UCLA: Lazeric Jones

Players reject SI allegations against Nelson

May, 23, 2012
Former UCLA player Reeves Nelson filed a lawsuit against Sports Illustrated and reporter George Dohrmann Wednesday and the suit includes declarations from 18 current and former UCLA players who reject various claims made in a March Sports Illustrated article that depicted Nelson as a boorish player with a propensity for violence and out-of-control behavior.

Some, such as Drew Grodon, and Tyler Trapani, were alleged victims of Nelson's violent antics who said Nelson never did to them what the Sports Illustrated story said. Others, such as Blake Arnet and Alex Schrempf, said they spoke with Dohrmann and told him the information he had was incorrect only to see it end up in print anyway.

All of them disagreed with the Sports Illustrated depiction of Nelson as a player who intentionally injured teammates and was coddled by coach Ben Howland, who turned a blind eye to Nelson's transgressions.

"I never saw Nelson intentionally hurt or intentionally try to hurt any member of the UCLA basketball team or staff, nor do I believe that Nelson ever intentionally hurt or tried to hurt any member of the UCLA basketball team or staff," reads a passage in each of the 18 declarations. "I did not observe and do not believe that Coach Howland favored Nelson over the other players in any fashion, not with respect to discipline or anything else."

Some players addressed specific incidents alleged in the article. Gordon, for instance, was reported to have gotten into an off-campus fight with Nelson that resulted in a black eye for Gordon, but Gordon's declaration stated "The article’s description of Nelson’s behavior toward me is false. We have never had a fight, not at a teammate’s apartment or anywhere else, nor has Nelson ever given me a black eye from a fight or otherwise."

The Sports Illustrated story also reported that Schrempf, a former UCLA walk-on, suffered a serious back injury as a result of a Nelson attack during practice. Schrempf's declaration said that never happened. In his declaration, Schrempf acknowledged speaking with Dohrmann but told Dohrmann his facts were wrong.

"During our conversation, Dohrmann specifically told me that he had 'heard' that Nelson intentionally injured me during practice by knocking me to the ground from behind," Schrempf's statement says. "According to Dohrmann’s 'source,' Nelson’s conduct caused me to suffer a serious back injury. I explained to Dohrmann that this version of events was incorrect."

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Lazeric Jones is UCLA basketball MVP

April, 10, 2012
Lazeric Jones was named the MVP for UCLA's basketball team during the team banquet Monday night.

Jones, a senior guard, led the Bruins in scoring (13.5 ppg), assists (4.1 apg), steals (1.8 spg) and in three-point field goals made (48). He was the only player to start all 33 games in the 2011-12 season and was named second-team All Pac-12.

Sophomore guard Tyler Lamb was named the team's outstanding defensive player and guard Norman Powell was named freshman of the year. Powell and sophomore forward Travis Wear were named co-winners of the most improved award and Wear also won the award for team free throw champion after shooting 79.1 percent (68-for-86) on free trows to rank eighth in the Pac-12.

Sophomore forward David Wear also was a two-time winner on the evening, claiming the team rebounding leader award after leading the squad with 202 rebounds and the outstanding team play award.

Junior forward Brendan Lane claimed the Elvin C. "Ducky" Drake Memorial Award for Competitive Spirit, Inspiration and Unselfish Contributions while senior walk-on guard Tyler Trapani earned his second consecutive UCLA Faculty Athletic Representative Award for academic achievement and team contribution.

Complete list of the 2012 UCLA Men's Basketball Awards Banquet Honors:
  • Bob "Ace" Calkins Memorial Award/Free Throw Champion
    Travis Wear, So., F
  • Elvin C. "Ducky" Drake Memorial Award/Competitive Spirit, Inspiration and Unselfish Contributions
    Brendan Lane, Jr., F
  • Bruin Hoopsters J.D. Morgan Memorial Award/Outstanding Team Play
    David Wear, So., F
  • UCLA Faculty Athletic Representative Award/Academic Achievement and Team Contribution
    Tyler Trapani, Sr., G
  • Seymour Armond Memorial Award/Most Valuable Freshman
    Norman Powell, Fr., G
  • Bruin Bench Basketball Award/Most Improvement in All-Around Play and Mental Attitude
    Travis Wear, So., F/Norman Powell, Fr., G
  • Irv Pohlmeyer Memorial Award/Outstanding Defensive Player
    Tyler Lamb, So. G
  • UCLA Alumni Association Award/Team Assist Leader
    Lazeric Jones, Sr., G
  • Gerald A. Finerman Award/Team Rebounding Leader
    David Wear, So., G
  • Coach John Wooden Award/Most Valuable Player
    Lazeric Jones, Sr., G

