Well that was a tough one to watch, but in the end the Bruins were able to walk off the court with the ultimate objective of today's game with Southern Cal in hand - a game tomorrow afternoon against Arizona. The game was even a near-bye for Joshua Smith. The final score was 55-40 Bruins, with Lazeric Jones leading all scorers with 15 points on 5-12 shooting. As it happened, that was a reasonably good shooting percentage this afternoon: UCLA finished the game having shot 19-56 from the field (34%), while the Trojans were just 15-52 (29%).
I really don't know what to say about the first half. Anybody reading this who TiVo'ed the game to watch after work, please save yourself the frustration and just hit delete. Joshua Smith was held of the first half for undisclosed reasons - after the game, Coach Howland stated that Smith's first half absence was punishment for his missing the team bus. This provided Anthony Stover the opportunity for a few extra minutes and Brendan Lane some rare early PT. Whoever happened to be on the court, they could not hit a shot nor work the boards. UCLA started the game shooting just 3-20 from the field, and finishing the first half 7-30 while losing the early rebounding battle. If there was a saving grace, it was that Southern Cal struggled mightily to make their shots. They did hit enough baskets early to hold an 8-point lead with 4:25 remaining in the first half, but everything fell apart for the Trojans after that.
The Bruins finally started to see their shots hit net, going on a run that saw them take a 22-21 lead into the locker room at the half. The team continued on a roll early in the 2nd half, completing what became a 26-4 run spanning the halves, ending with UCLA with a 37-23 lead a few minutes into the half. UCLA's lead stayed in the low/mid teens throughout, with the consistent buffer giving Coach Howland the opportunity to substitute Tyler Trapani in for the final minute of the game.
Unfortunately, the buffer was not enough for the starters to get much rest - Zeek played 38 minutes this afternoon, and Jerime Anderson 36 minutes. Tyler Lamb played 24 minutes but was limited by foul trouble; Norman Powell was on the court for 22 minutes, held scoreless but doing well defensively while also pulling down 5 rebounds and 3 assists. The Wears each played 30 minutes, while Anthony Stover and Brendan Lane played 7 and 4 minutes, respectively. After his first half benching, Josh played just 8 minutes, his playing time limited by three quick fouls.
While the Bruin rebounding and general inside play was weak early on, the team came to dominate the boards in the middle and later portions of the game, finishing with a 38-29 advantage despite Smith near-zero presence in this game. Unsurprisingly in this game, the Wears led the way in this stat: David Wear pulled down 10 rebounds to go along with 8 points (and a brutal missed dunk in the 1st half) and Travis scored 12 points while taking 8 boards.
This was by no means a classic Bruin performance, but the team did survive to play another day, and preserve the hopes of winning the Pac-12 Tournament and the automatic NCAA berth that comes with it. UCLA will next play tomorrow, in a 2:40pm game against Arizona at Staples Center. As we found out during our game, Wildcats coach Sean Miller has indefinitely suspended point guard Josiah Turner due to a violation of team rules. Something to think about, both in the effect on tomorrow's game but also in how the coach handles significant disciplinary issues.