Stanford Controls UCLA, 86-76

The Cardinal get their record 5th win in Pauley in a row, outplaying the Bruins in just about every facet of the game Thursday night...

The 17th ranked Stanford Cardinal (12-4, 5-2) outplayed 13th ranked UCLA (13-5, 5-3) in all facets of the game last night, riding into town with superior game preparation from its coaches and then showing poise and defense when it counted most down the stretch to pull away from a tight game for the final margin of victory.

Stanford has won every game this season where it outrebounded its opponents, and last night was no exception as the Cardinal seemed to dominate the glass more than its final 45-37 margin might suggest.  The Cardinal scored a lot of points off the offensive glass in the first half, when the Bruins were hot from the field and scoring with almost as much ease as Stanford.  Indeed, the Bruins led for much of the first half, sometimes by as much as 8 points, but UCLA couldn't sustain its momentum or its lead.

The Cardinal feasted on the baseline, where both Casey Jacobsen and Josh Childress seemed able to score at will off the high picks set up on the wing by Curtis Borchardt, Justin Davis, Rob Little and Teyo Johnson.  Apparently, no one on the UCLA staff had noticed that Josh always goes to his left, and none of the UCLA players figured it out either.  Once Casey or Josh drove into the lane, Curtis or whoever was setting the pick would head towards the basket and snare the miss, if the shot was missed.

So, the Cardinal were basically getting a layup at one end while UCLA was looking for the more difficult long 3 or lob dunk at the other.  Inevitably, Dan Gadzuric got into foul trouble again.  Stanford seemed to be ready to pull away late in the first half, with a 38-33 lead and possession, when Lavin inserted Dan back in the game.  UCLA came back and tied the Cardinal, but Dan was called for his 3rd foul with 2 minutes left in the half.  Stanford led 42-40 at halftime.

The second half became a defensive war, as UCLA did a better job of controlling the baseline and evening things out on the boards.  Stanford, on the other hand, took advantage of Dan's absence by extending their defense and switching aggressively all over the floor, effectively shutting down UCLA's two top scorers, Jason Kapono and Billy Knight, who, unlike Casey, Josh or Julius Barnes, can't take advantage of switches by putting the ball on the floor to penetrate into the lane.  The final 20 minutes looked a lot like last year's game at Pauley, with similar results:  Matt drove at will, piling up points and drawing fouls, but the rest of his team became very quiet.

Unfortunately, Matt was only 1-6 from the FT line during a key stretch where UCLA went from a 56-53 lead to a 60-57 deficit between the 12 and 8 minute marks.  2 Ced Bozeman bricks and clutch Casey 3 later and the Cardinal were up 63-57.  Now, it seemed as if Stanford hit every key shot, with Casey knocking down another 3, Julius popping in a tough 2 with a hand right in his face.  At the other end, the Bruins seemed to panic and began firing up wild shots and committing fouls on every possession.  The Cardinal used the Bruin route to extend the final score.

Julius Barnes has played a large role in many Stanford wins, and he scored a bunch of points last night, but his best work might have been at the defensive end, where he locked up Billy Knight for the entire game.  Julius got 23 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 turnovers, making 7-12 FGs and 8-8 FTs.  Casey added 20 points and 5 rebounds on 6-19 shooting from the floor and 5-8 from the FT line.  Josh Childress added 14 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks, and big Curtis Borchardt had 13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.  Rob Little had 6 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks in 14 minutes in an excellent performance off the bench.

Matt led UCLA with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals, but those 5 missed FTs in the second half really hurt.  Dan got 19 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals in 20 minutes, but couldn't guard 3 guys at once, which is what his perimeter defenders made him do in the first half.  Jason added 16 points and 6 rebounds, but hit only 1 of his last 5 3s and seemed to be going one-on-one a lot instead of trying to run the offense.  TJ Cummings had one of his best recent performances, with 11 points and 4 rebounds in 18 minutes, but apart from a couple of sequences remains a liability on d.  Billy was held to a quiet 7 points and 3 rebounds, while Ced Bozeman only managed 1 point, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 32 minutes.  On the good side, Ced didn't turn the ball over (the Bruins had 9 turnovers total, the only positive stat in the game).

The Bruins made only 40.3% of their shots, 54.8% of their FTs and 33.3% of their 3s in an abysmal performance which reflects both Stanford's excellent defense and UCLA's lack of poise.  Stanford hit 49.1% of its FGs, 67.6% of its FTs and 41.2% of its 3s, reflecting its superior poise and UCLA's defensive lapses, most of which came in the first half.

This marks the second consecutive time that the Bruins have lost a winnable game in the final 10 minutes, mainly because of a lack of poise and leadership, either on the floor or on the bench.  Although a coach can't shoot FTs for his players, he can, in Lavin's own words, "put his players in a position to win."  Saturday's game against Cal will let us know if the Bruins have just hit a plateau from which they are going to rise, or whether they've hit a wall from which they might have to be peeled like Wile E. Coyote in one of those Road Runner cartoons.            

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