UCLA not in the NIT, season over

March, 11, 2012
UCLA was not among the 32 teams selected for the NIT and the school will not accept an invitation from the CBI or CIT, meaning Bruins' season is over.

UCLA (19-14) was a bubble team for the NIT after finishing fifth in the Pac-12 and then bowing out in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament. Coach Ben Howland said the team would accept an NIT invitation, but UCLA's name did not come up when the bracket was announced Sunday night.

Washington and Arizona were seeded No. 1 while Oregon and Stanford were also selected and seeded No. 3.

Because UCLA will not play in the post season, the college careers of seniors Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson have ended.

"It’s going to be tough but we got another part of my life to live," Jones said. "I still have to finish school and hopefully I’ll stay playing basketball on another level after this."
Joshua SmithGary A. Vasquez/US PresswireThe expression of the UCLA bench says it all in the waning moments of the Bruins' loss to Arizona.

LOS ANGELES -- A difficult and sometimes bizarre season took a disappointing turn for the UCLA basketball team in a game that pretty much summed up the way the season went.

The Bruins lost, 66-58, to Arizona Thursday in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal that, much like the season, featured UCLA fighting through adversity, looking as if it might turn a corner but could never quite get things rolling in the right direction.

UCLA (19-14) will lament losing the game in a wide-open Pac-12 tournament that was their only possible path to the NCAA tournament, especially after the Bruins' path to the final cleared somewhat with top-seeded Washington's loss earlier in the day, but the inconsistencies that have plagued UCLA all season did so again against Arizona.

The Bruins did not put together a win streak of more than three games in conference play this season and could not put together a stretch of more than five minutes of high-level play Thursday. The Bruins fell into an early hole, climbed back out and made a run, but could not close it out.

"We had our opportunities to win and did not seize the moment," coach Ben Howland said.

The same could be said for UCLA all season. UCLA lost four conference games by three points or fewer and lost four times on the road after taking second-half leads. Those close losses ended up being the difference between making the NCAA tournament and hoping for an NIT invitation.

But so are so many other things.

The Bruins entered this season without two of their top three leading scorers from last year after Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt left school to enter the NBA draft. UCLA lost the third member of that group when Reeves Nelson was kicked off the team seven games in. The fourth-leading scorer, Joshua Smith, reported for the season grossly out of shape and was hardly a factor most of the season.

The rest of the Bruins tried to keep things together, but simply never built any momentum.

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UCLA would accept NIT invitation if offered

March, 8, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA's chances of making the NCAA tournament ended with a 66-58 loss to Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament Thursday at Staples Center, but the Bruins would play in the NIT if invited, coach Ben Howland said.

"If we have the opportunity to play in the postseason in the NIT, we would accept," Howland said. "It's something that I want for our players. So yeah, no question, we would not snub our nose at the opportunity to play in the NIT."

NIT tournament invitations are handed out after the NCAA tournament selections are made Sunday. Conference regular-season champions not invited to the NCAA tournament get an automatic berth in the NIT, which could hinder UCLA's chances.

UCLA last played in the NIT in 1986 and lost to UC Irvine, 80-74, in the first round. They won the NIT in 1985.

The CBI and the CIT are other postseason tournaments that could court UCLA (19-14), but it's not likely the 11-time national champion Bruins would accept an invite to either of those lower-tier events even after missing the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons.

"Coach Howland already spoke to us after the game and I don’t know if we would go to any of those other tournaments," said senior guard Jerime Anderson, who said he did not know the names of the other tournaments.

Lazeric Jones, also a senior, said he would welcome the opportunity to extend his college career by playing in the NIT, but has little knowledge of the CBI or CIT.

