The Washington loss needs to be put in context. The Washington Huskies were the pre-season Pac-10 favorite who blew UCLA out last year on the road. As Tydides mentioned they are a bad matchup for UCLA. The Bruins needed to play their best to beat the deep Husky team and not have any bad luck. The Bruins fought hard but could not overcome the loss of Lazeric Jones. Jones broke his finger
Jones, a junior who entered the game averaging 11.3 points, has what coach Ben Howland said is a "mallet finger." The tendon in the top joint of his finger was damaged and Jones will have to wear a splint for the next month, Howland said. He wasn't sure if Jones would miss any time, but the Bruins don't play again until Jan. 9 at USC.
Jones injured his finger late in the first half. He looked tentative during halftime warmups, but started the second half before coming out with 14 minutes, 6 seconds to play. He finished with three points and three assists, but did not make a field goal.
The loss of Jones cannot be overstated. He was coming off his best two games with career high in assists and points in the last two games. Washington has three true PGs in Thomas, Gaady and Overton. Some have argued Jones is more of a 2 guard but in any case after he was hurt UCLA had to play Jerime Anderson, Malcolm Lee (for the first time this year at PG), and even Blake Arnet in the first half to make up for the loss of Jones.
Which exposed UCLA biggest weakness, lack of depth. Washington was a better team not just because of matchups but because they have something UCLA does not: a good bench. In addition to only nine scholarship players, the bench that did play was not anywhere near the equal of Washington's reserve men.
The Bruin bench was 0-8 from the field. Washington regularly left them alone. Washington out scored them 19-8, exactly the final margin of victory of 11. But it was more than that.
Anthony Stover, in a brief apperance, got beat for a offense rebound . . . on a free throw! Brendan Lane was left alone often but only managed two shots. He failed to get a block shot and was a non-factor. He was also our best bench player. Tyler Lamb got burned badly early and finished 0-4 from the field.
Jerime Anderson was obviously the most important sub with Jones' injury. Anderson played okay but made the mistakes that brought back memories of last year. He couldn't inbound the ball for a TO and screwed up multiple breaks, ending the game with a pass to Washington player on a 3-2 break. (Anderson cannot lead a fast break.) He did make some nice passes in the set offense but was bailed out by the refs on some foul calls when he tried to shoot. Anderson is better than last year but Anderson is still Anderson.
Compare that to the Huskies, whose bench won the game. Freshman Ross and senior Gant provided Washington with the spark and key shots that kept the lead and won the game. Everyone agrees the turning point in the game came after Tyler Honeycutt missed a 3 pointer that would have cut the Husky lead to 3 and Gant responded:
Bryan-Amaning led all scorers with 21 points. But there was no shortage of heroes. Freshman Terrence Ross picked up where he left off at USC with some early offense off the bench. Seven-foot Aziz N’Diaye took on the task of banging with Joshua Smith, UCLA’s 310-pound center out of Kent; and that made life easier for Bryan-Amaning. And even though senior forward Darnell Gant scored only six points, his late 3-pointer may have been the dagger that finally finished things.
"We have multiple guys who can make baskets," Romar said. "Even throughout the course of a game, someone may get going, and later on someone else may get going. I think in the past, the last couple of years, we’ve kind of been limited with our options."
. . .
UW’s lead stood at six points with a little more than four minutes remaining, when the ball was passed to Gant in the left corner just beyond the 3-point line. He didn’t hesitate. And when his trey increased the lead to nine, hundreds of UCLA fans decided it was time to get on with other New Year’s Eve plans.
"Before that happened, I really thought we were only up three or something and it put us up six," Gant said. "But when we sat down and people started leaving, I said ‘I guess that was the shot.’ "
UCLA needs bench players to step up. Before the season I wrote this was a problem and while all our starters have flaws, they are good players. Our starting five compares with anyone in the Pac-10. As Washington's Lorenzo Romar said:
"When we entered this game we told our team that when UCLA is focused they’re a really really good basketball team. I really believe that. But I was proud of our guys the other night, and I was just as much proud tonight because our guys stuck together. We had a couple of lapses in both halves – about two or three minutes. Outside of that, we shared the ball. We outrebounded them by one – that’s hard to do. We took careof the ball We played good. On the road, this was very exciting for me and my staff to see out team be able to come out and do this."
Yes, our starters have laspes and need to work on focus and consistency. So does Washington's. I am not belittling that and will discuss it another day.
But all the returning players have improved. Nelson is a better defender (still learning tough) and passer, Honeycutt is a good three shooter now, and Lee has offensive flashes to go with his stellar defense. The new starters are living up to their billing. Smith, while having issues with staying on the floor, is a legimate force and Jones is a realible three and FT shooter.
We are a good team but we do not margin for error until Lamb and Lane step up. They literally need to take what they are given, for with our starters, teams will leave them alone until they prove they can play.