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UCLA Hoops Post-Game Thoughts: "Get the Ball to Josh!"

Josh Smith was the story of the UCLA exhibition game win over Cal State San Bernardino 80-72 yesterday.  Obviously basketball players are big but I don't think you can truly appreciate how big Josh is until you play against him.  As Cal State San Bernardino's Theron Laudermill shook his head and laughed stating:

"It's a big ol' wall that can't move," he said. "You try and get around him but he's just so big. He takes up so much of the paint."

Smith indeed proved the difference, scoring a game-high 26 points, making 6 of 12 shots from the field and 14 for 18 at the free-throw line. . . .

Not only did Smith lead all scorers, but the smaller Coyotes got in foul trouble trying to defend him with two players - Kwame Alexander and Tre Brewer - eventually fouling out.

"We have the advantage inside and we need to play to that," Bruins coach Ben Howland said. "It's the obvious strength we have whether the other team is playing man or zone."

While Josh was the story of the game, there were two other big positives for Bruin fans:

[1.]  The Bruins made 33 of 41 (80.5%) of their free throws, which is a crucial stat if the Bruins are going to keep going inside because big men inside tend to draw fouls. 

[2.] Nelson's strength is always going to be in the paint and around the basket, but the 6-8 power forward added an outside dimension over the offseason and put it on display Sunday by making two three-point shots and another from about 15 feet. 

We will have to see how Reeves continues to develop on the outside shooting.  But for one night, his outside shooting was perfect and resulted in arguably the biggest shot of the game:

The Coyotes gave those fans a reason to be engaged, leading 60-58 after a Johnny Bell three-pointer with 7:33 remaining that capped a 12-0 run.

But UCLA responded with a 12-1 burst, going back in front for good on a three-pointer by Reeves Nelson.

The other players looked a bit off at times.  But this was after all an exhibition game.  And one of the problems will likely only be applicable for the next game.  Tyler Lamb was forced into duty as a PG, including at the end of the game when LJ fouled out:

Senior point guard Jerime Anderson sat out the exhibition as part of his suspension because of his arrest for stealing a laptop computer.

He will miss the Bruins' regular-season opener Friday against Loyola Marymount.

"Not having Jerime hurt us by not having a second point guard," Howland said. "But I thought Tyler Lamb did a good job when he had to take over there."

Lamb, starting at point guard[sic, he started at 2 and played backup PG], had five points, two steals and one assist.

Lamb will be able to focus more at the shooting guard going forward.  Maybe the Wears are a good symbol for the rest of the team Sunday.  Good at times but the defense needs work:

David Wear took an alley-oop from Tyler Lamb for a dunk midway through the second half, stirring reminders of the duo's time together at Santa Ana Mater Dei High. Travis Wear had 10 points in 15 minutes.

But there were times when both were outmuscled for rebounds or out of rhythm against the Coyotes, in part the result of first-game jitters. That's to be expected, David Wear said afterward.

"It was definitely a rough first game," said David Wear, who made three of eight shots, the same shooting line as his identical twin. "Having not played in a year and a half, I knew I was going to be rushing and hurrying and it was going to seem all new to me, and that's exactly what happened.

CBH is worried about the defense: this game was close, not as a result of the Coyotes getting hot from three but because they did a good job scoring on UCLA generally.  CBH is worried but maybe/hopefully Tyler Lamb put it in perspective:

"We've got to be a better defensive team," Howland said. "We're getting driven too much, our help is not there. Tomorrow we'll get together and watch the entire game as a team and study it because we're not going to beat a lot of people on our schedule until we improve defensively." 

Lamb, who led the team with two steals and played the best defense of anyone on the team, said the problems that cropped up Sunday were merely the result of an early-season game. With so many new faces in the lineup, everyone is still acclimating to one other's tendencies. 

"All these things can be fixed at practice," Lamb said. "People were rusty. I think we'll fix that."

A similar problem existed at the start of  last year, so Tyler could very well be right.  Also, you don't play good team defense in summer ball.  You do have to for CBH during the season.  One encouraging thing is that this team does seemingly understand is it's critical to get the ball to Josh.  Reeves Nelson apparently led the effort to remind the Bruins of just that:

"Get the ball to Josh!" Nelson yelled while coming out of the game during a substitution.

The Bruins complied, particularly during a stretch with about six minutes left in which guards Tyler Lamb and Lazeric Jones found the sophomore center underneath the basket on back-to-back possessions to sustain a 9-0 run that wiped out a two-point deficit.

"All the guys get it," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "Getting the ball to Josh is going to get a lot of good things for us."

Go Bruins