UCLA entered the season talking about its front court. Reporters and bloggers (including this one) wondered how teams could cope with the Bruins ability to put a massive front line on the floor.
Even after the dismissal of junior forward Reeves Nelson, the front court continues to drive attention. But while teams worry about the Bruins and their size in the post, it is their backcourt making people pay attention.
Freshman Norman Powell and sophomore Tyler Lamb both set career highs in points scored as UCLA defeated visiting UC Irvine, 89-60, on Tuesday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Powell scored a game-high 19 points with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
"He has so much potential," Lamb said of Powell. "He's learning more and more every day and works very hard"
Lamb finished with 17 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds.
"Tyler Lamb is really playing well for us," Coach Ben Howland said. "And the stats don't always indicate it because he guards the other team's best player."
It was both shooting guards sharing time with seniors Jerime Anderson and Lazeric Jones, often with three of the four on the court at once, that led the Bruins to a dominant victory and has helped UCLA (6-5) during its four-game win streak.
Jones added 11 points and six assists while Anderson had eight points and five assists. The four helped UCLA finish with 22 assists against seven turnovers.
"Starting three guards helps that," Howland said. "We're getting use to each other and getting some experience. We're a fairly young team."
Howland said the team will continue to use the 3-guard lineup but also said he'll play some zone and go back to three big men lineups when the timing is right. Howland wants to make sure the team can be versatile with its lineup, which means he'll continue to mix and match.
The guards might have gotten most of the attention but the big men also played well. David Wear played well and had 12 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Center Joshua Smith had 12 points and seven rebounds as both helped UCLA outrebound UC Irvine, 40-26.
"I'm pleased with the rebounding and the margin there," Howland said. "I'm just glad we're playing well. Our guys are coming together. We have good chemistry and we're pulling for one another. That's fun. I enjoyed that."