Bruins of the Lost (& Found) Arc — The snake-bit Sun Devils go on a crusade in the desert and dig out of a 15-point hole to force OT, but Jones and the Bruins suddenly become arc-heologists, whipping up a holy trilogy of three’s to excavate lost treasure
And just when you thought the Bruins were going to melt away like Nazis. Maybe Ben Howland really did locate the Holy Grail when he snatched up Junior College Point Guard Lazeric “Don’t Call Me Junior” Jones.
UCLA blew a 2nd Half, 15-point lead in Tempe, Arizona on Saturday afternoon, against the lowly, last-place Arizona Sun Devils. But when the chips were down — in Overtime — 3 Bruin Guards hit 3 3-pointers to put UCLA back in command. The Devils came back again to push it to the wire, but a Malcolm Lee Free Throw with 19 seconds left gave the Bruins a 73-69 lead, making ASU’s last-second 3-pointer academic.
The Bruins’ 73-72 OT victory gave the Bruins a 6-3 record in the Pac-10, and a 14-7 record overall. The 14 wins equals UCLA’s TOTAL from last year, so despite all the troubles of this season, Ben Howland’s Bruins are markedly improved over last year’s nightmare. A big reason for the improvement is Lazeric Jones. On Saturday, Jones led the Bruins with 18 Points on 7-9 shooting including 3-4 from behind the arc. Although Jones missed a Trey with 4 seconds left in regulation that would have won the game, he didn’t hesitate to take another one to open Overtime. He sank it, and then Lee hit one, and then Jerime Anderson hit one (right after he missed one), to put the Bruins up by 7 — a cushion that was JUST large enough to hold up.
The game didn’t start well for the Bruins, who were as sloppy as they have been all year. They committed TEN Turnovers in the first ten minutes of the game, and were winning only 12-10 at that point. But they finally settled down, committing only 4 Turnovers the rest of the game. The extended that 2-point lead to 13 by Halftime, while outshooting the Sun Devils 50% to 20%. ASU was hurt badly in that 1st Half by foul trouble, as their usual leading scorer Ty Abbott got 3 Personals, and was a total non-factor.
But after the Bruins built the lead to 15 early in the 2nd Half, the Devils finally started to hit some shots. Luckily for UCLA, the Bruins’ front line was still being effective, with Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson each logging Double-doubles, and Josh Smith also scoring in Double-figures, against the smaller-than-average Sun Devils. The Bruins still had a 10-point lead with 8 minutes left, until the desperate Devils closed the gap. The lead was 2 with 2 minutes to go, and ASU finally tied it up with 20 seconds left, on a put-back of a missed Free Throw (!).
Then Jones missed a Three, but ASU dropped the Rebound out of bounds with 2.5 seconds left. The Bruins tried an inbounds lob to Nelson, but he was held up. The ball got to Honeycutt, but he missed a short banker, so the game went to OT. And that’s when the Bruins — despite going 2-13 from Downtown during regulation — launched a barrage of Trey’s to get a lead that they would not relinquish.
Now comes the most important game of the year (in MY opinion), as usc visits Pauley on Wednesday night. The trojans lost badly at Arizona on Saturday evening, but they beat UCLA convincingly at Galen a few weeks ago. This upcoming Rivalry game will show just how well the Bruins can perform in a must-win game. The question is, will Howland continue to downplay the Rivalry? Hopefully, the revenge factor will be enough to fire up the Bruins. They have lost 4 straight to their crosstown rivals, and if they can’t beat the 4-5 trojans in Pauley Pavilion, they don’t deserve to make the NCAA Tournament. But that’s just fine — If they can’t handle the pressure on Wednesday at home, they wouldn’t be able to handle a do-or-die game against a mid-major on a neutral court during March Madness. In the loss at sc, Lazeric Jones was injured and couldn’t shoot, but now he looks a little healthier, so the Bruins should have enough firepower to shoot down the trojans. And as a bonus, a trojan loss will probably preclude sc from making the NCAA Tournament (barring their winning the Pac-10 Tourney). It’s time for the Bruins to take a stand, and finally BeatSC.