Nelson’s double-double spells trouble for Oregon State, and when his anticlimactic last-second dunk goes down, it leaves the Beavs with a bad taste in their mouths
It’s really not his fault — The Bruins don’t have much experience with comfortable leads at the ends of games.
As time was running out in Corvallis on Saturday evening, the Bruins gained possession of the ball with an 8 point lead. And instead of mercifully dribbling out the clock, UCLA’s 6th Man Reeves Nelson drove to a completely unguarded basket for a final-second, exclamtion point slam dunk. It wasn’t exactly Pete Carroll-style pouring it on, but it wasn’t exactly the classy thing to do either.
Nelson’s stuff made the final score 62-52, but it could have been a lot closer… or lot further apart. The game was very tight throughout the first 17 minutes, until the Bruins closed out the 1st half on an 8-0 run, to take a 24-18 lead into the locker room. 12 Bruin Turnovers (to 8 for OSU) were what kept the Beavers close, considering that in the 1st half UCLA outshot OSU 53% to 38%, and also out-Rebounded them 14 to 8.
The Bruins’ late spurt must have given them (a little too much) confidence, because they came out flat in the 2nd half, committing several Turnovers in the first few minutes, and allowing the Beavers to claim a 30-28 lead at the under -16 Time Out.
That’s when the Bruins finally got energized and stopped turning the ball over. The rejuvenated Bruins thrust ahead of the Beavers, and stretched the lead to 15, with a 27-10 spurt. It’s not that tough when you shoot SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT from the floor, as the Bruins did in the 2nd half, on 15-20 shooting. Nelson led the way, going 7-for-8 on the day, scoring 14, and also grabbing 12 Rebounds and Blocking a shot, to complete his domination of the Paint.
The Bruins were also spurred by Michael Roll, who in one sequence hit a jumper, then lofted up a beautiful 30-foot alley-oop pass to Tyler Honeycutt for a dunk, and then hit a Three-pointer, on his way to 11 Points and 5 Assists with only 1 Turnover. The hot-shooting Bruins were up by 13 with just under 5 minutes to go, and hit the biggest lead at 55-40, with just over a minute and a half to go. And then’s when it really fell apart.
Oregon State turned up the Defensive pressure to 11, and the Bruins couldn’t handle it. They thought they had it won, so they were a little careless, on Offense and also on Defense. They allowed Beaver Star Calvin Haynes — who they had bottled up all game — to hit a 3, and the Bruins also fouled him –and another player — while they were shooting 3-pointers. Sprinkle in a few missed Free Throws with the Turnovers and Defensive lapses, and the Bruins let the lead dwindle all the way down to SIX points, with 31 seconds left. Then Honeycutt was fouled, JUST AS THE BRUINS WERE COMMITTING AN OVER-AND-BACK VIOLATION, but the foul superceded the violation, and Honeycutt sank two Free Throws to basically ice the game. Twelve seconds later, Nelson found himself all alone in the center of the court, and his instincts led him to go down and dunk the ball, causing the fans in Corvallis to go ballistic. The dunk wasn’t so offensive that Nelson owes Oregon State an apology. But meaningless, salt-in-the-wound points shoudn’t become a trend for UCLA… except against the trojans, who have already earned YEARS of PAYBACK.
In the parity-riddled Pac-10, the Bruins probably won’t have too many opportunities where they will have to consciously avoid running up the score, but if they continue to pass the ball like they did at times on Saturday, they just might get some more victories. Not just Roll dished out a wicked Assist — Honeycutt as usual had some, Nikola Dragovic had a Magic Johnson-like no-look Dime to Malcolm Lee for a dunk, Lee sent a beautiful one to Nelson, and even the Returning Jerime Anderson nicely found Nelson inside for a Deuce. JA also had a key Steal and Assist to Lee for a fast break bucket, which gave the Bruins a deceivingly-decisive 12-point lead with 2:30 to go.
The Bruins’ Offensive patience, structure, discipline (not relying on Three’s), and unselfish passing were the keys to shooting 75% after the break, and 66% for the game. Meanwhile, UCLA’s still-improving Zone Defense clamped the Beavers down to 37% shooting for the game, and the Bruins, as usual, were able to take the hottest opposing player coming in, OUT OF THE GAME (for 38 minutes, in this case).
When the Bruins weren’t committing Turnovers, they were pulling away. And with Anderson back, the other Guards got a little more rest, so the Bruins still had enough energy to hold on in the end. The Bruins actually went NINE deep, with Brendan Lane logging a couple of minutes. But in those two minutes, you could see that Lane was not sure of himself in the Zone Defense, and he was not in sync with his teammates in terms of his responsibilities on D.
Senior starter James Keefe, on the other hand, is much more solid, as he should be, and is still contributing outside of the box score. For instance, it was Keefe’s screen that freed up Honeycutt for the Highlight-of-the-Game Alley-Oop from Roll. Mustafa Abdul-Hamid was the other Bruin who saw playing time, and he sank another three-pointer, but also turned the ball over twice in just 8 minutes. Not as bad as the SIX Turnovers committed by Dragovic, but enough to give up his previously-increasing minutes to Anderson. Even hero Nelson was not immune to the Turnover bug: Reeves lost the ball FOUR times, and like Abdul-Hamid, Keefe, and Lane, had ZERO Assists. Freshman Nelson twice got caught behind the basket with nowhere to go, surrounded by defenders. And one other negative surprise for the Bruins: The usual Rebound Machine Honeycutt managed only 3 Caroms in 27 minutes. However, he was still instrumental in the win, with 7 Points, 3 Assists and a Steal.
Some credit should go to the Beavers and their Coach (Obama’s brother-in-law), because it would have been easy to quit, down by 15 with 98 seconds left. But they absolutely made a game out of it, with effort and heart.
And speaking of effort and heart, here is a close-up of Game MVP Reeves Nelson, followed by 4 more photos of the UCLA Dance Team pouring it on at the Rose Bowl.