Blue Power — Washington State’s “Grey Out” fails to oppress UCLA, who fights back from 15 down, forces Overtime on two Malcolm Lee Free Throws, then wins it on four more Lee Free Throws, 58-54
Chalk this one up to Marijuana. With Washington State’s star player Klay(Pipe) Thompson suspended after getting busted for Pot, UCLA barely escaped Pullman with a 58-54 Overtime victory, that could have easily gone the other way. It’s hard to believe that the Bruins had such a hard time, considering that not only Thompson was out, but WSU’s other leading threat Reggie Moore was also unavailable, after spraining his ankle on Thursday night. But Thompson gave a stirring, tear-filled pep-talk/speech before the game, that fired up the Cougar crowd, especially the 1500 grey-clad fanatics who received and donned special grey T-shirts upon entry into the arena.
That extra energy and emotion fed WSU, who played inspired ball for the first 20 minutes. Their Zone Defense shut down the Bruins, allowing the Cougs to build a 15-point lead. Only 3 Bruins scored in the 1st Half, which ended 32-19. Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith scored 15 of the 19, with the Bruins not getting a single point from outside. It was so out of control, that Ben Howland had to use 4 of his allotted (for the game) 5 Time Outs before the Break.
Howland couldn’t inspire his team during any of those Time Outs, but he ultimately figured out what to say, and during Halftime, he said it — and it definitely got through. The Bruins came out of the locker room a completely different team. Instead of getting repeatedly burned on Cougar Backdoor plays like they did in the 1st Half, they tightened up the Defense, while continuing to pound the ball inside on Offense. UCLA went on a 20-5 run, to take a 39-37 lead halfway through the 2nd Half. Coincidentally, the Bruins did the same thing against the Cougs earlier this year in Pauley, going on a 20-6 run after Intermission. This time they did it with Nelson leading the way, by getting himself open under the basket AND converting, for a game-high 23 Points.
The Bruins also got ahead with Offensive Rebounding — When they took a 43-39 lead with 7 minutes left, they had a 13-0 advantage in 2nd Chance Points. But just like Thursday, the Bruins went flat with about 6 minutes to go. On Thursday night, they gave up a 14-0 run; On Saturday, they went 6 and a half minutes without scoring, as WSU went on an 8-0 run. The score was 47-43 WSU with a minute to go, when Tyler Honeycutt, who had been having another rough game, hit a Three-pointer. Then WSU got a Free Throw to make it a 2-point lead, after which Malcolm Lee got fouled on an aggressive drive to the hoop.
Malcolm calm-Lee swished both shots to tie the game, with 8.9 seconds left, then WSU missed a long jumper, and the game went into O.T. The Bruins went ahead on two Nelson lay-ins and a difficult Honeycutt short banker, which put them up by 5. But WSU came back — with Defensive specialist Lee on bench with an injured knee — to tie it back up, with 1:15 left. On the next possession, the best UCLA could do was a Nelson Three-pointer, which he airballed. Smith got the Rebound, but his putback missed the iron, so a shot-clock violation was called. Then, with 40 seconds left, WSU had a chance to go ahead, but Honeycutt knocked a pass away, and Nelson collected it. He fed Lee on a fast break, Lee was fouled, and calm-Lee sank two more Free Throws. WSU still had 7 seconds to tie or win it, but Jerime Anderson knocked the inbounds pass off of a Cougar and out of bounds to UCLA. The Cougs fouled Lee, who calm-Lee swished two more Free Throws, and that was the game.
So despite the horrendous 1st Half that showed a serious lack of effort and focus by UCLA, the Bruins were able to snap out of it, behind Smith’s inside presence, Nelson’s agility inside, Anderson’s REBOUNDING (!), a few clutch shots by Honeycutt, a couple of key Steals, Lee’s Defense (holding WSU’s remaining star to 4-17 from the field), and Lee’s poise from the Charity Stripe. The win clinches 2nd Place in the Pac-10, and the #2 Seed in the Pac-10 Tourney. That #2 Seed is important because now they get to play a team that has to play a do-or-die game the night before, which should tire that team out a bit. The #3 Seeded Huskies will not have the same luxury as UCLA.
As a Bruin fan, you can look at Saturday’s game in one of two ways, depending on what type of fan you choose to be. You can lament the humiliating ineptitude of the 1st Half, against a severely short-handed opponent, in a place where the Bruins haven’t lost in 18 years, or you can celebrate the tenacity, heart, adjustments, and clutch performances of the 2nd Half, on the road in a very hostile environment. The choice is yours.