Reporting from New York — Joshua Smith is an imperfect four for four.
The mammoth UCLA center has committed four fouls in each of the Bruins' first four games, forcing him to the bench for long stretches when his team could have used his considerable size in the paint.
The 6-foot-10, 305-pound freshman was a one-man force early in the second half against Villanova on Wednesday in a semifinal of the NIT Season Tip-Off. He bulled into the lane for a layup, blocked a shot and made a pair of steals.
But he also committed his third and fourth fouls, forcing Coach Ben Howland to remove him from the game with 14 minutes 7 seconds left. Smith did not return until there was 9:15 remaining in the Bruins' 82-70 defeat.
Smith finished with 10 points and four rebounds in only 19 minutes, his continued foul trouble a topic of Howland's postgame remarks. The coach said Smith's first two fouls came when he tried to deflect the ball instead of forcing his opponent to score over him.
"Those are things that come with experience," Howland said. " … These experiences will help us. Bottom line is, we have to learn from it."
Foul problems have limited Smith to an average of only 16 minutes per game early in his college career. Before the Bruins left for New York, Howland said he loved Smith's aggressiveness but noted that his center had to avoid making himself a target.
"What I've explained to him, and it's no mystery, is that it's so often that the biggest guy gets picked on and gets the least calls going for him," Howland said. "It's just the way it is."
Bruins freshman guard Matt Carlino, sidelined since Nov. 8 by a concussion, has been cleared to play against Virginia Commonwealth. But sophomore forward Brendan Lane suffered a knee injury in the first half against Villanova and did not practice Thursday after experiencing discomfort after he woke up. His status will be a game-time decision.