The Bruins needed this one badly for more reasons than we can count. Cal Poly hung in tight in the first half, taking advantage of slow interior rotations and some timely outside shooting early to put thoughts of Montana back into the minds of the Bruin faithful. UCLA was able to exploit their considerably size advantage inside to come away with an 8 point halftime lead, but then proceeded to sleepwalk out of the locker room and let the Mustangs back into it. It was a close game until Jerime Anderson of all people hit back to back 3s and followed up with another deep 2 to put Cal Poly in deep trouble. The Bruins rode rather shaky defense and sloppy offense to the final horn by a score of 72-61 (box score).
No offense to Cal Poly, but this is a game that it's hard to extrapolate any real positives out of. Anything great we could say would inevitably lead to questions about the competition. Of particular concern was the rather slow rotation of the bigs to coming over to challenge on dribble penetration. Too many times we saw heads turned as their guards got inside, and it led to layups and and-1s, as the Mustangs shot over 50% for much of the game. The key for our forwards and centers is going to be communication, because while it didn't hurt us against this team, it's hard to imagine even a weakened Pac 10, or our biggest nonconference test remaining (BYU) won't blow us out playing the way we did in the first half.
Fortunately Anderson's offensive burst put the game in the win column, because our strategy of pounding the ball inside with Smith, Lane, and Nelson had us at basically an even draw with Cal Poly.
A quick recap of our team:
Joshua Smith is still an unstoppable force. Sure Cal Poly was undersized, but Smith has shown this ability against better competition as well. 19 points and 11 rebounds for a double double from the big man.
Tyler Honeycutt's shot was a little off, but he still finished with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, and perhaps most importantly, cut down on the turnovers (2).
Reeves Nelson still gets lost defensively way too often, but at least he was active on the other end of the floor, and did show some effort on defense. At the very least, it's a relief to see him engaged in the game after having a couple of low energy outings.
Malcolm Lee disappeared for a large stretch of this game before waking up a little at the very end. His injury news is concerning, and whether that contributed to his ineffectiveness tonight is still up in the air. What we do know is that we're going to need more from him going forward. I don't expect Jerime Anderson to continue to have offensive spurts off the bench, and so our backcourt offense is going to be in his hands. Zeke also had a somewhat forgettable game, but as I've said in the past; with the way our PG situation has shaken out, the best chance we have to win is for whoever is there to do no harm, and play it safe, so I don't have complaints about Zeke's game.
And what can you say about Brendan Lane? Kid might be light and get pushed around but he does have a motor and finds a way to stay with the play. He came up with some impressive blocks tonight and found a way to chip in with 7 points (against Cal Poly's undersized front line).
At the end of the day, the most important thing was a Bruin victory, or to look at it in terms of our tournament profile, the lack of another bad loss.
Next game is Monday against UC Davis.