[Amended: 2/12/12, 11:15pm]
Bruins don’t “mail it in,” but a stream of cold shooting envelops their efforts to stop 1st Place Cal from recording a Blockbuster 73-63 victory
UCLA has no one to blame but themselves. The Bruins shot under 40% from the field, despite TONS of wide open, high-percentage opportunities. Cal’s Defense double-teamed Josh Smith inside, taking away one source of Offense from the Bruins, but that strategy allowed all of Smith’s teammates continuous wide-open looks, especially on mid-range jumpers. But the Wears combined to go 5-for-19, and usual leading scorer Lazeric Jones went 6-for-15, allowing the Bears to slowly and methodically pull away.
Cal built a 17-point lead before the Bruins valiantly fought back. With 3:15 left, Jerime Anderson cut the lead to 7 with a Three-pointer, but then he committed a Turnover, missed an uncontested jumper, and committed another Turnover, allowing the Bears to go back up by 11 and ice the game.
Even with the Bruins’ horrid shooting, they could have been competitive, if their Defense was a little more consistent. But with Anthony Stover missing the game with an injury, they had no intimidation factor, and Cal was able to repeatedly penetrate to the hoop, and shoot 52% from the floor. UCLA could not overcome that 12% difference, so even though they played with heart and never quit, they just couldn’t do enough to get the win.
Cal swept the series for the first time since ’94, and swept both UCLA AND U$C in the same year for the first time since 1959, making this win a true Hollywood Blockbuster for the Bears. Cal is definitely a better team than the Bruins, but if they meet again at Staples Center, I wouldn’t write off the Bruins’ chances. With a (hopefully) healthy Stover, and with the Bruins’ desperation factor (Cal will already be expecting to get a berth in March Madness but the Bruins will have to win to earn one), and with the L.A. Home Court Advantage , and with the fact that it isn’t easy to beat a team 3 straight times in a season, UCLA will still have a reasonable chance to exact revenge, and squeeze into the NCAA Tourney.
UCLA has no excuse but to get back on the winning track on Wednesday, when the trojans cross the street to face the Bruins in the Sports Arena. Even a proximity Home Court Advantage shouldn’t be enough for usc to give UCLA a game, as the trojans are now 1-12 in the Pac-12, following Sunday’s loss to Stanford, in which the trojans shot a blistering 31% from the floor. That 31% makes UCLA’s 39% look respectable… even though it wasn’t.
Usc’s epic basketball failure wasn’t restricted to the college ranks on Sunday. Up in Toronto, the Raptors had a chance for a season highlight win, having the Lakers down by 4 in the final minute. But with about 5 seconds to go, ex-trojan DeMar DeRozan got lost on Defense, allowing Kobe to get the ball and sink a baseline jumper that gave the Lakers a 1-point lead. The Raptors then failed to get the ball inbounds, and Kobe added a Free Throw to make the margin 2. The Raptors still had a chance to pull it out, but they (inexplicably) called on DeRozan to be a hero, and DeMar’s buzzer-beating three-point shot was an AIRBALL, giving the victory to Los Angeles. It was only the Lakers’ FIFTH Road win of the year, against TEN losses, but when all you need for a W is a trojan miss, you’re in good shape.
UCLA Basketball makes a Poll — UCLA’s “Is this a Basketball” cheer has just been named #2 on a list of Top 25 Funniest College Sports Traditions. See the whole list, and a video of the cheer at the link below. Also making the list: The trojans’ habit of wrapping up the Tommy Trojan statue in duct tape every year before the UCLA game, in order to protect it from blue and gold paint, or other improvements.