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Bruins Survive Cougars In OT
Posted By Josh Lehmer On Mar 5 2011 @ 10:57 pm In UCLA | No Comments
No team in the Pac-10 is more of a one-man show than Washington State. Klay Thompson is basically all of the Cougars’ offense, averaging 21.4 points a game (the highest in the Pac-10) while the next highest Cougar only averages 12 ppg. He’s one of only three players in the country to average 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists a game.
Oh, and on Saturday, he was suspended against UCLA for marijuana possession. (which caused every sports writer and sports talk radio guy in the nation to think they were the first person to make the remark “Looks like Washington State’s chances really went UP IN SMOKE!”)
UCLA has beaten the Cougars in Pullman 17 straight years, so beating them without the guy who is the alpha and omega of the offense should be an easy task, right?
Not so fast. The Bruins shot horrendously in the first half, going only 7 for 25. Shots were just not falling, and the Bruins fell into a horrendous 32-19 hole at the break.
The Bruins have fell into several halftime deficits that they were able to crawl back from this season, however, and this game was no exception. They started the second half on an 18-3 run, and finally a Tyler Honeycutt three tied the game up 35-35. A few minutes later, Honeycutt also had a putback to put the Bruins up 39-27 (their first lead since 2-0.) The lead then went back and forth several times for the rest of the game. UCLA took a four point lead, but then the Cougars responded with an 8-0 scoring run over the next four minutes.
With 50 seconds left and Bruins down 47-43, Honeycutt hit a huge three to bring the team within one. With 14 seconds left, Faisal Aden took a tough fallaway baseline shot for WSU which had no chance of going in, but got bailey out with a foul. He hit one of his two FTs to put the Bruins down two.
With fourteen seconds left, Malcolm Lee drove into the WSU front court and was sent to the line. Faced with the pressure of having to knock down the two free throws to give UCLA a chance at overtime, Lee calmed his nerves and sank both before having to head out due to injury. Aden missed a bad shot on the other end, and the game was headed to OT.
At the start of OT, Reeves Nelson continued his beastly game and scored the first two buckets for the team. When it looked like UCLA had the game more or less in hand, Aden hit a big three to tie the game at 54 with 1:17 left, and then UCLA committed a horrible shot clock violation on the other hand and it looked like momentum had shifted to the Cougars.
In the end, though, the Bruins won the day thanks to some clutch steals and the clutch free throw shooting of Malcolm Lee. A Honeycutt steal lead to Lee being sent to the line once again, (immediately after re-entering the game after he sat out the first four minutes of OT with a strain) where once again he calmly sunk two shots with the game on the line to give UCLA a two-point lead. Going to the line twice in one game with the game on the line is one thing, but how about going three times? A Jerime Anderson steal sent Lee back to the line once again with 8 seconds left to finally ice it, and Lee hit both FTs yet again to seal the victory. The Bruins won 58-54, and Klay Thompson watched from the sidelines as his team’s tournament chances likely went up in smoke. (Isn’t that a clever and original joke? Har har har.)
Thus, UCLA finishes the regular season at 22-9 and second in the conference. Thanks to an Arizona victory, UCLA will finish the season in second place in the Pac-10 and will take on the winner of the Oregon/Arizona State play-in game in the Staples Center. A loss in the opening game would probably drop UCLA to a 10-seed in the NCAA tournament, winning the entire Pac-10 tourney would probably bump the Bruins up to a 6-seed, and anything in between would likely result in a 7- or 8-seed (the most likely scenario).
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