Saturday, November 12, 2011

LMU kicks off the season with an upset of UCLA

UCLA once again entered the season with a fair amount of hype and expectations, but as we have become accustomed to since UCLA's last Final Four in 2008, the Bruins disappointed.

Ben Howland's club collapsed against a hot-shooting Loyola Marymount team, losing 69-58 to a team that was missing their most talented player. Drew Viney, a forward that averaged 17.2 ppg last season, is out until December with a foot injury.

But before I get into the game, we need to address the Josh Smith situation.

UCLA's big-boned big man managed just five points on 2-4 shooting and four rebound in 16 minutes. After the game, he tweeted out "Just lost to some straight bums lol...". He's since deleted the tweet, but I captured it in all its glory for you right here.

This isn't the first time that we've discussed Smith's maturity issues, but it is becoming abundantly clear that he didn't grow up during the offseason. He looks even bigger than he was last year, making a UCLA jersey that's baggy on the rest of his teammates look like Under Armour. He's also in poorer shape. The ironic part about Smith calling an opponent a "bum" is that, until he decides to shed the 30 or 40 extra pounds he's carrying, the rest of the country will be referring to him as a "bum".

Well, maybe "bum" is the wrong word. How about a colossal waste of god-given ability? Even as arguably the fattest player in college basketball, Smith is nimble, he's quick, he's powerful and he showcases good footwork. Now imagine if he was able to jump over a phone book and last more than three trips up and down the court. His affinity for fatty foods is the reason he's not an all-american and a lottery pick.

Back to the game, there are a couple notes that need to be taken into consideration. UCLA was playing without Jerime Anderson, meaning that they didn't have another option at the point to spell a struggling Laz Jones (he finished 1-11 from the floor with three turnovers). LMU was also unconscious from beyond the arc, hitting 10 of their 15 threes. The game also wasn't played at Pauley Pavilion, which is under renovations. It was played at something called the Sports Arena.

But that's no excuse. The Bruins were atrocious offensively, scoring just 58 points on 67 possessions. 37 of those points (and 21 rebounds) came from Reeves Nelson and the Wear twins. Beyond that, the Bruins had no offensive attack whatsoever. They shot a dismal 2-15 from beyond the arc and just looked out of sorts on that end of the floor. As bad as the numbers are, they don't do just how ugly UCLA's offense was justice.

We also need to give credit where credit is due: Loyola played a heck of a game last night, and they did it without their most talented front court player. I'm very high on the Lions this season. I was high on them last year, too. They struggled to just 11 wins and a 2-12 finish in the WCC, but chemistry and injury issues plagued them throughout the season. The only player they lost from that team was Vernon Teel, which may have actually been addition by subtraction.

Once they get Viney back and get to full strength, this is a team to be reckoned with. Sophomore point guard Anthony Ireland (my WCC breakout star!) picked up where he left off last season, finishing with 21 points, five assists and five boards, while swingman Ashley Hamilton led the way with 23 points, hitting a number of big threes late in the game to help the Lions pull away.

Gonzaga is probably the WCC's favorite this year, with St. Mary's, BYU and San Francisco in the mix.

Don't count out this group, however. If anything, LMU proved tonight just how much fun the WCC race is going to be this season.

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