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UCLA Basketball Overcomes Adversity to Win a Game Without Style

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Last night's game was not a fun one to watch from the fan's perspective. To be clear it was not Coach Ben Howland or UCLA's fault. It started with a bizarre decision by the Eastern Washington Eagles Coach Hayford:

"We wanted to play our game and we won the possession game. We had 13 more field goal tries and nine more free throw attempts, which means nine more possessions," said Hayford. "We wanted to spread them out and we did that. We did a great job on the boards, but then we had some dumb turnovers that they forced, but we didn't make the shots, so you have to credit UCLA's size."

The Eagles (5-5) surprised UCLA (4-5) at the start of the game by stalling. They held the ball offensively and didn't make a move until the shot clock ran down to 14 seconds.

Howland said that actually benefited the shorthanded Bruins. UCLA started the game on a 16-5 run.

UCLA needed the rest because the injury situation is literally getting ridiculous. At the beginning of the season UCLA had four Power Forwards on the roster. At one point during the game, they were down to just one, Brendan Lane.

David Wear landed awkwardly on his back when he was undercut while leaving his feet. Wear stayed down while being attended to by the training staff but later returned. He was set to be re-evaluated.

Jones suffered a gash on his chin shortly after and came back sporting a large bandage.

Travis Wear was admitted to the hospital Tuesday, the team said. He received antibiotics and is expected to be released Thursday.

Howland said Travis Wear is day to day and is hopeful to have the 6-foot-10 redshirt sophomore for Saturday's game against UC Davis.

More after the jump.

As Tydides mentioned two players stood out and played well. First, the better defense was certainly helped by the play of Anthony Stover:

That turned out to be Anthony Stover, who missed the early portion of the season with a shoulder injury, and he took full advantage of the increased minutes in the Bruins' 60-47 win over the Eagles. Stover played 18 minutes but blocked three shots and grabbed three rebounds, providing the spark UCLA needed on the defensive end of the floor. EWU shot a season-low 25.9% from the field and turned the ball over 12 times to just five assists on the night.

Cliff Ederaine and Colin Chiverton had particularly rough nights as they combined to make just eight of thirty-one shots for a combined 21 points. Lazeric Jones had another solid scoring performance for the Bruins with 19 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists and Tyler Lamb added 14, but for Ben Howland's team to be successful they have to be better defensively. Wednesday was a step in the right direction, and they can partially thank Stover for that.

Of course, the leader of this team is turning into the captain LJ. He not only played well on offense but was the leading rebounder and destroyed Eastern Washington PG Cliff Colimon who went 1-12 from the field. (It was the second good defense game in a row for Jones.) Jones even had the play of the game with a last second steal and dunk in the first half:

Jones started the season in a dreadful slump, making only 12 of his first 49 shots (24.5 percent) but has averaged 18.8 points while shooting 26-41 (63.4 percent) over the last four games.

He made his first three three-point shots Wednesday, extending his streak of consecutive three-pointers to eight over the last three games before missing late in the first half.

"Zeek really was off keel to start the season and he's really got it back now," Howland said. "He's very much under control and really playing well and steady for us. That's what I expected out of him and I think he'll show that the rest of the way."

Jones suffered a cut on his chin during the game and required stitches. He also aggravated a left wrist injury suffered last season, but Howland didn't seem all that concerned. Jones was not available to the media because he was getting medical attention.

I hope Jones' wrist is okay. This team needs him and his improved and smarter play is a key reason why UCLA has its first two game win streak of the year. Also maybe Lamb's bad play can be explained by his injury. After the game Lamb said of his hip:

"It was pretty bad. I felt like I was at 60% just trying to get by on it. I realized that it wasn't helping my team or myself so I sat out a couple of practices," said Lamb. "It's feeling great."

Of course this win was not just ugly because of Eastern Washington. The rebounding was awful. Howland realizes it and also answered why UCLA did not play a zone as expected at all:

One troubling stat: The Eagles had 19 offensive rebounds to seven for UCLA.

"Our rebounding has got to be a lot better," said UCLA Coach Ben Howland, whose 193rd victory at UCLA pushed him past Jim Harrick for second place on the all-time UCLA list.

Howland reluctantly installed a zone defense in UCLA's previous game against Pennsylvania and swore he would play it more, but the Bruins played solely man-to-man defense against the Eagles.

"I was afraid to zone this team because they shoot almost 37% from threes on the season," Howland said.

The last word goes to Tyler Lamb. The Bruins did not give up and kept fighting this game. It was nice to see that even if it was not pretty. As Lamb said:

"Style points," Lamb said, "that's nothing."

Given the nature of UCLA's season so far, the Bruins were just happy to have secured back-to-back victories for the first time this season.

"This team has been through a lot of adversity already," Lamb said, "and it's the beginning of the season."

Go Bruins.