stover's fault.  For example as Penny 2i wrote "Stover had no business filling the middle of the lane there with a guard to his left on the break. Did he honestly think he could catch a pass on the dead run and dunk it?"   He cost us 2 points on this play and others.

I am not knocking Stover.  He is steadily improving but he is very much a work in progress on offense.   Lamb is similar although not as dominant on defense.  Lamb's conference only offensive stats are miserable as are his road stats.   Lamb has made just one 3 pointer this year on the road in 12 attempts.    He is shooting 21% from the field on the road and has more TOs than assists in Pac-10 play. 

While Stover and Lamb are liabilities on offense, Lane's is on defense.  Earlier in the year some of those problems were masked by Lane's shot blocking and ability to help on defense.  But since the Pac-10 has started Lane has not been able to block shots.  Lane had 23 blocked shots in 12 non-conference games and has only one in Pac-10 play.  Lane also, to the best of my knowledge has yet to draw a charge this year, CBH's favorite stat.  (I could be wrong on this earlier in the Pac-10 it was said he had zero and I do not recall one since).  Lane can be out-muscled and, right now, has problems with man-to-man defense.  While Lane's FG% and 3P%, plus his flash in a game like Cal, justify his playing more, his defensive problems are going to hold him back.

Thus, if Washington can use their likely allies, the SPTRs, to get beyond our first six, it could be their advantage.  Even if some of our first six don't foul out but are limited, it will be to their advantage.  This also explains part of the problem we have this year with consistency.  When Stover, Lamb or Lane play, it can be like playing 5 on 4 on one side of the court. 

On to the match-ups:

Center

Here the match-up really might be Josh Smith against the crowd.  Washington fans have not forgotten that they were his second choice and that he is the local boy who left home.   Washington center, Aziz N’Diaye, is taller than Smith but interestingly fouls more than Smith, averaging a foul every 5.8 minutes.  This match-up is a big advantage to UCLA but Washington can withstand losing N'Diaye whereas the Bruins will be hurting without Smith.

Power Forward

Earlier in the year, when Washington was looking like a lock for first place, CBH picked Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Isaiah Thomas as possible league MVPs (CBH always picks the best player on the first place team).  It is interesting CBH picked Bryan-Amaning, maybe it it was because of his dominant game the first time against UCLA.  But this is a different UCLA this time.

For while Reeves Nelson played well in the first Washington game, in recent games the most encouraging thing is his defense .  He has shut down a number of good big men, including Arizona's Derrick Williams and U$C's Nikola Vucevic.  If he can do it this game and stay out of foul trouble it will be a good sign for UCLA.  Not just for this game but for the NCAA tournament as well.  Bryan-Amaning is a very different player than Williams or Vucevic but there is reason for hope. However, I am worried about his playing defense without fouling tonight, that may be tough.

Small Forward

The big worry on match-ups may be this one: Justin Holiday out played Honeycutt in the first game including out rebounding him.  Holiday is fired up for UCLA (he got a technical foul last time) and Honeycutt will need to do a better job on him on both ends of the floor.  Holiday is Washington's best defender and a key player.   He can also get really hot on offense. 

Guards

CBH may very play Malcolm Lee on Washington PG Isaiah Thomas, who is generally regarded as Washington's best player.  Last time we played, Isaiah played like he was auditioning for a role in Hollywood with some of his ridiculous flops, especially against Smith.  But they worked.  They will likely work even better at home. 

That said, I am cautiously optimistic on this match up with Lee.  Last time these teams met, Lee was forced to play, for the only time this year, point guard when Anderson got in foul trouble and Zeek was hurt. With the responsibility of running the offense back with Jerime and Zeek, he should be better able to focus on defense this game.

The shooting guard spot for Washington has three possible players, maybe four, if former shooting guard Suggs is back.  They all present different challenges.  Romar has a lot of options and goes to prove how he can trade fouls with us and come out ahead.   It will be interesting how Jones  and Anderson match up with Venoy Overton. Overton is a bit troubled and also may be a bit dirty.  He is out of control but can be a very good defender and could trouble Jones or Anderson handling the ball.  

There is a reason why UCLA has not won here in years.  The key stat might be how many minutes the first six are able to play.  If Smith or anyone else misses a substantial portion of the game, it may be tough to snap the Hec Ed jinx.

However, if our starters are not hampered by fouls in the second half, we may break the losing streak. Or, better yet, if one of the 7th men step up on both ends of the court. 

But more likely, the SPTRs will buy Isaiah's acting job and help induce a Bruin lull by limiting who we can play.  I hope I am wrong.

Go Bruins.

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