The curse in LA continues.
After chipping a
16-point first half deficit all the way down to three, the Cardinal would come
up short again in Southern California, falling to the UCLA Bruins 72-61.
one was there for the taking, too. Despite sloppy basketball and poor first-half
shooting, the Farm Boys were in this one. Up through the under-four timeout in
the second half, the Cardinal refused to go away.
And then, much like the
end of the Arizona game last Saturday, Stanford imploded. Out of the media
timeout and down 56-53 with 3:44 to go in the game and eight ticks on the shot
clock, the Cardinal had the ball sideline out-of-bounds. UCLA fronted everyone,
denied any potential inbounds pass and got the five-count on Stanford. Lazeric Jones hits a three the next time down, Josh Owens misses a shot, UCLA goes up
eight, Cardinal turns it over on their return trip, UCLA goes up 10, Stanford
turns it over again, you get the picture.
For so long in this game,
Stanford had withstood every UCLA spurt. Frankly, the Cardinal were lucky to
only be down eight at the half. UCLA had a 19-2 run in the first half to race
out to a 25-9 lead in which the Bruins could do no wrong and the Cardinal no
right. Lazeric Jones and Co. were penetrating at will and couldn't be stopped;
their first five field goals were all in the paint. It was looking like Layup
City in Lob Angeles there for more than a second.
On the other side of
the court, it looked like Arizona all over again, with the exception of the
scarcity of turnovers the last home game had to offer. When Stanford wasn't
turning it over, they weren't able to create any open shots for themselves after
Zimmermann knocked down a couple of outside jumpers.
And then Chasson Randle happened. He somehow hit an off-hand seven-footer in traffic, followed it
up with a three, and the offense really started to open up from there. The
post-to-post passing was effective, resulting in a Dwight Powell and-1 later on
in the half from a Zimmermann feed.
Eventually, Stanford settled down on
the defensive end, holding the Bruins to 10 points over the final nine minutes
and change of the opening frame. Thus, when Chasson Randle to hit a left
baseline three right before the buzzer sounded, it was just a 35-27 game at the
Thirty-two percent shooting. Thirteen first half turnovers. Yet it
was only an eight point game. It started to have the feel of the Oregon State
roadie, where the Cardinal got down huge in the first half and cut it to single
digits by 20 minutes' end.
Turns out it was only my wishful thinking, but
that's not before Stanford closed the gap even further. The Cardinal started out
the second half wonderfully, forcing a turnover on UCLA's first possession,
which Stanford finished off on the other end in transition thanks to a Chasson
Randle and-1 to cut the lead to five. The second half would be played mostly in
that three-to-ten point range until UCLA's 10-0 run late.
didn't let UCLA go on that killer run for much of the second half because of its
use of the zone, which really flustered the Bruins. Lazeric Jones, who
absolutely slaughtered Stanford's man D, couldn't do nearly as much work. And,
with Josh Smith largely out of the game due to foul trouble (more on that
later), the Bruins were unable to pound it down low. UCLA took its turn being
the team to be sloppy with the rock. And, despite being in a zone, the Cardinal
were able to rebound very well in the second half.
The problem as far as
closing the gap completely on the Bruins, then, wasn't the defense. Rather, it
was Stanford's inability to get a decent look once they really got within
striking distance. Whenever Stanford got the lead down to three or four points
in the second half, Stanford was very good at getting the next stop - on
numerous occasions, Stanford followed up a basket with a forced turnover to get
it right back. Unfortunately, the Cardinal would be unable to get off a clean
look once they got it back.
Whether it was a turnover, a contested look
from outside or Zimmermann getting blocked by four-fouls-Josh Smith (upon
further review, there had to be some contact there, but I guess you're not going
to call it in that situation. Just like the refs let Darren Collison and
Lawrence Hill play on with the game on the line in 2008, RIGHT?!?!?!?!),
Stanford never really gave themselves the opportunity to really make things
hairy. We all know a bear takes a deuce in the woods, but a Bruin or two might
have also been taking a leak in the city had Stanford found a way to really take
that next step in Thursday night's game.
