After Dick-ing around through a long-running series of Cougar hits, the Bruins Bob and weave to Shrink an 11-point deficit, then Louden the Inn with Heart, Lee, and three (laying-the-) Woodsmen, in 80-71 victory
[Note: Sorry for the typo — Of course it was 80-71, not 80-51… 51 was the number of points UCLA scored in the Second Half)
With Carol-ing just barely done, a non-Cupcake on the schedule is not just what the Doctor ordered for UCLA. But when Ben Howland has a week to prepare, his Ratings are sky-high. Howland’s record in the first game of pairs is amazing, so when the Bruins gave up 15 straight points to Washington State to fall behind by 11 in the First Half on Wednesday night, UCLA did not panic. Instead, they settled down, and showed the courage and heart that was missing sometimes last season.
The Bruins cut the margin down to 8 at the break, then came out on fire in the Second Half. After getting outrebounded and outshot in the First Half, they started the Second with noticeably-increased energy, and with a sharper eye. Malcolm Lee had carried the Bruins in the First Half with 13 points, with help from Reeves Nelson, who had 8. But it was the awakening of Tyler Honeycutt that sparked the Bruins’ 21-6 surge after the Intermission. Honeycutt hit 2 Three’s and a Two, as the Bruins built a 6-point lead of their own. Then Nelson took over, scoring many of his 21 points with tough, sometimes acrobatic, inside moves. Lee also scored 21, including 3 Trey’s. And as always, Lee’s Defense on the opponents’ best player — in this case Klay Thompson — set the tone for the whole team’s tenacious defending. The WSU Guards were able to get penetration, but when they did, they ran into Joshua Smith, Nelson, Honeycutt, or Brendan Lane, who all altered shots and forced the Cougs into attempts to draw fouls. In general, the Refs “let them play,” allowing more contact than usual. However, Smith still picked up 4 fouls early, and Nelson also had to sit with 4 Personals, while the game was still up for grabs.
And just like he did against BYU, Howland risked it, by re-inserting both of them in the middle of the Second Half. And once again, it paid off. Neither one fouled out, and both of them were instrumental in helping the Bruins keep their lead around 6 points. Also instrumental was Point Guard Lazeric Jones, who picked a great time to find his nose for Assists. Jones set a new career-high for dimes, with ELEVEN (with no Turnovers until the game was well in hand).
Off the bench, Anthony Stover filled in with a few minutes of active defense, and Tyler Lamb spelled Lee on defending Thompson, and also added two very nice baskets. Jerime Anderson also played, and had one terrific Assist on a fast break. Speaking of nice passes, it was Honeycutt who threw THREE length-of-the-court bombs that broke the Cougars’ backs.
After scoring only 29 in the First Half, the Bruins exploded in the Second, for FIFTY-ONE. Better passing and shooting helped, but it was the intense Defense that really set them up — UCLA held WSU to 38% shooting after Intermission.
WSU is one of the better teams in the League, and during their 15-0 run, they looked like it. They ran good plays on Offense, moved well without the ball, and hit lots of mid-range jumpers cleanly. But when the Bruins ractheted down their D, the Cougars got out-of-sorts, lost patience, and tried to do too much individually. If the Bruins can maintain this Defensive mindset of intensity, it is possible that they can duplicate some of the success that they enjoyed during their back-to-back-to-back Final Four runs. No, this team is not as good as those past teams, but they are getting there. And WATCH OUT on Friday — Howland’s teams are not nearly as effective when he has only two days to prepare, and Washington — who beat sc in Overtime on Wednesday night — is the Pac-10’s highest-rated team. Hopefully, by forcing O.T., the trojans did UCLA a favor, and tired the Huskies out a little bit. But even tired, if THEY go on a 15-0 run, they will be tough to overcome.
Speaking of overcome, prepare yourself, or you may be overcome by these 16 photos, of the 5 members of the UCLA Dance Team who performed on Tuesday night, at the UCLA Women’s Basketball game — The Lady Bruins’ first loss of the year after 10 straight wins. Like the Men, the Women players showed heart, coming back from a late deficit, but it wasn’t quite enough in the 53-55 loss to LSU.