Some thoughts from UCLA v. Montana State

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.

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  • Blue Bruin

    I think the key is for guys to come in and spend four years developing. Yes, you want one impact freshman per year who can contribute right away, but, ideally, your team should be led by a core of experienced juniors and seniors. For example, when Michigan State reaches the Final Four just about every year, doesn’t it seem like their starters have been around forever? And when Carolina won a few years back, Lawson and Hansbrough were experienced. And we all know about Duke. I think forecasting ahead, Lamb, the Wear Twins, and Nelson will all be around long term. At this point, Smith is looking like at least a three year player as well, but he could be tempted away.

  • Reformed Droog

    Great information, Jon.

    It should be interesting to see how Lamb plays tomorrow as he’s certain to get significant minutes if Honeycutt is truly out.

  • Alex18

    I am sure I’m not the only one who can’t WAIT to see what Josh (by the way, does he prefer Josh or Joshua?) Smith becomes. His hand speed is on par with Collison’s (foot speed slightly less), and he is already unguardable one on one despite being a freshman. Just daydreaming of seeing a rock solid 6 9 285 Josh going up against some of the NBA posts gets me excited.

    Great posting Jon! Keep analyses like this one coming.

  • rejn

    MONTANA STATE!?!?!?!?


  • Coach Thom

    Agree. Great reporting, Jon.

  • whatup

    I respectfully disagree on two points:

    1. Help defense is not the problem. From my seat, I heard howland yell several times, “don’t help.” He has also commented in interviews that the guards in particular tend to help too often.

    2. You comment that Joshua’s footwork is “good not great”. Let me clarify: for someone who has seen his development, I must say his footwork is extraordinary for a center at this level.

  • Anonymous

    Shouldn’t Lane be starting if he’s defense first, and scores consistently well with limited minutes?