UCLA coach livens up after team’s first Pac-12 win
One win over Arizona, UCLA’s best of the season, and Coach Ben Howland’s voice was dual-toned Friday. Maybe even triple-toned.
Definitely not the monotone that had marked his lifeless summations and conversations after the Bruins lost their opening two Pac-12 Conference games — one a nail biter, the other a run away — last weekend.
A day after UCLA defeated Arizona, 65-58, for its first conference win, Howland punctuated his sentences with verbal high-fives.
On his team’s offensive execution, especially in shooting 57.1% in the first half when the Bruins used a 17-4 run to build a seven-point lead, Howland said his big men, most notably David and Travis Wear, did a good job of posting up and shooting.
And the rest of the team, he said, “did a better job of executing and getting the ball where it was supposed to be.”
On his decision to play senior Zeke Jones off the ball more and let others, mostly Jerime Anderson and occasionally Tyler Lamb, handle point guard duties, Howland said, “Zeke was setting a lot of really good screens to get the Wears open, and we executed better offensively. Zeke ended up getting 16 shots.”
Jones made only five of those shots, though, and expressed after the game that he wasn’t totally comfortable operating without the ball. “It’s something I have to get used to,” he said. But Howland said, “He’ll be fine. I don’t think Zeke has any problems taking shots.”
Howland was also emphatic in saying that he didn’t think the Wear twins, David and Travis, played well because 305-pound center Josh Smith sat out the game after suffering a concussion late in practice Wednesday.
“Josh had three really good practices,” Howland said. “He was down on Monday to his lowest [weight] he’s been in a year. He ran three miles on Sunday, ran extra Monday for 45 minutes, so it was disappointing we lost him for the game.”
The upside for a coach who is sometimes reluctant to play a young bench much was that Howland gave sophomore Anthony Stover and junior Brendan Lane significant minutes. Lane, who had been averaging 6.5 minutes a game, played 24 against Arizona. Stover, who’d averaged 8.2 minutes, played 12.
De’End Parker, a junior college transfer from San Francisco who played 34 minutes in two games before suffering knee tendinitis, was not with the team Thursday. Howland said Parker’s mother was recovering from open-heart surgery and because Parker was not healthy and not playing, Howland said: “I told him to stay home and be with her. He’s supposed to be back in a couple of days.” UCLA has not been in session because of the holidays.
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