Smith’s Re’s, Lee’s D, Nine Three’s, and Reeves’ Free’s tease Trees — B’s seize another V (without ease, if you please), as UCLA leaves Maples with their 6th straight win, 69-65
Shoo, Trees! UCLA had trouble putting away Stanford on Thursday night, letting the Cardinal whittle a 16-point lead down to 4 with a minute to go. And after that, Stanford got two Offensive chances to cut it to a 1-possession game, but missed their shots, allowing UCLA to escape Palo Alto with a 69-65 triumph.
UCLA never trailed in this Road contest, although the first half was close throughout. Tyler Honeycutt got the Bruins off and running, hitting 4 early shots and scoring 10 of the Bruins’ first 19 points, all of which came from outside. The Cardinal tied the game at 23, but then the Bruins ran off 8 straight points to take control.
The Bruins led by 7 at the Break, 36-29, with Honeycutt leading the scoring with 13 (and in Turnovers with 3). In the second half, Honeycutt scored only 3 more points, and their leading scorer on the season, Malcolm Lee was also quiet Offensively, but Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith picked up the slack. The UCLA strong men outmuscled Stanford for 18 & 13 Points, and 7 & 9 Rebounds, as the Bruins built the lead up to 16 with about 8 minutes to play. Joshua was a beast in the paint, getting putbacks, and getting fouled, while Nelson kept exploiting seams to drive to the hoop. On Defense, the Bruins held Stanford to 44% shooting, with a couple of key Blocks as usual, and with Malcolm Lee generally frustrating Cardinal scoring leader Jeremy Green until the last few minutes.
But when the Bruins were cruising with the double-digit lead, Stanford didn’t quit and finally got hot from the floor. As UCLA was trying to milk the clock, the Trees hit 3 straight 3’s to suddenly cut the lead from 13 to 4, with 1:10 left. And it’s not like the Bruins showed perfect poise at that point to put it away: First, Nelson committed a Charging Foul to turn the ball back over to Stanford, and then after a Cardinal miss, Honeycutt bricked up his 2nd and 3rd straight missed Free Throws. But Stanford missed again, allowing Nelson to put the game away from the Charity Stripe. Nelson, usually the worst Free Throw shooter of all the regulars, hit 6 of 8 in the closing moments to ice the game. Nelson’s rep for missing FT’s actually caused Stanford to repeatedly foul him on purpose during their comeback, but the strategy didn’t work. The fact that the Bruins outrebounded Stanford 35-26, and hit 9 of 17 Three-pointers didn’t hurt either.
Despite the fact that the Bruins seem to blow every big lead they ever get, the team is now 18-and-0 when leading a game by at least 10 points. I know there is a reader here who bemoans the Bruins’ lack of a killer instinct, and their tendency to turn off the aggressiveness when ahead by a bunch, but you can’t ignore that Howland’s clock-milking technique has led to that impressive 18-0 stat. Sure, it doesn’t look pretty when they constantly ALMOST blow it, but if they DIDN’T slow it down, maybe they would get surpassed on the scoreboard? Of course, it sure would be nice to win one by 30, for a change. One silver lining of blowing these leads is that the Bruins have lots of experience in nail-biters. That experience should help their poise come postseason play. And speaking of postseason play, the Bruins, now having won 10 of their last 11 and 6 in a row, are ALMOST guaranteed a spot in The Dance, barring a total, winless collapse the rest of the way.
And speaking of Dancing, here are 10 more shots of the UCLA Dance Team and Cheer Squad, from last week’s Oregon game (after today’s headline photo of Joshua).