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UCLA Exhibition Basketball Tonight: Defense and Depth Questions

On the offensive side, the first exhibition game went true to form with UCLA showing their new running game to great success but still having problems with the three point shooting.  The big three of Reeves Nelson, Tyler Honeycutt, and Malcolm Lee shot an unbelievable 74% for 2 point FGs but only 2-10 from 3.  Most impressive was Malcolm Lee both for what he did do (led us with 7 assists) and what he did not do (0 TOs.)  Often it was Lee leading the break and passing to Nelson for a dunk.  

As Gold writes:

Tyler Honeycutt maintains UCLA's surprising switch to push-it, up-tempo basketball did not follow a dramatic proclamation by head coach Ben Howland.

The Sylmar product, now one of the top Bruins' leaders, certainly didn't expect it.

"I'm sure everybody was surprised by it. We really didn't see it (coming)," Honeycutt said. "He said during the spring that there were going to be some changes, and I thought they were going to be minor things, but this is the focal point of our offense."

However the defense did not look like Ben Ball Warriors either.  Is the new fast paced offense going to sacrifice the great Ben Ball defense of year's past?  As CBH correctly said after the Westmont exhibition game:

"As you play against better and better people," Howland said, "if we get beat off the dribble that easily, we'll be in for long days and long nights." . . .

Whatever the cause, Howland said defense would be a focal point of practice, especially staying low in a stance and avoiding the temptation to guard opponents too far from the basket.

The other big question begins tonight as well.

UCLA which only has 10 Scholarship Players available for the season but only 8 for tonight: 

Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson and freshman guard Matt Carlino are expected to miss UCLA's exhibition basketball game against Cal State Los Angeles on Tuesday night because of injuries.

Nelson, the starter at power forward who led the Bruins with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a 95-59 exhibition victory over Westmont last week, has a strained hip flexor. Carlino, a backup shooting guard, had four points off the bench against Westmont. He took a hard fall in practice Monday and has a concussion.

But the problems don't end there:

Freshman center Joshua Smith (sprained right thumb) is expected to play in the Bruins' final exhibition game Tuesday against Cal State Los Angeles, but sophomore forward Reeves Nelson (strained right hip flexor) is expected to be sidelined.

Smith, who injured the thumb in UCLA's exhibition game against Westmont on Thursday, will wear a splint, with his thumb wrapped tightly.

"We need to get him some experience before we open up Friday" against Cal State Northridge, Bruins Coach Ben Howland said. Smith had nine points and four rebounds in only eight minutes.

For those wondering why CBH is playing a hurt Smith an exhibition game wearing a splint, consider the following:

1.  The injury is not serious and Smith needs the experience.  It goes without saying CBH would not risk Smith for an exhibition game.  But it seems important for Smith to run and get used to game speed more than anything else.  Games, even exhibitions, are different than practice. Keep in mind what Honeycutt said after the Westmont game as a result of UCLA new fast paced running game:  

"I got tired after like the first time out, well, it is lot faster than I thought it was and so did these two [ML and RN].  It is kind of a surprise because in practice we kind of stop when someone messes up but once you are up and down,  it is kind of different.  You get a lot more running than in practice."

2.  Our front court is not deep. If Smith and Nelson did not play the back up 4/5 would be Tyler Honeycutt.  To put this in perspective, even though we started five different people at center last year, Tyler never played center. 

3.  If you have to sit Nelson OR Smith for an exhibition game, Nelson is the easy choice.  The obvious reason is Nelson is a known quantity to CBH and Smith has only played 8 minutes in one exhibition game. 

4.  The likely starter for Nelson is Brendan Lane.  Lane will likely see a lot of minutes tonight with the starters.  This is important as it was Lane who was the first off the bench against Westmont and started the second half.   Lane, not Anderson or Lamb, right now looks like the 6th man.  Lane may get some crucial minutes with the starters in a game which as the season wears on could be very helpful. 

5.  Last, it will be interesting to see if we go "small " tonight at some point.  When Lane gets a rest will Honeycutt slide back to the 4 spot?  Will Anderson and Jones play together in the backcourt as CBH mentioned?  Will Lamb, Lee, and Honeycutt all be on the floor at the same time?  Remember Lamb is scheduled as the backup to both Lee and Honeycutt. 



It is not an exact formula but it is roughly right to think of UCLA schedule as getting tougher with every game at the start of the season peaking with Kansas. 

Tonight's exhibition opponent, Cal State Los Angeles, gave some trouble to both  Riverside (86-72) and Fullerton (79-67) before losing both games.   Which goes to show they should be a tougher warm up then Westmont but they should still be just a warm up.