"I love playing basketball so any basketball game I can play is good with me," Jones said. "To be honest, I don’t know too much about those other tournaments. Whatever coach wants us to do and whatever my teammates want to do, I’m down with that."
Joshua Smith, Ben HowlandJayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireUCLA coach Ben Howland sat center Joshua Smith in the first half after the center missed the team bus.

LOS ANGELES -- Joshua Smith has pretty bad timing, so Ben Howland pretty much had no choice.

Smith, UCLA's sophomore center, missed the team bus to Staples Center for a first-round game against USC in the Pac-12 tournament and Howland suspended his 6-foot-10 inside force for the first half of UCLA's 55-40 victory over the Trojans.

The team is staying at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live -- just a five-minute walk to Staples, and Smith actually beat the team bus to the arena because the bus had to navigate the one-way streets, traffic signals and downtown L.A. traffic.

But because of all the scrutiny surrounding UCLA basketball in the wake of a Sports Illustrated report that alleged, among other things, a lack of discipline by Howland for transgressions by standout players, Howland had to take action for a seemingly harmless incident.

So as No. 5-seeded UCLA suffered through a miserable first 15 minutes against No. 12 USC, Smith sat planted on the bench unable to help his team get out of an early-game shooting funk all because he was four minutes late for the bus in pretty much the worst possible week he could have been late for any team function.

"It’s just one of those where coach made a decision and I’m not going to fret with the decision he made," Smith said. "I was late and I deserved to be punished and when he told me, I had no problems with it."

Certainly UCLA could have used Smith. The Bruins made only three of their first 20 shots from the field, unable to take advantage of a major size advantage mostly because Smith was not on the floor. USC, a team that won only one conference game all season, led, 17-9 with 6:35 left in the first half.

Still, Howland stuck to his guns even as he watched his team settle for jump shots as USC packed the middle with defense because UCLA did not have Smith in the game establishing a much-needed inside threat. Howland said Smith's tardiness has not been an issue in the past, but it was clear that he had to send a message with the program under so much scrutiny this past week.

"It hasn’t been something that has been a problem with him ever being late to the bus, but I don’t care," Howland said. "This is too big and too important."

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Lazeric JonesKelvin Kuo/US PresswireLazeric Jones has stepped up to be the leader UCLA needs in what has been a tough season off the court.

LOS ANGELES -- Lazeric Jones picked a heck of a season to be UCLA’s captain.

From a floundering 2-5 start to the season, to the dismissal of all-conference forward Reeves Nelson to center Joshua Smith’s ineffectiveness and last week’s Sports Illustrated article portraying the team as a program in disarray, this has been a season filled with one bit of adversity after another for the Bruins.

But to find the Bruins playing their best basketball at the end of such a difficult season is a testament to the heart and character of the players, led by their captain.

Jones, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, has been the steadying influence who helped keep off-court issues off the court. He has been the hard-nosed player who brought a brand of Chicago toughness in a season when the Bruins needed it most.

And he has been the leader on the court, too, coming up with Pac-12 Player of the Week honors last week as UCLA defeated Washington State and conference regular-season champion Washington to give the team momentum heading into the Pac-12 tournament.

The No. 5-seeded Bruins (18-13, 11-7) play No. 12 USC (6-25, 1-17) in a first-round game Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at Staples Center and must win four games in four days if they want to make the NCAA tournament. To do so, they will look to Jones, their leader on and off the court, to guide the way.

“He’s done a great job for us and has really been a pillar of stability and a very good role model in terms of on and off the floor,” coach Ben Howland said. “He is really, really a good person and a good kid. You can’t say enough about that and that ties into why he is a good player. Very focused. He loves the game.”

Jones leads the Bruins in scoring with 13.4 points per game, assists with 4.2 per game and steals with 1.8 per game. But more than his stats, his leadership and constant presence have been a unifying force for the team. He is the only player who started every game this season and was the only player to start every game last season as well.

Jones also leads the team in minutes with 33.4 per game so he always seems to be involved when UCLA needs him most.

“He’s always talking about staying together and playing for each other as a team,” guard Jerime Anderson said. “That’s something that he really believes in and you can see it out on the court. He’s all about his team and he’s willing to fight for us. That’s the attitude that all teammates and all team members should have.”

