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UCLA Closes Out Cardinal

Posted By Josh Lehmer On Feb 18 2011 @ 8:20 pm In UCLA | No Comments

UCLA basketball has won their last 6 games, but very few of them have been convincing blowouts.
On Thursday in Stanford, leading by 16 points with 7 minutes left, it looked like the Bruins would finally have their convincing blowout win.
But hey, where’s the fun in that?  Might as well keep things close and interesting.
Turnovers and missed free throws by the Bruins (sound familiar?) allowed Stanford to creep back in.  In the second half, Stanford became a one man show led by Jeremy Green.
With 1:10 left, Tyler Honeycutt missed the front end of a 1 and 1 and then Green made a three from the top of the key to bring the Cardinal within four.  An offensive foul and a turnover later, Honeycutt went to the line again and missed both with 30 seconds left.  After a missed three on the other end,
however, Reeves Nelson was finally able to ice the game at the free throw line.
Coach Ben Howland even commented on the positive attributes about their tendency to to let teams back in: “This is a great team for TV ratings and keeping fans involved for sponsors all the way to the end.  We should get some accommodations for it.”
Most of UCLA’s victories are starting to look pretty similar these days.  Outrebound the other team significantly?  Check. (34-26 this game).  Make things more difficult due to committing lots of turnovers?  Check. (17-11 this game)  Allow the other team to get close, but then finally pull away at the end?  Check.  In the end though, a win is what matters.
Game notes:
-At the end of the game, the Cardinal were trying to foul Reeves Nelson as soon as he touched the ball.  Nelson, however, ended up shooting a respectable 8 for 10 from the charity stripe, and instead it was the late misses of Tyler Honeycutt (who shot 2-5) that allowed the Cardinal to get close at the end.  Luckily, the Cardinal didn’t seem to shift their strategy into one of fouling Honeycutt instead, which allowed Nelson to ice the game with three made free throws at the end.  While the improvement from the line shown by Nelson is indeed very encouraging, Honeycutt needs to learn to step up at the line as well or else more collapses like this could possibly occur.
-Despite all of his mistakes (5 turnovers, missing free throws late) Honeycutt for the most part had a very efficient offensive game.  He was the only one getting into a rhythm offensively for most of the first half, connecting on several three pointers (ending up going 4-8 from downtown, for 16 points total).  If he wants to continue to be considered an elite NBA draft prospect, however, he’s going to have to work on his turnovers and free throw shooting.
-UCLA finally started connecting on their 3-balls, which was good to see.  They ended up hitting 9-17, most of which were from Tyler Honeycutt or Lazeric Jones.  Stanford also hit well, going 9-19, but 6 of those were in the final seven minutes.in desperation time.
-Joshua Smith was unable to play in the last game against Stanford, so he made sure to show the Cardinal what he can do this time.  He ended up with 13 points and 9 boards, which is an okay stat line but doesn’t reflect the true impact he has in the game.  He was changing Stanford’s shot selections and making it hard for them to get into the lane and get their offense going.  Nelson and Honeycutt ended up with more points and better statlines, but Smith was the most important player for UCLA in this game.
-In the closing 6 minutes of the game, Stanford decided to use the full court press.  Luckily, this didn’t cause as many problems for UCLA as it once did.  (Even just a few weeks ago, it seemed like it was a struggle to even get the ball past halfcourt against St. John’s press.)  That being said, however, UCLA still hasn’t really learned how to take advantage of it and punish other teams for pressing.  Most of the time the Bruins seem content to try and get back into their halfcourt sets whenever they see a press instead of trying to take advantage of possible transition buckets.
The 19-7 Bruins travel to California on Sunday night, and with some luck may be in position for a top 25 ranking with a win.  A close loss would likely still have the Bruins in good position for the tournament regardless (provided they maintain a decent pace the rest of the way.)

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