Sunday, January 8, 2012

UCLA, Josh Smith, dominates ASU at Honda Center

After a full day of family activity - kid bday party, seeing old friends in the OC - we finally made it to the Honda Ponda in time for the 2nd half.  It was the correct half to attend, as we outscored ASU 42-28 to pull away.  We brought my best friend, a Cal alumnus as well as an Arizona fan (- go figure that one out), and his new lady friend.  Our seats were awesome - midcourt near the back of the 1st section.

Having been to a handful of games at the LA Sports Arena this season, all I know is that we had to travel 50 miles to find the Pauley Pavilion atmosphere that we've needed.  Perhaps its the OC Bruin alumni coming out for their last hurrah there in Anaheim, or perhaps its because the Pac-12 season has finally started, but I'd rather make the trip out to the Pond for our home games if the crowd is going to give our team a lift the way they did on Saturday.  There seemed to be 3 times as many people and our student section was 3 times as big (and loud).  I don't quite understand why we're hosting usc at the Sports Arena on 2/15 when the Honda Center is available - I checked the Pond schedule.  This should have been a no-brainer.

Back to the game.  This could be Josh Smith's watershed moment of the season.  As an offensive force, honestly he's been pretty pathetic all season.  Whether its foul trouble (lack of discipline), conditioning (also lack of discipline), passivity (lack of aggression) or a lack of explosiveness (as a result of lack of conditioning), Josh just hasn't been the dominant big man he was expected to be.  Though he's scored 18 points before, it was against an undermanned and undersized UC Davis squad.  Against ASU and its two 7+ footers, Josh asserted himself the way we've expected from him.  His 8 buckets off 12 attempts were both season highs.  If he can consistently come to play with the same mindset in every game, we will be contenders for the conference crown.  Josh needs to develop the maturity to motivate himself to play this way all the time, instead of needing to be lifted by the crowd.  He also only had 4 rebounds this game.  In fact, he's only reached double digits once in 15 games.  But hey, one stat at a time.

It seems that the Wears are settling into Pac-12 play fairly well.  After a shaky start in the disappointing losses to the Bay area schools (although Dave showed up vs Cal), they were dominant in the game vs Arizona without Josh and again pivotal vs ASU.  Travis seems to be the better scorer while David grabs more rebounds.  Can you imagine our team had the Wears not made the transfer to us?  They are making up for the disaster that the Howland frontcourt would have been minus Nelson, Gordon, Morgan, etc.  On this night, Travis dropped in 16 points on 5-7 shooting and grabbed 7 boards.  From here on out, I'd like to see the Wears collectively contribute a minimum of 26 points and 16 boards a night.

Zeek Jones had 10 assists on the night, even though Howland had planned to deploy him off the ball.  Regardless of where he plays, I'd like to see him score about 15 points a game and get his assist average to about 6.5.  Though we are starting 3 guards, with only Norman Powell off the bench, once Parker comes back, we will have a comfortable 9 man rotation (Smith, Wears, Stover, Jones, Anderson, Lamb, Powell, Parker).  It seems that David Wear at the 3 will no longer be a necessary option.

The next 3 road games will essentially determine whether we can become Pac-12 contenders or not.  But with a week off to prepare for the sc game on Sunday, there is no excuse.

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