Just some random observations about the UCLA men’s basketball team from last night:
* As much talent as Joshua Smith displays, he’s nowhere near a finished product, but when he is…watch out.
Smith had a good game last night with nine points and nine boards, but so many times, I saw him lose positioning when he was about to be fed in the post. His footwork for a big man is good, but not great, though I think the foundation is there to become great. He just needs a little more nasty, and he’ll be unguardable. People always blame the guards for not getting the ball in, but sometimes, there’s nowhere to pass the ball. The window of opportunity opens and closes very quickly, and if there’s nothing there in that split-second, then you have to look elsewhere.
But going back to Smith: I think there is little doubt he will be a force, even against increased competition in the Pac-10. Don’t have inflated expectations, but watch him get better and better.
* Did we see a different Tyler Lamb last night?
Lamb had the best game of his young career with eight points on 3-of-3 shooting and 2-of-2 free throws, with three assists and two steals. Lamb had two beautiful dunks and showed authority on both, and for the first time, he looked really controlled on offense. Lamb got 20 minutes, his most time since the third game, with Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt dropping to 26 and 27 minutes, respectively.
I’ve seen some advocate that’s the splits they want, but I would be shocked to see that on a consistent basis. But Lee works best in restricted minutes – he’s seemingly still always bothered cramps – and if Lamb can feed off the game and parlay that into some real confidence, because the defense will always be there, then UCLA has some options in the backcourt.
What went wrong?
I’m thinking back to the game and I can’t really pinpoint where it all went wrong for UCLA in the middle of the game. Montana State went on a 25-10 run that felt like it all happened in 30 seconds. Look up to the scoreboard, and all of a sudden the Bobcats are up three. The Bruins seem predisposed to poor communication at times, and that reared its ugly head during the stretch. Help defense fell apart, there was little energy, and things unraveled. Just as quickly, they raveled(?).
After the spurt, UCLA did not allow a basket for nearly eight minutes while regaining control to put the game away.
Lastly, Brendan Lane…where did he come from?
What a difference a year made for Lane. Even when he “emerged” late last season, Lane still didn’t have tremendous production. Over the last three games last year, playing a total of 40 minutes, Lane had four points and one rebound with six turnovers.
This season Lane has scored between four and seven points in all but one game, a remarkably consistent line for a bench player, and he tied his season-high with eight rebounds against Montana State.
His defense-first attitude is a good compliment to Reeves Nelson, who is almost always looking to score or at least be involved offensively, and that one-two punch could be huge for the Bruins.