Montana State almost “Simpson’s” UCLA, but the Bruins get off the couch and fight back from 3 down in the second half — without any “Homer” calls — to avoid a murderous loss and gag the Bobcats, 75-59
Once again, UCLA struggled against an overmatched team from the state of Montana, but this time, they got it together in time to avoid another embarrassing loss. Things started out fine, with an 8-0 Bruin lead that ballooned to a 28-14 double-up, but the feisty Bobcats refused to go away. Montana State hung around for a while, and kept it fairly close, until the second half, when they went on a run to take a 46-43 lead. With the Pauley Pavilion crowd in shock, the Bruins finally came alive. They scored 12 straight to re-take control, and they never looked back, rolling to a 75-59 victory, and even getting 38 seconds of playing time for Tyler Trapani (John Wooden’s Great Grandson).
The game-turning spurt was erected by Ben Howland’s signature Defensive pressure. The Bruin defenders turned it up a couple of notches, shutting out the Bobcats for several minutes. With some double-teams inside, and with Malcolm Lee shutting down the Bobcat’s star Offensive player, the UCLA Defense became tenacious as in days of old, and their Offense fed off of it. Malcolm Lee also led the charge on the Offensive end, by penetrating the Bobcat D. Lee wasn’t hitting from outside, but he more than compensated for it with constant drives into the key for short shots and lay-ups.
Brendan Lane and Joshua Smith were Defensive FORCES, clogging the middle, and working hard to force Montana State into low-percentage shots. The Bruin Defense — according to Howland after the game — was too lax against the three-point shot, but was tough as nails inside the arc.
While Jerime Anderson did not continue his fairly impressive run of surprisingly solid outings, Tyler Lamb — the other back-up Guard — made up for it. Lamb was 3-for-3 from the floor with 3 Assists, as he continues to catch up with the faster speed of the college game.
And as usual, Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson were indispensible. Nelson was the bigger factor earlier in the game, and Honeycutt shook off a slow start to make some key plays in the crucial second half run. However, Honeycutt sprained his shoulder, and had an ice pack strapped to it on the sidelines. He was scheduled to have an x-ray and MRI later in the evening, although after the game he said it felt okay. Howland was still showing caution, saying that Honeycutt probably would sit out Wednesday’s practice, as the rest of the team preps for their Thursday night game against UC Irvine.
Howland expects Honeycutt to be ready for UCI, but the three-Guard line-up that Ben employed at times against Montana State may come in handy if Honeycutt is limited on Thursday night.
The most important thing about the game against Montana State: When the going got tough, the Bruins didn’t panic like they did against Montana. Instead, they just hunkered down on Defense, and kept pounding it inside on Offense. This game’s turnaround could be a continuation of a turning point for the Bruins, who are showing more poise than they did prior to the BYU game. The team chemistry looks much better than a few weeks ago, and the team comraderie also appears to be much more solid. Even Reeves Nelson is getting along better with his teammates. For a team to be firing on all cylinders, they have to be having fun, and enjoying what they are doing, and that’s exactly what is transpiring for UCLA, just in time for the Conference Season.
Below are 21 photos from the Montana State game. Since the game was not on TV, and not everyone was able to watch the Internet braodcast, this might be the best view that some people will get — A view to a kill, ultimately.