UCLA looks to stay alive in Pac-12 race vs. ASU

On the surface, it appears Tyler Lamb has improved significantly from where he was last season as a freshman. 

However, Lamb is not impressed. 

“It’s been an up and down year,” Lamb said.  “I’d say one word how I feel I’ve played is inconsistent.” 

Last season, Lamb averaged 2.6 points per game and made just two starts.  This season, he’s started all 27 games and is averaging 8.9 points per game.  He’s third on the team in assists and steals. 

Still, he feels he can do better.

“I’m not disappointed in myself,” said Lamb.  “I feel like I have grown as a player.

“(UCLA head coach Ben Howland) has told me sometimes I try to make too much happen out there and he tries to help me with my decision making but it’s pretty much me being my own worst critic.”  

For his shortcomings, he needs to look no further than the Bruins’ last outing at St. John’s.  Sure, Lamb led the team with 18 points.  He also led the team in turnovers.  He had a career-high eight of them.  When it comes to what weighed heavier on Lamb’s mind, eight is greater than 18.

“That game was just a tough game for me,” he said. “The eight turnovers stick out to me first and foremost.” 

Lamb and the Bruins (15-12, 8-6 Pac-12) will look to put last Saturday’s mishaps in the past Thursday at Arizona State (8-19, 4-11) at 5:30 p.m.  The game will be streamed live on www.FOXSportsWest.com.

Playing better is a concern for the Bruins, but so is winning.  Mathematically, UCLA has not been eliminated from the Pac-12 title race, however a Cal win at Utah on Thursday could do so.  

Howland mentioned weeks ago that his team would have to win the Pac-12 Conference Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament.  With the conference tournament looming, the Bruins must now sharpen their focus.

“The Pac-12 Tournament is very important, we’ve been realized that and we’re just focused on trying to get every win from this point on,” said Lamb.

UCLA is in sixth place in the conference standings behind Arizona (19-9, 10-5) and Oregon (19-8, 10-5 Pac-12), who are tied for fourth.  Getting a top-four seed is of high importance because those teams receive a first-round bye. Teams that finish fifth through 12th open Pac-12 Tournament play on Wednesday, March 7 and must win four games in four days to capture the automatic NCAA berth.

It’s something Howland has discussed with his team.   

  “He gave us the statistics of how many teams have won (four) days in a row in these tournaments and it’s not very good so we know we have to try to get a top-four seed,” said Travis Wear. “We’ve got to focus and dig deep right now and try to get these wins.  We’ve got (the) Arizona (schools).  We beat these two schools.  We need to go on the road and beat them again.” 

UCLA won the first meeting with Arizona State this season, 75-58, in a game played at Honda Center.