It’s an attitude that has come in handy this season, when off-court distraction easily could have crumbled the team. Instead, Jones’ steadying influence helped keep the team focused during trying times and even though the win-loss record might not be as good as expected at UCLA, it’s pretty remarkable considering all the Bruins went through this season.

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Lazeric Jones named Pac-12 player of the week

March, 5, 2012
UCLA guard Lazeric Jones has been named the Pac-12 player of the week, the conference announced Monday.

Jones, a 6-1 senior, led UCLA to a sweep of Washington State and Washington with a combined 38 points. In a 78-46 rout of the Cougars, Jones had 18 points on eight-of-10 shooting with five assists and three steals. In UCLA's 75-69 victory over first-place Washington, Jones had 20 points, making a go-ahead basket with 2:10 to play and then sealing the victory with a pair of free throws with three seconds left.

Over the two games, Jones made 15-of-25 field goals, 5-of-9 3-point shots and averaged 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals. This is Jones’ first career Pac-12 player of the week honor and the 54th all-time selection for UCLA.

UCLA faces USC in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at Staples Center.

UCLA surging in the wake of adversity

March, 3, 2012
UCLA BruinsJayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireUCLA players had plenty to celebrate after knocking off conference co-leader Washington on Saturday.

LOS ANGELES -- If UCLA keeps playing this way, coach Ben Howland might want to commission an investigative reporter to unearth sordid details about his program every week of the season.

In what has been easily the most difficult week of an unusually difficult season, the Bruins played their best basketball in the wake of a rippling Sports Illustrated report that exposed some dirty little secrets. UCLA capped the regular-season with a 75-69 comeback victory over first-place Washington on Saturday in the Bruins’ final game at the Sports Arena.

It followed a resounding 78-46 victory over Washington State that was the largest margin of victory by any Cougars’ opponent this season and was the second-largest margin of victory by UCLA. The Bruins played their best back-to-back games in the same week that Sports Illustrated reported mass dysfunction in the UCLA program over the past three or four years.

A pair of victories in a weak Pac-12 Conference certainly doesn’t put UCLA back among the nation’s elite, but the resolve the team showed this week in the face of such adversity makes it clear that UCLA is not a program in a shambles.

“It speaks to how together our team is and how together we’ve been all year,” guard Jerime Anderson said. “Regardless of what anybody thinks outside, we’re very close and we love our coach and respect him and have his back totally, 100 percent.”

The Bruins (18-13, 11-7 Pac-12) have been close most of the season. They lost five games by three points or fewer this season, including four in Pac-12 play. A few more made free throws here, a defensive stop there and the Bruins would be sitting atop the Pac-12 standings as had been projected in the preseason.

But the Bruins were unable to close out those games. They held second-half leads at Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Arizona and lost them all. Saturday, they reversed that trend with a defensive onslaught that limited Washington to only 22 points in the second half. That was a season-low for a half by the Huskies, who were averaging 79.4 points per game.

Team defense takes togetherness and for UCLA to display that type of team camaraderie this week against the top team in the conference says a great deal about the character of the Bruins.

“Kids are very resilient and I think the adversity of this week probably brought us closer together,” Howland said. “I was really proud of our team.”

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LOS ANGELES -- Until this week's Sports Illustrated hit newsstands, close losses on the road had defined UCLA's basketball season.

The Bruins (17-13, 10-7) have lost five times by three points or fewer and they get a second chance at one of those teams when they face Washington in the regular season finale Saturday at 11 a.m. PT at the Sports Arena. And not only that, but the Bruins have a chance to keep first-place Washington (21-8, 14-3) from sole possession of the Pac-12 title.

"I've lost to Washington every time I've played them so I definitely want to get a win on them," sophomore guard Tyler Lamb said.

The Bruins led, 65-55, with six minutes to play when the teams faced off a month ago in Seattle, but managed only two more baskets in a 71-69 loss. The Bruins have had similar fates in losses at Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona and St. John's. The Bruins had second-half leads in all of those games but couldn't hold on down the stretch. And at Stanford, the Bruins never led, but lost by two.

