Deep Three: Starting guards go missing

We go beyond the arc of UCLA's fourth straight loss to rival USC on Sunday:


Let's face it: UCLA won't win much if its starting backcourt combines for seven points. Together, Malcolm Lee and Lazeric Jones had just one make and 11 misses. Lee took just two shots in the second half, Jones three.

This from a tandem that had combined for 23.5 points heading into Sunday's game at Galen Center.

"Everybody has their off-game," said Reeves Nelson, who led UCLA with 14 points on the night. "They score a lot of our main points, so without those guys scoring it makes it really tough. Everybody on the team believes in them that they'll bounce back and have good games next week."

Jones wore a splint to protect the ruptured tendon in the middle finger on his right (shooting) hand, so maybe that played a role in his 0-for-7 performance. Coach Ben Howland believed it was more mental than anything.

"His shots -- he took maybe four shots in the first six, seven minutes of the game -- only one of them was a good shot," Howland said. "When you're taking contested bad shots and then you finally get the open ones you should be making, all of a sudden you're thinking about it rather than letting it come to you."

The two points Jones scored -- on free throws in the first half -- were a season-low. He had scored three last Saturday against Washington and no fewer than six in any other game.

Lee's five points -- three coming from the charity stripe -- were his fewest since Dec. 2, when he scored four in a one-point loss at Kansas.


With Joshua Smith again played by early foul trouble, stopping USC's Nikola Vucevic quickly became Brendan Lane's problem.

And Brendan Lane's nightmare.

Vucevic did what he wanted, scoring a game-high 20 points -- his fifth time this season scoring at least 20 -- on 9-for-16 shooting. Take away three misses from beyond the three-point line and he was 8-for-12. Vucevic had averaged 15.9 heading into Sunday.

"He's just real skilled," Lane said. "When he's on the block, he can shoot that jump hook from real far out. He gets it out real quick. It's tough to contest, he's just so big. Sometimes you can get up quick enough to contest. Tonight I wasn't ready sometimes, I wasn't low enough. That was on me. I didn't execute on defense."

Howland said UCLA players were supposed to double Vucevic more often, but the extra man either didn't come or arrived too late.

"Vucevic is really good," Howland said. "You've got to give him credit. He made some tough shots."