Here was the scenario at Maples Pavilion on the Stanford campus Thursday night as the Pacific-12 Conference opener between UCLA’s and Stanford’s basketball teams wound down:
UCLA with the ball, down by one with nine seconds left.
Lazeric Jones, who had the game of his life with a career-high 26 points, had the ball in his hands with a chance to win the game. The point guard got to inside the top of key, put up a five-foot shot, and…had it blocked by Josh Huestis.
“I made a mistake,” Jones said, lamenting that he should have passed the ball. “I wasn’t open.”
Five-game winning streak over.
Stanford 60 – UCLA 59, before an energetic near-capacity crowd of 6,777, leaving the Bruins with an 0-1 start in the Pac-12 (7-6 overall).
The frustrating part of this loss was the fact that Ben Howland’s crew had the chance to take the lead 13 times, including in the last possession, and failed to come through each time.
Missing nine of 24 free throws and shooting 33% in the first half didn’t help, either, as was Joshua Smith fouling out; he scored ten points and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes, but was in foul trouble all night.
The Bruins are now 0-5 all-time when Smith gets five fouls.
David Wear, scoring-wise, had his worst game as a Bruin as the Cardinal completely shut him down. Though the forward’s eight rebounds led the team, he made just one of eight shots in the game.
Jerime Anderson likewise had a bad night, making just two of his nine shots.
Tyler Lamb did well in hitting two clutch baskets down the stretch to put UCLA in a position to win it, scoring ten points on the night, all in the second half, and countering Aaron Bright’s clutch shooting: 16 points to lead Stanford, including four three-pointers.
The Bruins also did well in switching to a zone defense – once again – after they fell behind in the first half using man-to-man, as the Cardinal held a one-point lead at halftime after an early surge.
You definitely can’t fault UCLA for their effort, but as they say, there’s no such thing as a moral victory.
UCLA lost, and a loss is a loss.
Now the Bruins have to regroup, work on what they need to work on – free throws, improving their shooting percentage and keeping Smith’s fouls to a minimum – and try to beat a Cal team in Berkeley on Saturday that, frankly, is better than Stanford.
An 0-2 start in the conference would be bad, very bad, and UCLA needs to step it up if they want to avoid that.