UCLA Basketball Roundup: Conditioning and Confidence

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 17: Joshua Smith #34 of the UCLA Bruins struggles have been more than with his opponents double and triple teams. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Before we get to the main subject of today's roundup a brief note that UCLA plays its first game in its temporary home of the Sports Arena in a month. As disappointing as the basketball team has been it was not helped by a clueless AD who chose a decrepit arena on UCLA's arch rival's campus. Tonight's home game will probably be another somber affair with a small crowd scattered throughout the seats. This is sad and is all on Chianti Dan (emphasis mine):

Certainly the jury is still out on just how sweet the Sports Arena is and whether it's actually UCLA's home is also up for debate, but the Bruins will be playing there for the first time since a Dec. 23 victory over Richmond meaning it has been more than a month away from the arena they are calling home while Pauley Pavilion undergoes a makeover. . .

Since then, UCLA has played at Stanford, California, USC, Oregon State and Oregon and had two games at the Honda Center in Anaheim. It has been so long since the Bruins have played on their "home" court that center Joshua Smith joked "I hope it's not too dusty." . . .

"It's definitely been strange and going back there is going to be different just because we haven't played there in so long," forward David Wear said. "It is supposed to be our home gym but it's going to be a little different at first going back there after so long away."

The Sports Arena crowds certainly aren't going to help much. UCLA is averaging an announced attendance of only 4,674 at the Sports Arena this season -- a number that would rank 11th in the Pac-12 if the Bruins were not counting the 7,447 they are averaging at the Honda Center.

An AD is supposed to help the team not make things harder. Home court is huge in college hoops and Chianti Dan took that advantage away. No place was going to be as good as Pauley but it is obvious no other place was as bad as the Sports Arena.

After the jump, the main issue of the day.

Josh Smith has lost his way. And to his credit he admits it.

Smith scored six points in the Bruins' 85-78 loss to the Ducks but struggled with foul trouble and turnovers, finishing with four each and growing increasingly gloomy following gaffe after gaffe.

"When I start off bad, it's kind of like a snowball effect," said Smith, whose Bruins host Utah at 7:30 tonight at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. "I miss my first layup and it's like, Aww.' I remember the Oregon game, I missed a point-blank layup. I was wide open. Came down missed another one, and it's a snowball effect. It keeps getting bigger and it keeps rolling." . . .

Smith said he thinks he's "thinking too much" and that even his parents commented on his poor body language during the loss to the Ducks.

"I'd probably say so," Smith said. "I'd probably say I'm thinking way too much and I just need to go out there and just relax. Play with a smile on my face. They just said, just have fun. It's not the end of the world. I was getting comments from my family that when I was out there, I didn't look happy or anything. I have to have a better attitude."

Howland was more blunt describing Smith's problems in one word: "conditioning." Jerime Anderson is more diplomatic:

"I'm always in Josh's ear," Anderson said. "I'm always trying to get his motor going a little bit more and try to get him really being aggressive about getting the ball because when he does that, and he does assert himself, that's when we're at our best as a team because that's when he's at his best."

Howland and Smith did add that Smith's poor play was a key in losing the games last week:

"He played probably as poor of a game as he's played all year on Saturday and didn't play particularly great on Thursday," Coach Ben Howland. "And so I think he's very motivated right now, he wants to do better."

Smith on Wednesday said nothing to dispute Howland's assessment.

"I was pretty disappointed," he said. "If you look back, they were two winnable games. I wasn't really excited about how I played. I didn't play well and I have to accept that. I'm not going to make excuses."

I appreciate Josh's words and am pulling for the big guy. Hopefully he can right himself tonight in this easy game against Utah.

Go Bruins.

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