I am thinking Kenny Jones will have a career game tomorrow night against a suspension ravaged ASU team. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Before we get to the preview of the ASU game, a few notes on the UCLA basketball team:
Changing roles. Howland is moving Jones to SG and Anderson to PG. Jones has his fans and critics but despite what the former may think, the move is primarily because Jones has to shoot the ball more (emphasis mine):
A big assist to their huge night goes to Lazeric Jones, who Howland applauded for setting good screens to get the Wear Twins open on the block.
It was a new role for Jones, who spent a lot more time off of the ball on Thursday night than he ever did throughout the course of his career.
. . . .
Howland says it's not likely to change, because Jones "has to be our primary scorer."
"He's got to be a primary guy that we're looking for to run offense through and with his point guard skills he's going to make plays for others as well," he said. "I don't think Zeek has any problem taking shots. I think he's very comfortable."
Jones himself was mixed about the move:
Teams are starting to key in on Jones, UCLA's leading scorer. Howland's new game-plan is to let Jones play off the ball in more of a shooting guard role and let fellow senior guard Jerime Anderson shoulder the ball-handling responsibilities. That strategy worked Saturday with periodic success. "I've never played off the ball in my life," Jones said. "Knowing Jerime's out there takes a lot of pressure off me, too. I know that teams deny me the ball and I know Jerime can handle it."
There is a lot that can be said about this and we will say more later but really it is about a team that preseason the offense was supposed to be all about scoring inside (Nelson and Smith, with the Wears as backups) and running the offense through the bigs. However, the reality that has developed with Jones as the leading scorer, the leading three shooter (makes, attempts, and percentage of those with more than 10 attempts), and leader even at free throw attempts. Jones is the one guy who can score in all ways for UCLA.
Speaking of the guy who was supposed to be one of those leaders, Josh Smith, he will be a game time decision:
Josh Smith will be a game-time decision Saturday, Coach Ben Howland said. Smith, who rode a stationary bike Friday, is to be reevaluated Saturday morning, and his performance on certain concussion tests will determine his availability.
Also, De'End Parker is out and will again not be on the bench for personal reasons:
De'End Parker, a junior college transfer from San Francisco who played 34 minutes in two games before suffering knee tendinitis, was not with the team Thursday. Howland said Parker's mother was recovering from open-heart surgery and because Parker was not healthy and not playing, Howland said: "I told him to stay home and be with her. He's supposed to be back in a couple of days." UCLA has not been in session because of the holidays.
ASU vs. UCLA Preview
Taking a cue from gbruin I will start this preview with a dictionary definition. Hopeless : providing no hope; beyond optimism or hope; desperate. No, in this case, it is not a description of Chianti Dan but of the Pac-12 and ASU basketball team. ASU with 6 scholarship players beat USC. I think this says more about USC than ASU. I drafted this preview before that game. But I still feel that UCLA should be able to dominate a 5-9 (1-2 Pac-12 team) ASU who just suspend 40% of their starters:
Arizona State suspended three players prior to Thursday night's game against USC, according to a report in the Arizona Republic.
According to the report, Keala King and Kyle Cain -- both starters -- and Chris Colvin were suspended for "unacceptable conduct." The trio did not travel with the Sun Devils and, according to the report, won't return to the team until next week, at the earliest.
Until the USC game, the year has been an unqualified disaster for ASU and, despite the win over USC, it is likely only getting worse. Savior and top recruit (#50 in the nation) PG Jahii Carson does not academically qualify for ASU. His replacement Keala King leads the team in points, assists and steals but he is not playing either due to suspension. But it does not stop. The backup PG, Chris Colvin, is also suspended. I know Howland does not like to press but I am not sure how ASU will bring the ball up the court.
If this was a home game for ASU they would be looking for a PG from the crowd.
ASU season has been all about bad luck. In addition to the suspensions and failure to qualify ASU has:
Arizona State (4-8) has had four straight games decided by shots in the final seconds, losing the last three.
Yes ASU has Trent Lockett who last year had a memorable put back to send the UCLA game in Tempe to overtime. Lockett was a tough matchup for Tyler Honeycutt last year and leads ASU in rebounds this year and is officially the 2 guard (There is a reason that ASU was 4-9 before the suspensions). But really there is not much to help him. Shoot Lockett does it all and played PG against USC .
Another starter Carrick Felix had a career game against USC. Prior to that I thought he started at the three because he shots a lot of threes. The PF and second leading rebounder Kyle Cain is also suspended. ASU does have some size is 7 foot starting center Ruslan Pateev and as a result of the suspensions the lineup will be huge:
In their absence Trent Lockett moved to point guard and junior forward Carrick Felix had a career-high 22 points as Arizona State used a starting lineup of players that measured 6-6, 6-7, 7-0, 6-5 and 6-4. Sophomore Jordan Bachynski, a 7-2 center, is the only other scholarship player available for the Sun Devils.
Despite the ASU vs. USC game, I do think this game has blowout written all over it for UCLA.
I will go out on a limb and ask everyone in honor of Achilles pregame guesses to answer the following in their first replies:
1. Who sets their career high against ASU? For three games in a row a Bruin has hit a career high going into the ASU game:
For the third straight game, a Bruin posted a career-best scoring mark. Saturday it was Travis Wear (20), who followed career performances from Lamb (26 against Cal) and Jones (26 against Stanford).
2. Which walk-on scores first?
I am thinking both may be the same person.
Go Bruins and put the Sun Devils out of their misery quickly.