While Smith struggled to stay on the court due to his inability to keep up with a fast-paced offense, plodding his way down the court far later than you’d like any big man to in such an offensive scheme, he was taken out after two minutes of play, likely seven times to add up to the 14 minutes he piled up against UCI.
Defensively, Smith held his own, disrupting a few shots down low, but it was nothing special, albeit much improved over the Wears’ defense.
Of course, all this offensive worry isn’t complete without discussing the terrible decision-making on the part of Ben Howland as it relates to his point guard.
Because, for the second game in a row, Howland allowed Drew II to man UCLA’s offense, and while it’s too broad of a statement to say Drew contributed to the Bruins’ listlessness on that side of the ball, it’s too hard to ignore the fact that Kyle Anderson has been completely shut out as the ball-handler, limiting what the offense might look like while Anderson leads it in both half-court and full-court situations.
And while Drew hasn’t been awful statistically — he only turned the ball over twice and earned eight assists while also grabbing five rebounds — the offense doesn’t look right with Drew taking control of the offense. Of course, this might be due to our preconceived notions that Anderson is “the guy” on offense and we may be convincing ourselves, but there’s a nagging feeling that part of the offensive stagnancy is due to the fact that Anderson has been marginalized in this offense.
We didn’t forget about one particular star, though, and that’s much-less-heralded-but-still-highly-touted freshman Jordan Adams, who followed up a team-high 21-point performance against Indiana State with a 26-point performance which saw him only take 12 shots and bank in all 16 of his free throws (a result of him attacking the basket relentlessly). Adams is a hell of an offensive talent and, if the NBA hasn’t learned that he slimmed down considerably and worked into his frame by the time April rolls around, he’ll be a UCLA player to watch for years. All this, of course, while Adams is still coming off the bench, despite being far more efficient and effective than Norman Powell or Larry Drew II. (If you care, our favorite line-up would likely involve Travis Wear at the pivot, Tony Parker at the 4, Jordan Adams and Norman Powell as the wings and Kyle Anderson at the point.)
And finally, you’d be hard-pressed to not give UCI credit for giving UCLA a hell of a game. While a far-less-talented UCLA team tore up this team last season, that UCI team was filled with freshman, and the team lost only one of its starters between that time. Michael Wilder and David Starring were the team’s top two players a season ago and, in this contest, point man Wilder and his afro showed UCLA that they had improved dramatically, with the entire team shooting lights-out from three-point range, shooting at a 45 percent rate from downtown and Wilder connecting on six of his nine shots from distance.
Of course, this is no excuse for how badly managed this team was. If UCLA’s going to even approach competitive status at the Legends Classic, they’re going to have to shore up these issues and Howland’s going to have to stop giving priorities to upperclassmen, an evident occurrence since Adams is coming off the bench, Anderson is not manning the point and Parker is barely getting minutes.
Hopefully, this stuff works itself out so we aren’t pulling our hair in frustration.