The Bruins have lost five conference games by a total of 18 points. If the Bruins had won those, the Pac-12 title would be on the line Saturday. If they had won just two of those, they'd be in the running for a top-four spot in the conference and a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. Instead, the Bruins have very little on the line Saturday. They can finish fifth, sixth or seventh, but will have to play the opening round of the conference tournament against USC, Utah or Arizona State.

"It's disappointing," forward David Wear said. "At the same time we just have to prepare and move on and get ready for the tournament. Right now we're just trying to improve our seeding and get the highest seeding we possibly can to put ourselves in a better situation."

It's difficult to say what has kept the Bruins from closing out those close games down the stretch. Certainly free-throw shooting has been an issue. But so has fatigue. The Bruins are playing an eight-man rotation for the most part and Lamb, Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson are all averaging over 31 minutes.

"There are a number of factors, but we just didn't finish the game," Wear said.

One thing the Bruins are sure to finish Saturday is their run at the Sports Arena. UCLA has been using the venue as its home court while Pauley Pavilion receives a renovation and while the Bruins have had some success at the arena, going 9-4 there so far, they won't necessarily be sad to leave it.

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Rapid Reaction: Arizona 65, UCLA 63

February, 25, 2012
UCLA let a lead slip away late in the game yet again, losing to Arizona, 65-63, Saturday in a Pac-12 game at McKale Center in Tucson. It was UCLA's fourth conference loss by three points or fewer--all of those coming on the road--and the fourth time in conference play the Bruins have lost a game in which they held a second-half lead.

A quick look at the game:

OVERVIEW: It was a back-and-forth battle throughout with 14 lead changes and seven ties, but things seemed to be going UCLA's way when Tyler Lamb hit a desperation 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer to give the Bruins a 50-46 lead with 6:28 to play.

At that point, Arizona had made only five field goals in the second half and looked clueless against UCLA;s defense, but the Wildcats scored on eight consecutive possessions to take a 60-55 lead. The Bruins forced 15 turnovers and limited Arizona to 37.5% shooting for the game, but got only two turnovers in the final 10:53 and Arizona was six-of-six from the field over the final 7:10.

Arizona let UCLA stay in the game by making only two of six free throws in the final 30 seconds while Joshua Smith and Jerime Anderson combined to make four of four from the line in the final 12 seconds. Arizona's Kyle Fogg gave the Wildcats a 65-63 lead by making one of two free throws with 7.8 seconds to play, but UCLA, without a timeout, couldn't get off a clean shot and Anderson missed a potential game-tying jump shot at the buzzer.

Anderson matched his career high with 20 points, but didn't get much offensive help from his backcourt mates as Lazeric Jones and Tyler Lamb combined to make only five of 23 shots (21.7 percent). Travis Wear added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Bruins (16-13, 9-7 Pac-12).

Kyle Fogg had 20 points, 16 in the second half, to lead Arizona (21-9, 12-5).

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Even in a down year, UCLA-Arizona is big

February, 24, 2012
Ben HowlandKelvin Kuo/US PresswireUCLA coach Ben Howland understands the importance of Saturday's game at Arizona.

When UCLA visits Arizona on Saturday, the game won't carry conference title implications as meetings between the Pac-12's powerhouse teams often have over the past two decades, but that doesn't mean it's a meaningless game.

Arizona (20-9, 11-5) and UCLA (16-12, 9-6) are among the five teams battling for a top-four seeding in the Pac-12 tournament and the loser of the game Saturday at 11 a.m. at the McKale Center might be on the outside looking in when it comes to a coveted first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.

"It’s very important," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "Obviously we’re coming down the stretch here with only three games left in the regular season so it’s important for our potential mathematically to still have a chance to be a team that gets a bye in the first round. It’s important to try to get as high a seed as possible in the tournament and obviously we want to win."

Oregon (10-5 Pac-12), Colorado (10-5) and Stanford (9-7) are also among those fighting for those spots. California (13-3) has already secured a top-four spot and Washington (12-3) is one win away from dong the same. Any team finishing outside the top four would have to win four games in four days to win the Pac-12 tournament and earn the automatic NCAA berth that comes with it. No team has ever gone 4-0 in a Pac-10 tournament.

