UCLA edges UC Irvine 74-73

The good news for UCLA: Ben Howland did not cancel Christmas.
But Howland’s players feared he would have, had the Bruins not outlasted UC Irvine on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion.

Two days after the Bruins needed a second-half surge to come from behind to defeat Montana State at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA eked out another win on its home court, defeating the Anteaters, 74-73, after watching a 15-point lead disappear.

The Bruins picked up their fifth-straight win but needed every last second to seal it, poor free-throw shooting down the stretch nearly proving deadly.

UCLA missed six-of-eight free throws in the final minute after the Anteaters crept back into the game, and the final miss almost sealed the Bruins’ fate.
After UC Irvine guard Darren Moore banked in a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to cut UCLA’s lead to one, freshman guard Tyler Lamb got the inbound pass and was immediately fouled.

He narrowly missed the first free throw and the second attempt caromed into the arms of Moore who sprinted down the court with the ball but was trapped in the corner, unable to get a shot off.

“That wasn’t an easy game,” Howland said. “Hopefully we learn from these experiences, we get up there and make our foul shots. If those guys step up down the stretch, we’re not coming down to the last second with them having the ball.”

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UCLA up 39-29 at the half over UC Irvine

UCLA leads at the half by 10, and it can thank its backcourt for even that lead.

The Bruins led by 14 at one point, but the Anteaters creeped back to within seven before a dagger 3-pointer by Lazeric Jones between two defenders as the half winded down.

Jones and Malcolm Lee teamed up to torch UC Irvine in the first half, combining for 24 points (14 for Lee) with a combination of penetration and outside shots.

UCLA went to Joshua Smith early – including the first three possessions – but Lee and Lamb got hot and started to look elsewhere.

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POW: UCLA v. UC Irvine Final Score

Readers: Post your final score prediction and vote in the poll. Closest to actual score with correct winning team gets to give me 10 questions to ask a basketball player of their choosing, within reason, for an upcoming video.

To clarify: Winner is based on total final score margin, then based on closest actual score. For example: UCLA wins 85-75. Someone guesses 85-76. Someone guess 85-60. Someone guesses 82-72. Someone guesses 80-70. The 82-72 guess would win.

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More on Honeycutt/Lamb

UCLA sophomore small forward Tyler Honeycutt suffered a sprained right shoulder in the Bruins’ 75-59 win over Montana State on Tuesday at Pauley Pavilion and will miss tonight’s matchup at 7:30 p.m. against UC Irvine, but tests for further damage were negative, UCLA head coach Ben Howland said on Wednesday.
Honeycutt collided with Bobcat big man Cody Anderson in the second half and grimaced in pain, but Howland said X-rays, included a weighted X-ray, and an MRI revealed no extensive damage.

Freshman Tyler Lamb will start in Honeycutt’s place after playing his best game of the season against Montana State, finishing with eight points and three assists in 20 minutes.

“It’s not a long-term thing, which is what I’m happy about,” Howland said. “I’m obviously not happy that he got hurt and wont be able to play tomorrow.”
Howland said Honeycutt, who leads the Bruins in scoring at 14.9 points per game, would hopefully be back for the team’s Pac-10 opener against Washington State on Dec. 29.

The Sylmar product played a major factor in UCLA’s up-down-up win over the Bobcats on Tuesday.

The Bruins (7-4) were up by 15 early before allowing Montana State to take its first lead with 16 minutes, 55 seconds left in the contest. A short time later, Honeycutt scored six of his nine points during a three-minute spurt, and the Bruins went from three behind to five ahead in a matter of minutes.

Honeycutt, though, ran into Anderson with 8:20 left in the game and was pulled, not to return.
“He was trailing an offensive player, defending, ran into their big Anderson, and hit shoulder-to-shoulder,” Howland said. “Lot of times, you worry about shoulder injuries when guys go up and get their arms yanked. It was nothing like that. It was shoulder-to-shoulder, ran into the guy, and hit it just right.”

In comes Lamb, who played his biggest minute total since game three and drew his coach’s praise. The freshman out of Mater Dei had two impressive dunks, including a steal and coast-to-coast slam, and a key steal with 2.3 seconds left in the first half that led to two free throws.

“I thought Tyler Lamb played very good,” Howland said. “He played solid taking care of the ball, three assists one turnover. He’s going to play a lot more tomorrow.”

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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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