Coach Ben Howland sounded like a mayoral candidate lagging in the polls with election night looming, saying his UCLA basketball team has "a lot of work to do" and "a long way to go" because the coach is breaking in so many new players.
On the plus side, one newcomer appears capable of influencing the swing vote.
Freshman shooting guard Tyler Lamb has impressed Howland with his defensive tenacity and three-point accuracy, making five of six shots from beyond the arc during a scrimmage Saturday.
"Tyler Lamb really stood out because he's a fresh face," Howland said Sunday evening during a teleconference with reporters. "I was really happy about that."
The display was especially welcome because Lamb had not shot particularly well during the Bruins' early practices, Howland said. The coach was also encouraged by Lamb's play on defense.
"Tyler Lamb is the most ready of the new freshmen to play defense, and that's from his high school background," Howland said, alluding to Lamb's two seasons at Santa Ana Mater Dei. "He's really competitive and tough."
If Lamb is to help the Bruins improve on their three-point accuracy from last season — they made 32.5% of their shots, ranking eighth in the Pacific 10 Conference — he must boost his figures from his senior season of high school, when he made 30 of 101 shots (29.7%) from long range.
It sounds as if he'll get the chance.
"I have high expectations for Tyler Lamb to play a major role on this year's team," Howland said.
In a hurry
Howland said the Bruins would showcase a more up-tempo offense in an effort to "really put pressure on the defense and get early looks."
"It's hard to push it on made shots," Howland said, "but we're trying to do that and definitely on missed shots."
Howland said the onus would be on his players, noting, "They have to want to push it. It's hard work to run it every time."
Sophomore forward Travis Wear sprained his right ankle in practice Friday and is expected to be sidelined for another week.