Nothing Ben Howland finds under his Christmas tree is likely to delight the UCLA coach as much as the news he received Wednesday, when an X-ray and MRI exam on Tyler Honeycutt's sprained right shoulder were negative.
"Everything is good, which I am unbelievably thankful for," Howland said during a teleconference with reporters one day after Honeycutt sustained the injury during the Bruins' 75-59 victory over Montana State.
Howland said Honeycutt, his team's leading scorer and rebounder, would sit out the Bruins' game against UC Irvine on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. But the coach added that he was optimistic the sophomore forward could return for UCLA's Pacific 10 Conference opener against Washington State on Dec. 29.
After reviewing video of the Montana State game, Howland said Honeycutt was injured in the second half when he made shoulder-to-shoulder contact with Bobcats center Cody Anderson. Honeycutt sat out the game's final 8 minutes 20 seconds after scoring nine points.
Freshman guard Tyler Lamb will start in Honeycutt's spot against UC Irvine, Howland said. Lamb is coming off the best game of his fledgling career, having scored a career-high eight points to go with three assists and two steals against Montana State.
Lamb, who entered the game shooting 35%, made all three of his shots and both of his free throws. His most memorable play came in the first half when he pump-faked a defender on the perimeter before driving along the baseline for a one-handed dunk.
"He was solid taking care of the basketball, played good defense and took the open shot," Howland said.
UCLA's game-deciding 24-5 run in the second half against Montana State was keyed in large part by the defensive play of Brendan Lane, who had several blocks and rebounds during the stretch.
The workmanlike effort was nothing new for the sophomore forward, who finished with seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
"It's almost like I take him for granted because he's so consistent night in and night out," Howland said. "He's really been very solid and I'm just really pleased with Brendan and how he's played for us."
Howland said Reeves Nelson still had his consent to shoot three-pointers even though the power forward had made only one of his last nine attempts, and that was a banked-in shot against Cal Poly.
"I'm not going to tell him not to shoot it when he's wide open," Howland said of Nelson, who has made three of 12 three-point shots this season.
Though Nelson has struggled from beyond the arc, Howland said he was pleased with the sophomore's mid-range game.
"He made a couple of nice jump shots at the elbow where he looked comfortable, where a year ago he wasn't taking or making that shot," Howland said.
Carlino the Cougar
Freshman guard Matt Carlino, who departed UCLA two weeks ago, said he would transfer to Brigham Young and start attending classes there next month.
"I've visited a number of universities and feel that BYU offers the best fit for me on many levels," Carlino said in a statement.
Carlino never played for the Bruins after suffering a concussion in practice in early November. He will be eligible to play for the Cougars in December 2011.