Once again, just when you thought this basketball team of UCLA’s was done for the season and going to be a whipping post for most of the remaining opponents on their schedule, which would have been understandable considering their atrocious performance against Cal in Berkeley…
It was plain to see at Maples Pavilion on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto that these Bruins, while I wouldn’t say that they were desperate, played with an intense determination and did what they had to do in beating the Cardinal, 88-80, before 6,562 fans that I’m sure were expecting to see UCLA get swept.
The freshman trifecta really showed their true colors on Saturday as Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson combined for 63 of the Bruins’ 88 points, with Muhammad’s 25 leading everyone. Adams contributed 20, and Anderson’s 13 rebounds complimented his 16 points rather well.
Plus they shot well; Muhammad making nine of his 14 shots while Adams went seven-of-nine and Anderson went six-for-12 from the floor.
In a classic stating-the-obvious fashion, Muhammad said after the win, “We needed this game. We couldn’t go 0-2 on this trip.”
Which thanks to him, his three-point basket with around two minutes left in which he was fouled and converted the free throw for a four-point play that essentially stuck the dagger in Stanford’s hopes, and his two first-year mates as well as Larry Drew’s 14 points and seven assists, they avoided doing as UCLA matched their win total of last season – 19 – to go with their seven losses.
The Bruins’ 9-4 mark in the Pac-12 has left them tied for second place with Arizona, a game behind 10-3 Oregon with five conference games left before the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
In what was a much better all-around performance – save for the rebounding as they were beaten on the boards yet again with no other Bruin getting more than four rebounds after Anderson’s 13 – Ben Howland’s bunch shot 54% while holding Stanford to 38.5%, which I’m positive silenced their 6th Man Club and pretty much every other fan wearing Cardinal red in that Maples Pavilion house.
What I’m particularly glad about regarding this win is not only how UCLA fought back after their embarrassment at Cal, but also the fact that the Bruins now have a whole week off to practice and prepare before taking on their crosstown rival, USC, for the second time to try and get some payback for that overtime loss that the Trojans put on them in Pauley Pavilion.
Being that before ‘SC’s loss to Cal on Sunday night, they had won four straight contests and remain perhaps the Pac-12’s hottest team, one that’s in the thick of the conference race as those Trojans are only two games out of first place at 7-5, and being that this rematch is at the Galen Canter on their campus, beating USC will not be an easy task.
A preview of the UCLA – USC hoops rematch will appear on L.A. Sports Hub later this week.
USC Trojans, Galen Center, Los Angeles, CA – Sunday, February 24, 12:30 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket