Coming into Saturday afternoon's game versus UCLA, Stanford was licking its wounds after another tough, one-point loss on the road versus USC. Fans were hoping for the huge upset at Pauley Pavilion against the recently dominant Bruins, however, the only thing huge about this game was the final margin of victory as UCLA dominated Stanford after a competitive first 13 minutes, defeating the Cardinal, 97-63. It was the worst loss in the series for Stanford since a 101-64 loss in Westwood during the 1977-78 season.
While the game didn't get truly out of hand until the second half of play, it didn't look promising as UCLA started off hot, gaining an 11-4 advantage out of the gates, capped off by a Nikola Dragovic three-pointer. The Cardinal, though, would not back down, getting key hoops from everyone in the starting lineup, including five points from Anthony Goods. His long ball off an assist from Mitch Johnson capped a 14-7 run over a 4:23 stretch, tying the game at 20 and giving Stanford a sorely needed boost after the slow start.
However, UCLA would go on its own run spurned by hot shooting and Cardinal turnovers, scoring 11 of the next 12 points to put UCLA up double digits for the first time, 31-21. UCLA threatened to put the game out of reach soon after, increasing the lead to 14 on two occasions, but a Will Paul three-pointer at the halftime buzzer left Stanford within 11 at the break, 41-30.
As a team, Stanford shot 52% from the field, 50% from the three-point line, 53% inside the arc, and was 3-5 from the free throw line. UCLA also hit 52% from the field, including 88% (7 of 8) from beyond the arc, 38% inside the three-point area, and was a perfect 4-4 from the charity stripe. Despite a nearly 2:1 ratio in turnovers and incredible shooting by the Bruins from outside, the Cardinal were still within striking distance and had not played its best basketball in that first half. Would the second half bring better times for Stanford?
Sadly, the best moment of the second half would be 10 seconds in when Goods made a three-pointer to cut the lead down single digits, 41-33. Little did the Cardinal know that they were about to be blitzed right out of Pauley by a deluge of accurate shooting by the Bruins, a plethora of misses on the offensive end, and a slew of turnovers which turned a once close game to a blowout before the second media time out.
After a Johnson free throw made it 43-34, UCLA would score the next 19 points of the game over a 4:41 stretch, including six lay-ups, a jumper, a three-pointer, and two free throws, to go up by 28, leaving the Cardinal's hopes in their dust. Even after Goods ended the run with a three-pointer, UCLA would keep the pressure up, eventually stretching their lead to 31, making 13 of its first 15 shots in the second half. Stanford, on the other hand, made just three field goals in the first 11 minutes of the second stanza, aiding the UCLA rout.
Stanford would make one final run, outscoring UCLA 10-4 over a stretch, but that would get them no closer than 24 the rest of the way, using a variety of players up and down the bench to finish off the brutal loss. The only thing left in the balance was whether or not UCLA would score 100 points on Stanford, a feat no team has accomplished versus the Cardinal since Stanford lost 103-68 to USC in the 2002 Pac-10 quarterfinals. A final turnover by the Bruins bench with under 30 seconds to play put that possibility out of reach as Stanford would just hold the ball in its final possession.
For the game, Stanford was led by Goods' 15 points on 4-8 shooting, followed by nine from Landry Fields on just 4 of 13 shooting. Both led the team with five rebounds. UCLA had a trio of players, Alfred Aboya, Darren Collison, and Jrue Holliday, score 15 each on a combined 18 of 26 from the field (69%). Michael Roll added 12 off the bench, aided by 3-3 shooting from the outside, while senior Josh Shipp had 11.
From the field, Stanford finished the game shooting just 39% from the field, including a paltry 28% in the second half. The Cardinal made 33% of its long distance shots, 42% of its shots from inside the arc, and was 16-23 (70%) from the free throw line. UCLA finished the game at a blistering 63% from the field, including a baffling 74% (23-31) in the second half. The Bruins made 11 of 15 shots from beyond the three-point line (73%) and 60% inside the arc, including 79% in the second half (19-24). In fact, UCLA shot worse from the free-throw line, making 62.5% from the charity stripe, than the field, where they officially finished the game at 63.3%.
The Bruins outrebounded Stanford 35-27 and passed out 21 assists to just 13 for the Cardinal. The Bruins also outscored the Cardinal 42-18 in the paint (32-8 in the second half), got 25 points off 19 Stanford miscues, compared to just 10 Cardinal points off 13 UCLA turnovers, and had 12 second chance points versus only two for Stanford, a paltry number considering the Cardinal gathered 10 offensive rebounds for the contest.
The Cardinal end the first half of conference play with a 3-6 record, a far cry from the mark some folks thought they may have after starting off the season with a 10-0 record and all the confidence in the world heading into league play. The fact that the Cardinal were just six points away from being 6-3 is a painful one to swallow, however, the glaring problems on the defensive end, including the lack of size or experience inside, continue to show why pundits believed this Stanford team would finish ninth in conference. That Stanford exceeded these expectations early this season is commendable and points directly to the job Johnny Dawkins and his staff did leading up to this year, but unfortunately, with the level of play kicked up a notch or two over the non-conference slate, the weaknesses are being exposed at an alarming rate, especially when they've played the cream of the crop in Pac-10.
Stanford has at the very least 11 games left this season, including road trips to Cal, the Oregon schools, and the Arizona programs, home games against the Washington and LA duos, a non-conference tilt versus CSU Bakersfield, and a Pac-10 tournament game. To realistically have a shot at making the postseason of any shape or form, they'll have to find a way to win at least five of those games over this stretch to merit any consideration, especially if you factor in their non-league strength of schedule. Their final stretch run begins on Thursday night when they host the Washington State Cougars at 7:30pm. Will the Cardinal avenge their one-point loss up in Pullman and perhaps springboard their chances in the second half of conference play with a win at home or will today's loss to UCLA cast a dark cloud over Stanford that could last until the end of the season and perhaps beyond? We shall see…
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