In other words, UCLA's chances of making the NCAA tournament may very well rest in the outcome of Saturday's game.

"If you just look at the percentages, the likelihood that someone is going to win four games in four days is very, very difficult," Howland said.

The Bruins defeated Arizona, 65-58, Jan. 5 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, but Arizona is a different team in February. The Wildcats finished January at 5-4 in conference play, but have won six of seven games in February, including a difficult sweep of Stanford and California on the road.

"They are improving," Howland said. "When they went to the Bay Area trip and swept that trip it really gave them some momentum and they’ve been playing very well."

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Rapid Reaction: UCLA 66, Arizona St. 57

February, 23, 2012
UCLA completed a season sweep over Arizona State with a 66-57 Pac-12 victory Thursday in Tempe, Ariz. Here's a quick look at the game:

OVERVIEW: UCLA started slow but took the lead midway through the first half and never trailed again, but it wasn't easy to hold off the pesky Sun Devils.

Every time it appeared as if the Bruins had seized some momentum and were about to blow open a big lead, the Sun Devils rallied and kept within striking distance. The Bruins took a six-point lead late in the first half, but it dwindled to 25-24 by halftime.

UCLA had a 46-37 lead with 11:31 to play, but Arizona state rallied back to make it 47-43 a minute and a half later. Even down the stretch, when UCLA finally put the game away by opening a 66-49 lead with 2:25 to play, Arizona State made a run and really could have made things interesting if a couple of 3-point shots had fallen.

Still, the Bruins did what they needed to in winning on the road against one of the Pac-12's lower-tier teams. Lazeric Jones had 20 points to lead UCLA (16-12, 9-6 Pac-12) and David Wear added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Bruins.

Jonathan Gilling led Arizona State (8-20, 4-12) with 17 points and Trent Lockett added 13 points despite making only 3-of-11 shots.

TURNING POINT: After struggling to make a game-clinching run for most of the game, the Bruins finally took control with a 17-4 run that turned a 49-45 lead with 8:42 left to play into a 66-49 lead with 2:25 left.

The Bruins held Arizona State to 1-of-7 shooting during that stretch while connecting on eight of nine shots of their own. Jones and Wear each scored five points during the run, including a 3-pointer by Jones that gave UCLA 56-46 lead for the first double-digit lead of the game with 7:10 to play.

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Underachieving UCLA down, but not out

February, 22, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The UCLA basketball team hasn't yet given up hope.

The Bruins are disappointed about where they stand going into the final two weeks of the regular season and know that winning the Pac-12 regular season title would require a minor miracle at this point, but they still feel that all is not lost.

The Bruins (15-12, 8-6 Pac-12) were picked to win the Pac-12 this season, but in order to do that would need to win all four of their remaining games and have both California (22-6, 12-3) and Washington (19-8, 12-3) lose their three remaining games while Colorado (18-8, 10-4) would have to lose at least twice and Oregon (19-8, 10-5) and Arizona (19-9, 10-5) would have to lose at least once each.

A minor miracle indeed, but hope comes in the form of the Pac-12 tournament that looms after the regular season finishes. Win that and UCLA would go to the NCAA tournament.

"It’s pretty deflating, but the season is not over yet," guard Tyler Lamb said. "As a team, I think we underachieved this year. I don’t think anybody would disagree, but the season is still going. We still have to get some wins. We can’t look back and dwell on the past right now because we’re still in season."

With elimination from the Pac-12 race almost inevitable, the Bruins must now focus on finishing among the top four in the conference in order to secure a coveted top-four spot in the Pac-12 tournament. The top for teams receive a bye in the opening-round, everyone else would have to win four games in four days in order to take the tournament title and that has never been done.

"We know we have to dig deep now and try to get some wins before the Pac-12 tournament and come out and play our hearts out in that tournament and see what happens," forward Travis Wear said. "[Coach Ben Howland] gave us the statistics of how many teams have won four days in a row and it’s not very good, so we know we have to try to get a top seed."

That road begins Thursday night on the road. The Bruins play at Arizona State at 5:30 p.m. Pacific to kick off a string of four must-win games. The road has not been kind to UCLA, which is 2-6 in true road games this season and 2-8 away from home against Division I teams.

