LOS ANGELES--UCLA point guard Jerime Anderson said he wouldn't be able to sleep after the Bruins 63-52 loss to USC in a Pac-10 game Sunday night at the Galen Center, and he was one of the UCLA players who actually played well.
Anderson scored a season-high 11 points on four of five shooting, but said losing in general was enough to cause insomnia, but losing to cross town rival USC for a fourth consecutive time would create a little more tossing and turning.
"It hurts," Anderson said. "It definitely hurts right now. We just have to take this feeling and feed off of it."
Unfortunately, its a feeling that the Bruins (9-6, 1-2 Pac-10) may have to get used to. Some of the same problems that have plagued UCLA all season cropped up again against USC (10-6, 2-1), most notably a slow start, periods of lackadaisical play and foul trouble.
Five observations from the game:
1 The Bruins need to figure out why they have so much trouble at the beginning of games.
Once again, UCLA fell behind early and expended a lot of energy trying to climb out of a hole. They behind 15-7, before taking a 30-28 halftime lead, but then got bitten by the same bug to start the second half.
USC went on a 14-5 run to open the second half and took lead they would not relinquish.
"I think we’ve got to come out a little more intense," Anderson said. "We come out flat and dig ourselves into holes. I don’t like playing from behind and neither do my teammates. We just have to find a way to come out strong."
2Foul trouble continues to plague Joshua Smith.
Smith kept out of trouble for most of the first half and had only one foul at halftime, but picked up two in the first minute, four seconds of the second half and then picked up another--his fourth--with 13:41 to play.
Smith, a 6-10, 305-pound freshman, was able to keep from fouling out until the final minute, but the foul trouble kept him from playing aggressively and he gave up some easy baskets after playing solid defense on USC's leading scorer Nikola Vucevic during the first half.
Smith, however, isn't so sure the foul trouble is all his fault.
"To tell you the truth, the refs were terrible," Smith said. "The one where I fell and Vucevic fell on me, the refs said, 'Well, I had to call it because you fell.' They’re giving me B.S. answers. They’re telling me this, this and this. I mean, I’m a guy who will own up to it when I foul."
Still, it's important for Smith to learn how to stay out of foul trouble.
"We need him in the game," Coach Ben Howland said. "He’s our best low post scorer, no question."
3The Bruins need a reliable on-court leader.
UCLA's offense stagnated for extended stretches Sunday night. Some of those possessions featured players passing up open shots. One time, the Bruins had a shot clock violation. Nobody seemed to want to take command.
Point guard Lazeric Jones had an off night shooting and it seemed to take away from his usually reliable floor leadership. Anderson came in and gave the team a boost, but it was too late.
"We were just not able to execute," forward Tyler Honeycutt said. "We were missing wide open layups, they were taking charges. They were getting a lot of offensive rebounds that hurt us. And we had too many unforced turnovers. It just seemed like nothing went well for us out there tonight."
4UCLA simply had a bad offensive night.
Jones was 0-7 from the floor, Honeycutt was 3-10 and Malcolm Lee went 1-5. That adds up to 4 for 22 from and 17 points from a starting trio that was averaging a combined 38.1 points per game before Sunday.
With those three struggling to find their shots, Reeves Nelson became the go-to guy and he finished with a team-high 14 points, but he simply wore down from trying to carry the load. He had only two points in the second half.
"Everybody has bad games," Honeycutt said. "Kobe doesn’t have a good game every night and neither does LeBron. We have to have people step up when one of us is off."
But when three of them are off, its just a little too much for UCLA to overcome. The bench is already quite shallow with only nine scholarship players.
"Tonight we just couldn't find the guy who was hot," Honeycutt said.
5The Bruins didn't handle the big-game environment very well.
The Galen Center was rocking Sunday night and the UCLA-USC rivalry rarely lacks for emotion, but UCLA could not seem to shake off the big-game jitters.
The played fast and hurried instead of under control and that led to bad decisions and stretches of poor possessions.
"It was one of those where as soon as they score we’d try to answer right back," Smith said. "We’ve got to realize that we have 35 seconds to score and we shouldn’t be in a hurry. But in a game like that where there is a lot of emotion and you’re playing your rival school you obviously get sped up."
UCLA made only seven field goals in the second half, a result of what Howland said was an offense trying to force things.
"You have to attribute that to their very good defense," he said. "But some of that to us getting sped up."