Reporting from Lawrence, Kan. — Lazeric Jones, you're not in Carterville, Ill., anymore.
The UCLA point guard who spent his last two years at a junior college in southern Illinois found himself in the hostile confines of Kansas' home court Thursday. It was an experience that left the junior a bit discombobulated, particularly in the opening minutes.
Jones committed four turnovers — all in the first half — and had no assists while playing a season-low 21 minutes during the Bruins' 77-76 loss at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor stole the ball from Jones a little more than a minute into the game, and the Jayhawks nearly pestered Jones into another turnover shortly thereafter.
"In the beginning, you could tell it was pretty tough," Jones said of the ball-hawking Kansas defense and the deafening partisan atmosphere. "I made a couple of bad decisions."
Jones' early struggles prompted UCLA Coach Ben Howland to go with backup point guard Jerime Anderson, who had four assists, three steals and two turnovers in 11 first-half minutes. But Anderson made two crucial turnovers in a 53-second span late in the game, traveling on one possession and throwing the ball out of bounds on another.
Jones reentered the game and drove for a layup to pull the Bruins to within 75-71 with 1 minute 34 seconds remaining. He then drew a foul and stepped to the free-throw line for a one-and-one opportunity with 19 seconds to play and UCLA trailing, 76-73.
After making his first 10 free throws this season, Jones missed the front end.
"It just went in and out," said Jones, who finished with 11 points. "But it worked out in our favor because we ended up getting the ball back."
Indeed, the Bruins forced a turnover and Tyler Honeycutt made a tying three-pointer that preceded the controversial ending in which Malcolm Lee was called for a foul while going for a loose ball. Kansas guard Mario Little made one of two free throws with seven-tenths of a second remaining, and UCLA's upset bid was over.
Jones, a rare junior college transfer brought to Westwood to stabilize the Bruins' point guard spot, has mostly been a steadying influence. Wobbling for one night against one of the nation's best teams doesn't qualify as a momentous setback.
"This is a good situation to put myself in," Jones said, "so when we play different teams I'll be ready for this atmosphere."
Joshua Smith showed against the Jayhawks what he can do when he stays out of foul trouble, recording his first career double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Kansas couldn't match Smith's girth in the paint, the 6-foot-10, 305-pound freshman center moving his counterparts around as if they were made of foam.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing against," Howland said. "He's going to have the opportunity to have big nights as he grows and learns and his conditioning improves."
Howland brought Smith off the bench in an effort to curtail his foul problems, and the big man responded with a career-high 28 minutes in which he committed only two fouls. Smith had picked up four fouls in each of his first five games.