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UCLA FYI

UCLA center Joshua Smith will be a game-time decision Saturday

The freshman suffered a possible concussion against California, but he kept his sense of humor. Bears took advantage of his absence.

January 21, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • UCLA's Joshua Smith (34) drives to the basket against USC in a Pac-10 game earlier this month.
UCLA's Joshua Smith (34) drives to the basket against USC in a Pac-10… (Richard Hartog / Associated…)

Joshua Smith's balance was a bit wayward Thursday night, but he never lost his sense of humor.

In the final minutes of UCLA's 86-84 victory over California at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins' freshman center teased teammates Malcolm Lee and Brendan Lane after they fouled out.

"I was like, 'Now you know how I feel,' " the foul-prone big man said.

Smith had been relegated to the bench after sustaining a possible concussion 5:39 into the game when he fell and bumped his head on the floor.

He met with a doctor Friday and his status for UCLA's game against Stanford on Saturday morning will be a game-time decision, Coach Ben Howland said.

"We'll have to wait and see how he feels," Howland said.

Asked how he felt late Thursday night, Smith said he had "a little sore spot on my neck and a small headache."

Smith returned to the game against Cal two minutes after he fell, telling trainers and coaches he felt fine. Howland took Smith out with 8:57 left in the first half to give him a rest, and upon further questioning Smith disclosed that his head hurt.

"I didn't really start feeling symptoms until I sat back down for a while," Smith said.

At halftime, a doctor assessed Smith's balance. It "wasn't all the way where it should be," Smith said, so the decision was made for him to sit out the rest of the game.

The Bruins held on without Smith, who had four points and five rebounds in six minutes, but their interior defense clearly suffered. Golden Bears big men Harper Kamp, Mark Sanders-Frison and Richard Solomon combined for 43 points and made 15 of 24 shots, mostly on layups and dunks.

UCLA freshman center Anthony Stover, who had supplanted Smith in the starting lineup to help keep Smith out of foul trouble, had four rebounds, two turnovers, a block and a steal in 15 minutes.

Howland said Smith would come off the bench for the rest of the season regardless of whether he was cleared to play against Stanford.

"I don't want Josh getting a foul in the first three minutes of the game," Howland said. "It's not good for him psychologically and it's not good for us."

Letting it go

Howland said he did not review the final minutes of the Cal game other than Reeves Nelson's winning tip-in with two seconds left.

Didn't he want to watch how his team squandered a 12-point lead in the final 3½ minutes so that he could help his players correct their mistakes?

"We can't work on it [Friday]," Howland said. "We've got preparations for Stanford. … I saw it live and in person, so I have a pretty good feel for it."

Howland said the Bruins were "too nonchalant" with the ball and that most of the mistakes were mental.

"One of them was a turnover we threw away in the backcourt against the press where we were one on one and trying to whip it around," he said. "Just getting sped up and just not falling back on solid fundamentals."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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