UCLA center Joshua Smith and forward Reeves Nelson, right, celebrate with… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Berkeley — No one can accuse UCLA of needing to find balance.
The Bruins are one of seven NCAA Division I teams that have five players averaging double figures in scoring, making things difficult for opposing defenses.
Take away guard Malcolm Lee's outside shooting and the Bruins can look inside to center Joshua Smith for easy baskets. Stifle forward Tyler Honeycutt's mid-range jumpers and UCLA might let forward Reeves Nelson drive for layups.
"It's huge because you can't just plan to try to stop one or two guys," Coach Ben Howland said. "Any night, any one of our players can go off and have a big game."
That's been the case throughout the Bruins' six-game winning streak, which they hope to extend against California on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion. Four players have led the Bruins in scoring during the streak, including Lee and Smith twice each.
Nelson leads the ensemble offensive cast, averaging 13.8 points per game. Lee averages 13.4 points, Honeycutt 12.6, Smith 10.7 and junior guard Lazeric Jones 10.3.
On Thursday, Stanford focused much of its defensive effort on containing Lee, who was coming off a 25-point performance against Oregon and a 19-point output against Oregon State. The Bruins responded by repeatedly going to Nelson (18 points) and Smith (13) during a 69-65 victory.
Howland said an even scoring distribution can be the hallmark of a good team.
"Most of the teams that I've had that had a lot of success had a lot of balance," he said.
Actually, the Bruins have better balance than Howland's recent Final Four teams. The 2005-06 team had two players — Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar — average double figures in scoring if you don't consider Josh Shipp, who played in only four games because of a hip injury.
A year later, UCLA had three players — Afflalo, Shipp and Darren Collison — average double figures. And in 2007-08, the Bruins had four players — Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Collison and Shipp — reach that threshold.
Most of the Division I teams that have five players averaging double figures are having good seasons, including 20th-ranked Missouri. Five have winning records.
"It's critical to have that balance," Howland said.
Sweet 1,600 calories
With two days between games — a rarity in Pacific 10 Conference play — the Bruins ventured to San Francisco on Saturday and devoured hot fudge sundaes in Ghirardelli Square.
One player who skipped the extra calories, Howland said, was Smith, who at 305 pounds continues to monitor his waistline. Howland seemed particularly delighted by the whipped cream on his sundae.
"It's real," he said. "It's not out of the can. It's outstanding."
Howland generally dislikes Sunday games because they are played on a religious day and result in a short turnaround heading into the following week. But given that Fox television executives say Sunday games typically generate the best ratings, Howland said he understands why they are scheduled.
"We get the most exposure and most people watching on Sunday night games, so that's why we do it," Howland said. "It's important for our program and important for our league."