Joshua Smith didn't start for the Bruins, but he definitely finished in their 80-72 exhibition victory over Cal State San Bernardino on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif.
The 6-foot-10, 305-pound sophomore scored a game-high 26 points and grabbed seven rebounds for UCLA, which opted to bring Smith off the bench to help avoid picking up early fouls. But once he did get in, the Bruins knew their exact point of attack.
"Our offensive thought is always to feed it into Josh," said sophomore forward David Wear. "I don't think anybody can guard him inside 1-on-1."
Wear also touted Smith's performance at the line after he made 14 of 18 free throws. UCLA used its size advantage to get the line 41 times, making 33 of them on the way to victory. Smith said he's focused on making sure he doesn't fade away from the line and following through on the shots.
"Every time I go out there, we all know our job and my job is to help my team the best way I can," Smith said. "I just want to go out there and make sure I'm sealing, posting and passing. I got mad at myself when looking at my field goals. There were a few tip-ins and if I put a little more on them, I would have gotten some and-1's."
Junior forward Reeves Nelson also had a strong performance with 16 points and 10 rebounds. UCLA head coach Ben Howland credited him with making a pair of 3-pointers and mentioned his vocal leadership as well.
"I've never been a player that puts too much into points," Nelson said. "But rebounds are something you can control with effort and position. I am definitely trying for double-digit rebounds in every game."
That's likely music to Howland's ears, who wants to use his team's size advantage all season. The Bruins took home a 40-30 rebound advantage, including an 18-11 advantage on the offensive glass, against a team Howland called a "good test."
He wasn't kidding either. UCLA needed a pivotal 9-0 second-half run to regain control after CS San Bernardino took a 60-58 lead with 7:33 remaining.
"It was good to see our guys fight back," Howland said. "We've got to be a better defensive team. We'll get together and watch this as a team. We will not beat a lot of people on our schedule until we play better defense."
The rust showed for UCLA, which started David and Travis Wear, who were playing their first college game in over a year after sitting out last season (due to transfer rules).
But both David and Travis each showed glimmers of why Howland is so excited to have them as part of the program. David took a charge on one end that fouled out starting guard Tre Brewer. Then, he followed it up with a big 3-pointer on the offensive end. Travis added 10 points in 15 minutes.
"I was too excited," said David, who started at small forward. "I thought way too much. I just wanted to get this first one out of the way."
And now that it's out of the way, David and the rest of the team will get a chance to see how much excitement is building among the UCLA faithful on Friday night, when the Bruins open the season with Loyola Marymount at the LA Sports Arena.