But Arizona State is as good a team as any to help get the ball rolling. The Sun Devils (8-19, 4-11) have lost five of their last six games and have yet to defeat a Pac-12 team with a winning conference record. They scored eight points in the first half Saturday against Washington State and are 3-10 since dismissing leading scorer Keala King from the team in January.

Trent Lockett is the team's current leader with 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game and Carrick Felix is the only other player averaging in double figures scoring with 10.1. But even though Arizona State is in the midst of it second consecutive 19-loss season, the Bruins know they can't afford to take them lightly. Last year, the Sun Devils took UCLA to overtime in Tempe.

"To be honest, we can’t overlook them," UCLA guard Lazeric Jones said. "The last time we were there, they took us down to the wire. That’s something I’ve been thinking about. They play really good at home and regardless of what their record is—last year they didn’t have a great record and still came out and gave us a hell of a game."

When the teams met Jan. 7 at the Honda Center, it wasn't much of a contest. Joshua Smith and Travis Wear dominated the inside against Arizona State's zone defense as UCLA posted a 75-58 rout. The Bruins could certainly use another game like that as they try to build some momentum for the Pac-12 tournament.

"All our games are important leading up to the Pac-12 tournament just with seeding and trying to get at least fourth place to get at least a fourth round bye," Smith said. "That’s all we can really go for. You never know what's going to happen, but it our position right now, we only have two weeks is not enough time to jump up to the top two or anything like that so we’re going to try and win the rest of our games and see what happens. There’s still the Pac-12 tournament. I mean, our season is not over so we still have something to look forward to."

Five observations: UCLA 64, USC 54

February, 15, 2012
Byron WesleyJayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireUCLA's Travis Wear, who had a double-double, blocks the shot of USC's Byron Wesley on Wednesday night.

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA completed a season sweep of crosstown rival USC with a 64-54 Pac-12 victory Wednesday night at the Sports Arena.

The Bruins (15-11, 8-6 Pac-12) took control early in the game and then held off a late rally by USC (6-21, 1-13) to hand the Trojans their fifth consecutive loss and 14th in the last 15 games. It was UCLA's third consecutive victory over the Trojans and the Bruins improved to 44-20 all time against USC at the Sports Arena.

"It was good to sweep the Trojans," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "That’s always a good thing for us. Believe me, I was worried sick to my gut about this game playing right here in their back yard in what used to be their facility."

The Trojans are playing with a roster that includes only six active scholarship players as they have lost five to season-ending injuries since last summer. Howland came away impressed that the Trojans fought back Wednesday after being down by as many as 23 midway through the second half and cutting the lead to 10 with 1:34 to play.

"They’ve been through about as rough a year as you can have with all the adversity and injuries so I give Kevin [O'Neill] and his staff a lot of credit for keeping those kids to where they’re down here at the very end of the season fighting like it’s the beginning of the year," Howland said.

Five observations from the game:

1The Wear twins had USC seeing double

Twins David and Travis Wear had their best combined game as Bruins with a total of 30 points and 24 rebounds between them. They each had a double-double marking the first time in their college careers that has happened.

The 6-foot-10 twins had a distinct size advantage against USC, which doesn't play anybody taller than 6-7, but they also had motivation after each played poorly Saturday against Cal, when they combined to shoot 5-for-19 from the field and had 14 points and eight rebounds.

"I was especially hard on myself because of how I played," said David Wear, who had 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. "I only had one rebound, I think, and that’s unacceptable. I really used that as motivation coming into Monday and Tuesday. I knew that to turn it around I was going to have to play harder and come with a different mindset."

The Wears scored 14 of UCLA's final 15 points, continuing to play hard as USC was trying to get back in the game. Howland said he was pleased to see his sophomore transfers from North Carolina respond to their poor performance from the previous game.

"They came out with a sense of purpose and direction to play tougher, play more physical and go hard to the offensive glass," Howland said. "We need that form both of them as we go forward down the stretch."

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B. Hundley392271315522
P. Perkins25115756.39
B. Hundley1596444.110
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D. Fuller594477.61