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UCLA BASKETBALL FYI

Bruins' Joshua Smith discovers the joys of dunking

UCLA's 6-10, 305-pound freshman center had gotten into the frustrating habit of missing layups, but in recent games he's taken a more direct and effective approach: Just dunk it.

February 08, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • UCLA's Joshua Smith, right, dunks over St. John's Dwayne Polee during the first half of the Bruins' 66-59 victory on Saturday.
UCLA's Joshua Smith, right, dunks over St. John's Dwayne Polee… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Frustrated by missing layup after layup, Joshua Smith decided to take the sure route to two points.

By dunking.

It started with a ferocious one-handed dunk over Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski late last month. Then came a stretch last week that included two dunks against USC and four against St. John's.

UCLA's 6-foot-10, 305-pound freshman center has seven dunks in his last three games after getting only 11 dunks in his first 20 games. Smith led the Bruins with 15 points against the Trojans and 19 points against the Red Storm.

"A lot of times I didn't realize how close I was to the basket at the beginning of the season," Smith said Tuesday. "But now I'm just realizing my size and just how people are playing me and trying to take advantage of that."

Smith credited teammate Jerime Anderson for his new mind-set, saying the junior guard told him to dunk the ball after watching him miss open layups in practice.

"I think that has kind of catapulted him to kind of a different level, being more authoritative and more aggressive with the ball," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "His teammates are all for it. They were excited."

That's a wrap

Lazeric Jones is expected to have his sprained left wrist more heavily taped when UCLA (16-7 overall, 7-3 Pacific 10 Conference) plays host to Oregon (12-11, 5-6) Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion. An MRI exam revealed several torn tendons.

Jones injured his wrist in the second half against USC last Wednesday but continued to play through discomfort against the Trojans and during the Bruins' 66-59 victory over St. John's three days later.

"It definitely was hurting a little bit against St. John's," said Jones, who missed all six of his shots and went scoreless against the Red Storm. "But I don't want to make any excuses about it. I just have to be a little more mentally tough about it and go out there and fight through it."

Howland said Jones would be fitted for a protective cast to wear when he's not playing.

Lane to miss game

Reserve forward Brendan Lane will miss the Oregon game to attend the funeral of his grandmother Ada Banevicius, who died Saturday in West Borough, Mass. She was 82.

Lane, who is averaging 3.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game, is scheduled to fly to Boston on Wednesday and return to Southern California on Friday night. Howland said he hoped Lane could play against Oregon State on Saturday.

Etc.

Howland said he would like to play Tyler Lamb more minutes to give guard Malcolm Lee and forward Tyler Honeycutt longer breathers. While Honeycutt is averaging a team-high 33.7 minutes and Lee 32.2 minutes, Lamb is averaging only 14.1 minutes. Lamb made two three-pointers and played solid defense in eight minutes against St. John's. . . . Howland disagreed with the notion that UCLA benefited from having Pac-10 officials work the St. John's game, even though the Red Storm was called for eight more fouls and shot 34 fewer free throws than the Bruins. "They were fouls," Howland said. "It was not any kind of homer situation."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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