UCLA head coach Ben Howland said that freshman center Joshua Smith would be a game-time decision for the Bruins’ matchup at 11 a.m. today at Pauley Pavilion.
Smith hit his head on the court after a first-half fall during UCLA’s 86-84 win over Cal on Thursday night, returned briefly in the first half, but was then benched for the second half for precautionary reasons after complaining of a headache and neck stiffness.
Howland said Smith suffered a mild concussion – Smith passed a verbal concussion test but had a “glitch” in the physical test – and would be reevaluated on Saturday morning.
“You can’t make up for what Josh had given us,” Howland said. “He was on his way to a great performance again yesterday. He was going to do some big things for us, and if he can’t go, it’ll be a big blow.”
Howland said he was pleased with the performance of redshirt freshman Anthony Stover, who started at center in place of Smith because of foul concerns, and sophomore power forward Brendan Lane. Stover had four rebounds, a block and a steal in 15 minutes, and Lane added seven points and three rebounds before fouling out in 14 minutes.
Howland said he made the decision to start Stover on Thursday morning and added that Smith would come off the bench for the rest of the season.
“I made it after thinking about it yesterday in the late morning,” Howland said. “We wanted to get off to a good start defensively. Anthony hasn’t had as many minutes as Brendan, but I thought he did a good job in his 15 minutes.”
Howland said Smith had no problems with the change – “It’s no problem,” Howland said, “None.” – and that the change was made solely because of Smith’s penchant for foul trouble. Smith’s recent comments about Pac-10 officiating after the Bruins’ loss to USC on Jan. 9 drew a public reprimand for the league and may have made an even bigger target on his back.
“I don’t want him getting one in the first three minutes,” Howland said of Smith’s foul trouble. “Early in the game, officials are always setting the tone of the game. Because you’re the biggest guy, it can be a problem.”