UCLA Basketball: Bruins Win Three But Lose To Cal


For the past few weeks, UCLA has been winning in a not-always-pretty way, going through lulls where they either fall behind and catch up, or play well and hold on.

That trend continued for Ben Howland’s team as they swept the Oregon schools – again – at Pauley Pavilion, then beat Stanford in Palo Alto before experiencing the proverbial wake-up call and reality check in Berkeley against the California Golden Bears, leaving them 19-8 overall and solidly in second place in the Pacific-10 Conference with a 10-4 record.

Oregon and Oregon State were handled fairly well by the Bruins in front of the home folks. Malcolm Lee scored 25 points in a good, hard fought 64-54 win against the Ducks which saw the two teams tied in the middle of the second half. UCLA, in out rebounding their Duck friends 41-28, pulled away at the end.

They then proceeded to manhandle Oregon’s Civil War rivals, the Oregon State’s Beavers, 69-61 in a contest where the score wasn’t as close as indicated, as OSU scored a bunch of points in garbage time to make the final margin what it was. UCLA was a swat machine in blocking 16 shots, led by Tyler Honeycutt’s eight. Malcolm Lee led again with 19 points, and center Joshua Smith contributed 15 points and six rebounds.

The Bruins then hit the road to the Bay Area.

This past Thursday night saw them at Maples Pavilion against the Cardinal of Stanford, who made a late charge in the second half to make the affair a little nail-biting, but UCLA held on for the 69-65 victory. Three Bruins scored in double figures – Reeves Nelson had 18 points, followed by Honeycutt with 16 and Smith with 13 to go along with his nine rebounds. They shot 53% from three-point range, which was much needed as Stanford refused to go away.

Then they arrived at Haas Pavilion on the U.C. Berkeley campus, where reality set in.

The Bruins executed poorly in the first half as they scored just 18 points and fell behind by 11. They needed a three-point basket that bounced in at the buzzer by Lee, who was outstanding in scoring 19 points and making all ten of his free throws, to force overtime.

Jorge Gutierrez, however, was a complete Bruin killer as he scored a career-high 34 points in the Bears’ 76-72 win, accounting for almost half of Cal’s scoring by himself. He was 11-of-21 from the field and only missed one of his 12 free throw attempts, grabbing six steals and three rebounds in the process; he played like he should have been in the NBA All-Star Game down the road in Los Angeles as the Cal students stormed the court afterward.

UCLA turned the ball over 18 times and gave up 16 offensive rebounds, which undoubtedly contributed to their demise. “This kind of levels us and gets us back down and saying we’ve got to start from square one again…”, said Lee afterward. Honeycutt scored 14 points, but Smith was ineffective in scoring just six before fouling out.

With four regular season games left, the next two weeks are crucial for the Bruins. Arizona State and 12th ranked Arizona, who at 23-4 (12-2 in the Pac-10) are likely to move up in the polls, come to Pauley Pavilion next weekend, then they finish the conference campaign at Washington, who’s right behind UCLA in the standings, and Washington State.

If they are to be solid for the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins must win at least three of those contests if not sweep all four. For that to happen, they absolutely must put together complete games and cut down the turnovers and second shots.

These next four games will see what UCLA is made of.