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UCLA vs. UC Davis Basketball Preview

Tyler Lamb may play more tonight, as long as he can stay away from the Chili Cheese fries.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Tyler Lamb may play more tonight, as long as he can stay away from the Chili Cheese fries. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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There is reason for concern after Saturday's game. Cal Poly hung in the game for a while and actually scored more than their season average. UCLA is 4-4 but their 4 wins have come over three teams with losing records and the one with a winning record (Pacific) also lost to the team with the most losses (Pepperdine).

Cal Poly is supposed to be a little worse than tonight's opponent UC Davis. UC Davis is 4-5 but 2-5 against D-1 opponents. They play a Princeton style offense and hilariously list their best player 6'8" Joe Hardin as a Guard (They start 4 "guards "and one forward officially). Hardin is a 5th year senior and originally a Notre Dame recruit who transferred. He scored 27 against Cal and is the UC Davis leader in points and rebounds. Another 6'8" guard is  Mark Payne who also is a fifth year senior who leads the team in assists and is second in scoring and rebounding. The starting PG Todd Lowethal is, guess what, a 5th year senior but only averages 1.6 points a game.  Complete UC Davis notes are here.

This is a veteran team that played Cal tough for a while:  "the Aggies lost by just 12 vs. another Pac-10 opponent in Cal, after five ties and four lead changes in the first half."

However, this should not be a close game tonight but then again there is reason for concern that have nothing to do with UC Davis.

1. UCLA could be playing short handed. Malcolm Lee's knee is still bothering him and Tyler Honeycutt is dinged up. Now two players (especially Tyler Lamb) may be sick or not a 100% tomorrow night:

UCLA Coach Ben Howland was mildly distressed Sunday after freshmen Anthony Stover (left) and Tyler Lamb (right) contracted a case of food poisoning from some late-night chili chicken cheese fries. . . .

The players consumed the fries after the Bruins' 72-61 victory over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Saturday night, a celebratory treat the duo soon regretted. Howland said Lamb vomited in his dorm hallway and again during practice Sunday.

Lamb and Stover weren't able to participate as the Bruins watched film and completed a walk-through in advance of their game against UC Davis on Monday at Pauley Pavilion. Howland said he hoped the food poisoning was "a one-day deal" that would allow the freshmen to play against the Aggies.

Assuming Lamb and Stover are available, Howland said he needed to play them more than he did against Cal Poly. Lamb played six minutes after being what Howland described as out of sorts offensively; Stover played a season-low two minutes, mostly because UCLA freshman center Joshua Smith was so dominant against the undersized Mustangs.

2. Speaking of that, what is going on with the playing time? Especially for Lamb and Stover. We are now 8 games into the season and on Saturday CBH was still doing some strange things with the lineup. For example, for the first time all year, Malcolm Lee was playing forward with Anderson and Jones at guard. I realize Anderson was hot but Lee was not.  So why play Lee for the first time at forward? He also basically forgot about Stover. Coupled with his admitted mistake of not playing Carlino against Montana, CBH seems to be confused on his rotation. He discussed this in an interview Sunday:

I've got to keep playing more people. I'm going to play Tyler Lamb more minutes. Last night he was really just out of sorts offensively. He came into the game and drove and got a shot blocked, he didn't read and then he shot the ball early. I think the San Luis Obispo crowd was saying 3, 2, 1 when it was 7, 6, 5, but we need Tyler Lamb because he is a good defender and I think I've got to get Honeycutt more rest so he can really play with a great effort. I'm playing him too many minutes. It's kind of hard to take him out of the game because he's one of our top two rebounders and our best outside shooter. But I think [defensive] effort will increase as we get the minutes divied up better."

Odds are we are going to need Stover and certainly Lamb during the PAC 10. They should be getting some minutes now to get ready.

3. AS CBH sees it our biggest problem so far is our defense. And it is worse than you may think. Montana lost yesterday in overtime to the USF Dons and they only scored 48 points. Cal Poly scored more points against us then their season average. It is not like UCLA is scoring a lot of points in those games either. Our Defense needs work or BYU will destroy us. As CBH said in he same interview last night when asked his biggest concern.

"Defensively, number one. I'm still very concerned about our defense and our ability, and you can just see our youth. . . . I thought our [defensive] effort was really good against Kansas. I thought it was really poor against Montana. Last night, we did some good things, especially in the second half. They shot almost 38 percent."

4. The dreaded CBH games close together factor. CBH is a great game strategist with time as he showed against Kansas but on quick turnarounds he has problems recently. CBH is 1-1 in games on two days or less rest this year after going 2-8 last year. Will that factor into a game against a veteran UC Davis team that runs a Princeton offense?

5. This game is more important than it should be. The PAC 10's RPI is going the way of Tyler Lamb's stomach. This weekend, Washington -- the Pac 10s only ranked team -- lost to unranked Texas A & M.  BYU blew out Arizona. Thus the PAC 10 continues to stink and will almost certainly only get two teams to the big dance. This means UCLA must win out the out of conference schedule including beating BYU this Saturday or else it better win the PAC 10 Tourney.

CBH needs to have his team playing at the Kansas game level this week (especially Saturday) or else it is looking like UCLA may miss the Tourney for the second year in a row, which is not acceptable for UCLA.

Go Bruins!