For the second day in a row, UCLA slow-footed its way through the first half of a Maui Invitational game and for the second day in a row, the Bruins rallied in the second half.
Unfortunately for the Bruins, they weren't playing a Division II opponent for the second day in a row, the second-half rally wasn't enough and UCLA lost to Kansas, 72-56, Tuesday in a semifinal.
UCLA trailed, 43-26, at halftime, but stepped up the defensive intensity while Tyler Lamb and Jerime Anderson got hot from the outside and shot UCLA to within five points at 61-56 with 4:33 to play, but the comeback fell short as UCLA simply ran out of gas and Kansas finished the game with an 11-0 run.
The Bruins (1-3) will play Michigan in the third-place game Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Pacific.
Five observations from the game:
1This was a dismal effort by UCLA's front court
UCLA's strength is supposed to be it's interior players with three 6-foot-10 players and another at 6-8, but the Bruins had little inside presence against Kansas. Joshua Smith, David Wear and Travis Wear had nights to forget, combining for seven points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Smith had one point and one rebound before fouling out in only 13 minutes. Travis Wear had four points and two rebounds and David Wear had two points and four rebounds. That's seven combined rebounds for three players who are 6-10.
In comparison, guards Lamb, Anderson and Lazeric Jones also combined for seven rebounds. It's no surprise UCLA was out-rebounded, 34-21.
Even steady rebounding machine Reeves Nelson had only five boards and although he scored 12 points, nine of those came via three-point shots for the 6-8 power forward. The Bruins had little inside presence with only 14 points in the paint.
2The guards got UCLA back in it
For the second consecutive game, UCLA's guards, not the vaunted front court, paced the UCLA offense. Lamb had 15 points and Anderson had 14 -- 10 in the second half. The duo combined for three 3-points baskets as UCLA, which trailed by 20 early in the second half, cut the Kansas lead to 57-52 with 7:59 to play.
On Monday, Lamb, Anderson and Jones led the Bruins with 15, 18, and 19 points, respectively in a victory over Chaminade.
3Joshua Smith got flustered
Smith started for the first time this season but got into foul trouble early, and was on and off the bench the entire game. His body language seemed to indicate he didn't want to be out there and he got his wish when he fouled out with seven minutes to play.
Kansas was smart to go at him early and he needs to be smarter by not committing silly fouls, especially reaching. Part of it is poor defensive technique, but a lot of it is conditioning related. This was the second game in two days and Smith simply didn't have the energy to play at a high level for long stretches. The result was lazy defense and a frustrated Smith.
One point, one rebound, two turnovers and five fouls is not what you want from the player who is supposed to be the centerpiece of the team.
4Shot selection was questionable
The Bruins continually hoisted bad shots, especially in the first half. Whether it was Jones trying to get off a layup in traffic after penetrating or one of the Wear twins throwing up a 15-foot jumper before running the offense, the Bruins simply took too many bad shots.
Three-point shooting, supposedly a weakness for this team, was actually a strength Tuesday night. UCLA made eight of 14 from beyond the arc, five of seven in the second half, so no problem on the open looks from long range.
But on two-point shot attempts, UCLA was eight for 30 (26.6 percent) for the game and three of 15 (20 percent) in the first half.
5Lazeric Jones' slump continued
Jones made only one of six shots from the field and had no assists and four fouls against Kansas, continuing a rough stretch to start the season.
He appeared to be shooting his way out of it when he made eight of 18 shots and scored a team-high 19 points against Chaminade, but he regressed against Kansas. He now has made 12 of 44 (27.3 percent) of his shots this season and take away that 8-for-18 game Monday and that comes out to four of 26 (15.3 percent) for the other three games.
He made all six of his free throws, so at least he was able to convert when he went to the line, but he appeared to be trying to do too much at times, as has been the case throughout the early season.