UCLA can’t climb out of hole, loses to Kansas, 72-56
Reporting from Lahaina, Hawaii — For the first time this season, UCLA did not have a player sitting out because of disciplinary issues.
And still, the Bruins lacked restraint.
Starters Lazeric Jones and Travis Wear continued to take — and miss — shots and center Joshua Smith kept on chugging up the court in a foul-plagued cameo, dropping UCLA in a 20-point hole early in the second half against No. 14 Kansas.
The Bruins nearly climbed all the way out behind an inspired effort from guards Jerime Anderson and Tyler Lamb before falling short in a 72-56 loss to the Jayhawks on Tuesday night at the Lahaina Civic Center in a Maui Invitational semifinal.
Subbing for the ineffective and foul-plagued Jones, Anderson scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half. He made an NBA-range three-pointer to pull UCLA to within 57-52 with 7 minutes 59 seconds remaining, but the Jayhawks ended the game on an 11-0 run to move into the championship game against Duke on Wednesday.
The Bruins (1-3) will play No. 15 Michigan (4-1) in the third-place game.
UCLA doomed itself with another horrid start in which it fell behind by 17 points at halftime thanks to poor shooting and a flurry of 11 first-half turnovers. Jones missed all five of his shots and Wear missed all three of his attempts in the first half, pleasing a decidedly pro-Kansas crowd that also included Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers and Ron Holmes, the father of top UCLA prep target Shabazz Muhammad.
“We can’t keep coming back and continuing to come back,” Anderson said, “because it’s difficult to get over that hill.”
Guard Elijah Johnson had 23 points for Kansas (3-1), which shot 51.1% to UCLA’s 36.4% and appeared completely unfazed by the Bruins’ brief attempt to implement a 2-3 zone for the first time this season.
Kupchak didn’t get much of a look at Smith because the NBA prospect fouled out in only 13 minutes. Smith moved back into the starting lineup, but it was as if he didn’t show up at all, finishing with one point and one rebound and two turnovers.
The 6-foot-10, 315-pound sophomore picked up fourth foul only 3:31 into second half and went to the bench. He re-entered the game with 8:20 left and lasted only 81 seconds before picking up his fifth foul. Howland said the Jayhawks’ double-teams bothered Smith and acknowledged that Smith’s conditioning was an ongoing issue.
“It’s evident,” Howland said.
Still, UCLA made a 12-0 run to draw within 51-43 midway through the second half before Jones picked up his fourth foul with 11:20 left.
That’s when Anderson took over the point guard duties and made both of his three-pointers, helping the Bruins draw within five points. Lamb also made a three-pointer during the run and finished with a team-high 15 points.
Howland said his best lineup in the game was Anderson, Lamb, David and Travis Wear and Reeves Nelson, the junior forward who came off the bench to collect 12 points, five rebounds and two steals. The Wear twins combined for six points on two-for-10 shooting to go with six rebounds.
Howland said he was considering giving Anderson more time at point guard in the wake of Jones’ season-long struggles. Jones made only one of six shots in the game and has made only 27.3% of his shots to Anderson’s 53.8%. Jones has also tallied only one more assist than Jones despite playing 29 more minutes.
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