The Stanford Cardinal, fresh off a road split versus the Washington schools, were looking to begin their final homestand of the season with a bang. UCLA, winners of nine of their last 10, including an earlier comeback win against the Cardinal in Westwood, had other plans coming into Thursday night's contest. The Bruins never trailed, but had to endure a furious rally by Stanford that fell short as UCLA defeated Stanford 69-65. UCLA moves to 19-7, 10-3 in conference play, while Stanford drops to 13-12, 6-8 in the Pac-10.
"They did a good job executing…defensively they were really sound," opined Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins after the game. "We executed fairly well at times," but in the end the coach said "we didn't deserve it."
After two Jeremy Green free throws cut the lead to 10 with 5:35, Tyler Honeycutt drained the biggest shot of the game, making a three-pointer with a hand squarely in his face with mere seconds remaining on the shot clock, pushing the Bruins lead back to 13. Anthony Brown countered with his own long ball, but the damage had apparently been done to the Cardinal psyche, until one last flurry got Stanford within four with 1:12 left to go after a top-of-the-key three-pointer from Green. After a Reeves Nelson charge, Green couldn't get a shot off, but Honeycutt missed two freebies, giving Stanford one last shot. Unfortunately, Green narrowly missed the three-pointer with 22 ticks left. Nelson was fouled intentionally on a breakaway attempt with 13 seconds remaining. The sophomore calmly drained his free throws, ultimately sealing the deal for the Bruins.
After the contest, UCLA head coach Ben Howland said "That's a great win for us on the road. It's good to get into double figures (in wins) in the conference. We're now 18-0 with a 10-point lead. We're great for television ratings, for keeping the fans involved for the sponsors all the way to the very end. We should get some accommodation for that, I think."
Green finished the game with 27 points on 9-16 shooting, including 5-8 from downtown, in 37 minutes of play. Brown was next in line with 15 points, followed by Josh Owens' 12. UCLA was led by Nelson's 18 on 5-8 shooting, including 8-10 from the charity stripe, along with seven rebounds. Honeycutt scored 16 and big man Joshua Smith came off the bench to score 13 points and grab a game-high nine boards.
"Honeycutt got us going early in the game by knocking down a bunch of shots, which was good for him," said Howland. "We still are making turnovers which we are forcing ourselves; we need to grow and get better at that."
Up eight after the under-12 minute timeout, the Bruins established their dominance inside and outside as Nelson went inside for an easy two, Lazeric Jones drained a three-pointer, and Lee hit a long jumper to put UCLA back up 13, 54-41, with 9:18 to go. The Cardinal offense, which had been stymied once again by both good defense and questionable shot selection, finally stopped the bleeding with a long two-pointer by Green. A long left-wing three by the junior edged the lead down to 11, giving the home team some life coming down the stretch.
To win this game, Stanford needed to play the full 40 minutes, but to do that, Dawkins said, the team needed to be "defending at the level we need to" to be successful, something that was lacking as UCLA shot well from inside and outside the three-point line as the stats showed for the contest.
The Cardinal shot 44% from the field and 47% beyond the arc, but regressed at the free throw line, making just eight out of 14 attempts (57%) for the night. UCLA finished the game making 47% of their field goal attempts, 53% outside the three-point line, and 64% (16-25) at the charity stripe. UCLA outrebounded Stanford 35-26, including 10-7 on the offensive glass. The Cardinal tallied 13 assists and 12 turnovers, while UCLA also had 13 assists, but committed 17 turnovers.
Stanford came out of the locker room hoping to cut into the deficit, but a stretch of missed opportunities on the offensive ends and a couple of powerful dunks on the UCLA end of things gave the visitors their first double-digit lead of the game, 42-31 with 16:39 left in the game. The lead would grow to 13 before Stanford ran off seven straight points with buckets from Andrew Zimmerman, Owens, and Green to get within two possessions at 47-41 with 11:42 to go in the contest. Unfortunately, Stanford's run stalled and UCLA began to pull away.
Both teams started off the game hot from the field, especially from outside, as Honeycutt hit two long balls and another near three-pointer to give UCLA an early 11-8 advantage. Stanford cut the lead to one, 15-14, after a Green jumper from the right with 12:13 remaining in the first half. The Bruins countered with a long 7-1 run to boost their lead to six before a Brown three-pointer and fast break alley-oop from Mann to Owens brought the home team back within one with just over seven minutes to go. Stanford eventually tied it after a long Brown jumper, but the Bruins scored the next eight, capped by a Lee trifecta from the right wing, to put UCLA up 31-23. Stanford would get no closer than four before finishing the half down seven, 36-29.
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