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Mountain Dues — UCLA wins 9th straight game, after Travis Wear scores 9 straight points down stretch (and a career-high 23) to keep the Bruins from blowing a Second Half, 13-point lead against Colorado, 78-75

When the Bruins are forcing the pace, flying down the court in transition, and attacking the basket, they are tough to beat.  With their talented young athletes in high gear, UCLA builds up leads, and that’s exactly what happened on Saturday morning in Boulder, Colorado against the Buffaloes.  Halfway through the Second Half, after a 4-point play by a running and gunning Jordan Adams, the Bruins had built a 13-point lead against a very good Colorado team.  A couple of minutes later, Norman Powell hit a three to build the lead back up to 13.  But soon after that, Head Coach Ben Howland slowed down the pace, and had his team become much more methodical, milking the clock and trying to shorten the game.

With the Bruins out of their element, and with the crowd becoming a factor in this, the Bruins’ first weekend in a hostile environment, the Buffs were able to mount a comeback.  With most of the Bruins growing colder in Boulder, it was Travis Wear that got bolder in Boulder.  Travis simply took over the game, scoring 9 consecutive points for the Bruins, while the Buffaloes were seriously chipping away at the lead.

In the final moments, after Travis kept the Bruins in the lead, it came down to Free Throws.  Larry Drew II, Shabazz Muhammad, and Jordan Adams each missed one in the last minute, but Kyle Anderson made 4 in a row, Muhammad made one, and Adams made three, including two of two with 5 seconds left to put the Bruins up by 3 (after Colorado had cut the 13-point lead down to 1).  The Buffs got off a potentially game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer, but Drew pressured the shooter (nearly tragically fouling him), and the shot went awry, allowing the Bruins to escape with the 78-75 victory.

The 9-game winning streak — unthinkable after the 5-3 start and loss to Cal Poly SLO — makes the Bruins 14-3, and 4-0 in the Pac-12.  It is the longest UCLA winning streak since ’08-’09, and it will probably result in the Bruins re-entering the Top 25.  We have now watched the young Bruins come of age, heading out on the road into enemy territory for the first time, and toughing out a sweep.  The Bruins continue to lead the conference in CLOSE WINS, having earned 6 W’s in games decided by 5 points or less.  That’s amazing poise shown by 3 Freshman, along with Drew and Junior Travis Wear, without whom the Bruins would not be in celebration mode right now.

Muhammad — UCLA’s best player — did not have a great game, but he was picked up by Wear’s clutch shooting, Anderson’s double-double, and everyone else’s effort on both ends of the floor in another TEAM victory.  UCLA’s Man Defense continues to improve, with the double-teams down low flustering opponents into turnovers and bad shots.  Howland has done a number on this squad, turning them from a bunch of rag-tag phenoms into a cohesive unit that plays together with poise.

Now… if he can only trust them to continue to push and be aggressive down the stretch with the lead, maybe they can get some wins without sweating out the last few minutes.

And NOW, to celebrate the improbable 9-game winning streak, here are 20 new UCLA Cheerleader photos (from the 2012 Utah Football game).  Click on the photos, especially the first three, to ENLARGE them.

"BRUINS NO FOLDERS IN BOULDER" was published on January 13th, 2013 and is listed in Blue & Gold News, UCLA/usc/Cheerleader Photos.

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