Howland shakes up the lineup for California game

The news took Malcolm Lee by surprise, his mouth dropping open.

“For real?” he asked.

The UCLA sophomore, informed by reporters that he was shifting to point guard for tonight’s game at California, needed a moment to recover.

“Wow,” he said. “OK, let’s get it going.”

Coach Ben Howland announced changes to the Bruins’ starting lineup -- apparently before telling players -- at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

Regular point guard Jerime Anderson is out, benched for showing up late to see the trainer about a groin injury last weekend, Howland said. Lee moves over from off guard and forward Tyler Honeycutt gets his first start.

The freshman reacted with veteran-like cool.

“This is what I’ve been working toward,” Honeycutt said.

While it remains to be seen how long Anderson stays on the bench tonight, the reconfiguration makes for some intriguing possibilities.

At 6 feet 7, Honeycutt brings athleticism and size to a team that has struggled on the boards. After grabbing seven rebounds against Arizona on Saturday, he ranks third on the roster with an average of 5.0 coming off the bench.

The freshman from Sylmar High has also shown flashes of quickness in scoring five points a game and blocking seven shots for the season.

“He’s long, he’s bouncy,” Howland said. “His big challenge is going to be defensively, staying in front of the guy he’s guarding.”

Unusually high-waisted, Honeycutt struggles getting into the low stance required to defend against the dribble.

“My belly button is ridiculously high,” he said. “So my center of gravity is high.”

But length could work to his advantage if the Bruins show more of the zone that has crept its way into the game plan. And with the ball in Lee’s hands, the offense could benefit from more of the penetration that has been lacking.

“I think we’re fine with Malcolm at the point,” guard Michael Roll said. “He can maybe get up the floor quicker.”

Anderson has struggled this season, both with his game and the recurring groin injury. The latter flared up again last week, though he played 25 minutes against Arizona and insisted that soreness did not hamper him.

As for his punishment, the sophomore heard about it moments before speaking with reporters and seemed taken aback.

“I’ve just got to take the consequences and move on, keep playing, I guess,” he said, adding later: “I don’t know . . . I really don’t have any other comments about that situation right now.”