Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 1/25/12
As UCLA center Joshua Smith prepared to leave Oregon's Matthew Knight Arena last Saturday, his family members told him that he "didn't look happy" on the court. As he sat in a chair and addressed the media inside UCLA's J.D. Morgan Center Press Room on Wednesday there was still a sense of him being glum. Smith admits he hates losing. The last taste of game action he and his UCLA teammates have had was getting swept by the Oregon schools. It was especially tough for Smith. As the Bruins were squandering a 13-point halftime lead on Saturday at Oregon, he was in the midst of what UCLA head coach Ben Howland says was "as poor a game as he's played all year." Smith finished with six points and added four turnovers as UCLA lost 75-68 in Eugene. To compound things, Smith did it in front of family. He doesn't get to play many games with his parents in attendance, and the weekend in Oregon was the first time they got a chance to see him play in person since the team's trip to Maui in November. "My mom and dad can't catch a lot of my games in person. They watch all of them but they're up in Washington," said Smith, "I always want to play good in front of them." Smith entered the season with a lot of hype, similar to what was received by his team. Neither the Bruins as a team or Smith individually have been a pillar of consistency. If you base it purely on preseason expectations, all parties are guilty of underperforming. Smith, fourth in the team in scoring, averaging just 9.5 points per game and the Bruins barely over .500 with a record of 10-9 overall but worse in conference play at 3-4. It's the expectations to start the season that Smith admits he bought into. "It started with the beginning of the season, me personally, when we were ranked and I was already kind of looking past those first two games to Maui and looking forward to Texas and then the Pac-12," said Smith. He, as well as the Bruins still have a long way to go as they prepare for their return to Sports Arena when they host Utah (5-14, 2-5 Pac-12) on Thursday night at 7:30pm on Prime Ticket. Smith's progression has to begin with his mental stability. His bad starts in games have resulted in "a snowball effect." "I wouldn't say it's a confidence thing," said Smith. "I'm just fine, my primary, big thing is to stop thinking so much and just go out there and play." Howland believes Smith can rebound and become the dominant presence he expected him to be. "I still think he can be dominant for us no question," said Howland. Smith has no doubt. When asked if he could be the best player in the conference, Smith replied: "Yes, I believe that."
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