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UCLA Hoops Roundup: True Bruins Beat U$C

While the football follies under CRN continue, it looks like CBH is getting the Bruins basketball team's act together.   UCLA took care of business in front of the most pumped up UCLA student section in years.  It was not a perfect game, but it was a game one could argue that everyone played well at times.

But, of course, the leader of the team is Zeek Jones.   After this game, I really wonder what would have happen in the first U$C game if Zeke was not still figuring out to play with his dislocated finger.  Zeek got banged up last night but had the play of the game even according to a U$C website

Most Spectacular Play: Donte Smith thought he had an open fast break layup and an opportunity to close UCLA’s eight-point lead with a little more than four minutes. Instead, Smith found himself stumbling to the ground.

The Bruins’ Lazeric Jones had chased him down in the open court and cleanly rejected the shot. Jones stuffed the ball back into Smith’s hands, knocking Smith off-balance and sending him hurtling toward the hardwood.

A link to the video is here.  Zeek blocked that shot with his left hand.  The same left hand he had hurt earlier and had X-Rays after the game on his wrist.  The latest news on Zeek's wrist is:

Just got the heads up that X-rays on Lazeric Jones' left writer were negative, but there is a sprain.

This is an unofficial reading, and it will be read officially in the morning, but as of now, one huge sigh of relief for Ben Howland, and Jones.

A couple additional notes.  Zeek was our leader by example and words, I love this quote:

"I felt like I wasn't a true Bruin until I beat USC," he said.

Couldn't agree more but while Zeek was the leader, everyone chipped in, more after the jump.

For of those you watching the game on Prime Ticket, it seemed like the focus was all on U$C.  So it is only appropriate that I quote the fishwrap story by Ben "Troy" Bloch, the Trojan Times UCLA Beat Writer.  He of course writes the story from a USC perspective, but even he had to write the following about the UCLA backcourt:

the Trojans, who got scant production from guards Jio Fontan and Maurice Jones. Fontan missed all five of his shots, going scoreless for the second time in three games, and Jones had only two points on one-for-four shooting.

By comparison, Malcolm Lee had 13 points, 11 in the first half, and Lazeric Jones nine for the Bruins (15-7 overall, 7-3 Pacific 10 Conference), who outrebounded the Trojans (12-11, 4-6), 39-25. Much of that discrepancy came from the second half, when UCLA had 24 rebounds to USC's 11. . . .

But then the Bruins got rolling, Jerime Anderson making a baseline jumper and Lamb taking an over-the-shoulder pass from Honeycutt for an easy layup. When Anderson buried a fadeaway three-pointer, UCLA had a 53-45 lead and the Trojans were teetering.


Not enough can be said about the "other" captain Malcolm Lee.  Much of the game he played Fontan who did not score. At the end of the game he played Donte Smith who was the only guard hurting UCLA and he missed two shots down the stretch and did not score with Lee on him. 

It was also great to see Lamb make some shots.  Lamb does not need to create offense just take what is given him and he will play because of his defense.  Jerime has firmly established himself as the team's sixth man.  He hit some big shots and has seemingly erased his ghosts of U$C game past. 

But what about the bigs.  Anthony Stover started at Center and had two nice blocks.  But  last night, we saw the Joshua Smith at Center we always wanted to see.  He was a monster at times. Quotes can be overrated but I really like this quote from Josh who was the Bruins leading scorer in the game for the second time this year:

"The first half of the season, I wasn't sure where I was, and I was laying the ball up," said the 6-foot-10, 305-pound center. "Now if I dunk, it gives an energy boost to the team and the crowd."

That's right Josh you dunk it.   Which brings us to our last two players.

It seemed at times last night that Tyler Honeycutt was having a bad game.  He seemed uncomfortable matched up with U$C's midgets and was burned a few times off the dribble.  But while he did have lapses he did have a solid game.  As always he rebounded well, had 5 assists, 2 blocks and only one Turnover.  5 to 1 assist to turnovers is impressive.  Honeycutt did have a good game and his lack of turnovers and leading UCLA in assists (tied Zeek) were a key to the game.  Oh and he did have the punctuation mark on the game as well.

Tyler Honeycutt put it away when he dunked over two Trojans, got fouled and made the free throw to make it 62-50.

Which brings us to Reeves Nelson and CBH.  USC guards are not a threat except to drive.  Their two bigs are good and seem to be killing us inside.  Our double teams big to big seemed to be mostly ineffective.  But CBH switched Lee on Smith which helped stop the driving and then seemingly put the game on the shoulders of Reeves Nelson on Defense:

Nelson has taken a lot of heat for his defensive effort at times this season, but his play against USC's Nikola Vucevic in the second half was crucial to USC's[sic UCLA's] victory.

Vucevic seemed to find a hole in UCLA's defense late in the first half and he scored eight points in the final 4:47 of the first half and added six more in the first six minutes of the second half--all on easy layups.

Nelson then went to coach Ben Howland and asked to guard Vucevic one-on-one instead of trying to hedge or plug off screens. It worked as Vucevic didn't score again in the game, going 0-4 from the field after making seven of his first 12 shots.

"This is definitely Reeves’ best defensive performances of the year and his career here at UCLA," Howland said. "Vucevic is so hard to guard one on one that’s why I was so pleased with Reeves. He wanted that challenge and he accepted it and did a great job for us."

A couple notes on Reeves.  I do not think he is a bad one on one defender.  He is not a good help defender and needs to keep working on that.  In that sense this was perfect for Reeves, all he had to do was worry about Vucevic.  Not an easy task especially when the other team's game plan is to go right at him.  Three times in a row U$C went to Vucevic and three times they came away empty. 

But it was more than that.  UCLA slowed down the pace at the end of the game.  In a sense they rested on offense to help their defense.  The difference shows, especially in Reeves.  While Vucevic was leading the U$C comeback in the last five minutes of the first half, Nelson was (who had 5 rebounds, 4 points and 2 assists before this) only to have one rebound and two missed free throws during the SUC comeback.  He was gassed.  At the end of the game, Reeves and the Bruins slowed it down and played Defense first for the win. 

Just like old times.  Let's keep it going and this time bury an old bad memory on Saturday. 

Go Bruins.