In other situations, Stanford
players simply weren't ready to shoot. There were times where guys passed up
open jumpers, especially during that 56-53 possession that took the game to the
A lot of the negatives we've mentioned. Stanford has
had some turnover trouble in the past, but this was a conference season-high -
21 in all. Some credit definitely goes to the UCLA defense, which was as active
and in-your-shorts as Ben Howland likes it, but there were a lot of lazy or
off-target post entry passes from the perimeter as well.
For the second
straight game, Stanford has gotten a key opposing player into extreme foul
trouble. For the second straight game, that key opposing player didn't foul out.
Stanford did try on a couple of occasions to get Josh Smith out of there for
good (Josh Owens trying to take him off the dribble from the top of the key,
which Smith played beautifully; Andrew Zimmermann going right at Josh Smith,
which was considered a block, as stated earlier), but Smith never picked up
number five. The other big Josh - Stanford's Owens - did pick up number five,
but by that time, it hardly mattered.
Offensively, Stanford wasn't able
to get off a desirable look in a lot of key situations. Whenever Stanford
penetrated, there was never the look out to the perimeter. This worked at times,
but others the penetrator would throw up a rushed shot or something over
multiple defenders. The penetration and pitch is something that is currently
missing from the Stanford attack.
On the other hand, Stanford did do some
things well. That zone was very effective, packed in and unwilling to let UCLA
penetrate like they did against the man.
The free-throw shooting was pretty
exceptional - I will take 77 percent charity stripe efficiency any night of the
week, especially on the road. What I was impressed with on that front was the
and-1 free-throwing, something Stanford has had a good bit of trouble with this
year. In and-1 situations tonight, the Cardinal did not miss. It was a very
small sample size, but still.
Overall, Stanford shot it much better than
they did against Arizona. Thirty-nine percent certainly isn't something you tell
a woman in the courtship phase, but it's also something you don't lie about in
hopes of getting a second date, either. And, coming off a 25 percent outing,
22-56 almost looks great.
Chasson Randle played like a man, and was the
only reason Stanford was able to make it a game in that first half. It goes
without saying he is the real deal, and with some time, he will become "that
guy" who can take over a game and win it.
Dwight Powell continues to play
aggressive basketball and is really coming along much better as the season
progresses. Josh Huestis proved himself again to be one of the best shot
blockers in the conference. Aaron Bright tried to make a dollar out of 15 cents
when the game was seemingly out of reach, scoring on a couple of layups late to
make the Bruins use extra elbow grease to seal the deal.
All in all
though, this was a painful night. Ever since the Stanford basketball family
opened its doors to one Kevin Peter Danna (October 14, 2005, for those scoring
at home), its teams have yet to produce a win at UCLA or at USC. And, more than
once, the game has been up for grabs. For the UCLA games, those winnable ones
have been on the even years- 2008, 2010 and now 2012. And, since 2008, nothing
has hurt more than losing in Los Angeles.
Now it's USC time, and God
have mercy on my soul if the Trojans fight on to victory on Sunday. The
fourteenth try at a win in Los Angeles will be Stanford's best shot to get a win
down under. This game against the Bruins figured to be a tough one to eek out,
especially with the way things have been trending, but the USC game appears to
be money in the bank.
But who knows, wins come a lot tougher when you're
trying to break a losing streak. Just look back to 2009, when a Stanford team
that had lost its three previous conference games went into Eugene to take on
0-14 Oregon and lost (I still have a hard time forgiving myself for not making
the flight up to that game. I figured it was in the bag, so why fly?). A win on
Sunday would be huge, even if it is against the worst team in the conference,
but especially since it has been so long since the Cardinal's last victory on
the road in LA.
Eventually, the monkey has to jump off the Cardinal's
collective back, right?
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And 1: UCLA 72, Stanford 61
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