For the past few months, UCLA has been committing tons of mistakes, but escaping with victories. On Sunday against Cal, their luck finally ran out.
At halftime, the Bruins only scored 18 points to Cal’s 29, and the game was looking absolutely grizzly. (Get it? Grizzly? Because both teams are named after bears? Oh, nevermind…). It’s a good thing that the first half of the game was going on at the same time as the end of the NBA All-Star game, because no one deserved to watch that on TV.
In the second half, everything seemed to change. The Bruins scored 42 points, increasing their first half output by 230%. Despite that, they were still down 3 points with 3.3 seconds left, and needed a miracle off the inbound to try to continue their winning streak. Luckily, they got one as Malcolm Lee hit an off balance three which bounced off the front rim and in, sending the game into overtime.
That was pretty much the end of the celebrating for the Bruins, however, as the Bears overcame the shock of allowing the buzzer-beater to dominate overtime offensively. The Bears scored on every single possession in overtime, led by Jorge Gutierrez who scored 9 of his 34 points in the period. It was his backcourt mate Brandon Smith, however, who hit the game-clincher: a three pointer with fifteen seconds left which put the Bears up 74-70.
Other game notes:
- The Bruins tendency to turn the ball over finally caught up to them. They once again had more turnovers than the opponent (18 to 11), throwing the ball away carelessly several times. The most damaging one came in the opening minutes of overtime, when Gutierrez stole the ball from Tyler Honeycutt and made the layup at the other end to give Cal a 64-62 lead.
- Honeycutt has been showing some progress in his passing game lately. However, his passing ability seemed to regress greatly in this game. He made some horrible passes which led to turnovers, and all in all he ended up with 6 TOs and 0 assists.
- Joshua Smith got his fourth foul with about six minutes left in the second. He was still out there for most of the rest of the half and OT, however, he was playing extremely cautiously, to the point where he almost seemed like a defensive liability because he was trying so hard not to pick up that fifth foul.
- Jorge Gutierrez had a fantastic game, scoring 34 points and leading the Bears to a victory when several other teams collapsed against UCLA in similar circumstances. He was especially effective on the ball screen. That being said, he apparently graduated from the Manu Ginobili school of “violently falling to the floor whenever anyone makes the slightest bit of contact against you.” As frustrating as that strategy is for the other team, it proved effective at times in this game as it got some Bruins in foul trouble that they might not have been in without his sell, and caused the refs to send him to the line several times, where he shot 11 for 12.
- Interestingly, UCLA played zone defense for a brief period of time in the second half (for the first time this season). Howland usually abhors playing a zone defense, but it did its job in this game, helping catch Cal off guard and slowing down their offense for a period of time in the second half. After a few three pointers busted the zone, however, the Bruins switched back to man-to-man.
- Although Cal ended up getting the W, it was curious that Allen Crabbe didn’t send Malcolm Lee to the line for two when Lee hit the shot to send the game into OT. Obviously the risk is that the guy will rise up and try to make a shooting motion in the process, but there was enough time where Lee was manuevering around where Crabbe could have easily bearhugged him and prevented him from the act of shooting.
- As soon as Lee hit the buzzer beater for UCLA to send the game into OT, the Cal student section and band behind the backboard looked frustrated and exasperated. That is, except for one lone member of the Cal band, who started jumping and cheering for some reason. (He either mistakenly thought that the ball rimmed out, or he’s the brother of that USC song girl from those photos who cheered when other teams kicked field goals against USC).
- Cal fans rushed the court after the win. The unranked, March Madness bubble team Bruins should probably take this as a huge compliment.
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