Saturday, October 21

UCLA back to the beginning

Bruins lose momentum of last week's OT win against Cal after they commit 23 turnovers

PALO ALTO “”mdash; Just when it seemed that the UCLA men’s basketball team had built some momentum, it reverted to its early-season ways.

Just when it seemed that the Bruins would claw their way back to a .500 record, they carelessly dropped a 70-59 contest to Stanford at Maples Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

Just three days after a coming-of-age overtime victory at California, UCLA showcased its youth and inexperience by committing 23 turnovers. That, combined with Cardinal guard Jeremy Green’s game-high 30 points, doomed the Bruins (7-9, 2-2 Pac-10) in their attempt to sweep the Bay Area schools.

“As we look back on it, it was a winnable game,” coach Ben Howland said. “We were right there.”

UCLA shot 55 percent from the field. The offense was not the problem ““ at least when it was putting up shots.

Senior forward Nikola Dragovic led the way with 13 points, but only five of those came in the second half. Redshirt senior guard Michael Roll scored 12 but had just two of those after halftime. Sophomore guard Malcolm Lee added 11 but also recorded a game-high seven turnovers.

The Bruins trailed by as little as six with more than four minutes remaining but mustered only four points in the final 4:06.

“This loss is disappointing because it was a winnable game,” said freshman forward Reeves Nelson, who fouled out with a minute left. “I think that we were the better team, but it’s really tough to win on the road. I’ve found that out in just a few games.”

Forward Landry Fields had 16 for a Stanford team (8-7, 2-1) that was coming off a narrow 54-53 victory over USC. Fields may be advertised as the face of Stanford basketball, but the afternoon clearly belonged to Green, who shot 11-for-18 from the field.

Green single-handedly carried Stanford to a 34-33 lead at the half, sealing it with a desperate, off-balance 3-pointer from the right wing that banked in as time expired.

“If that shot went in, that’s when you know you’re feeling it,” Lee said.

Green, who had averaged 16.7 points per game heading into Saturday, tallied 17 before the break.

“We knew he was going to be hard to defend,” Howland said.

Green followed his buzzer-beater with two of his game-high five 3-pointers early in the second half, which handed the Cardinal a 46-40 lead and sent most of the 6,946 fans in attendance into a frenzy.

The Bruins gave their supporters something to root for when they pulled within one midway through the second half on a 3-pointer from senior forward James Keefe. UCLA then looked to take the lead.

“We’re right there at 51-50,” Howland said. “I don’t know where that game got away from us.”

Still trailing by one, Lee aggressively began a fast break but passed the ball straight to a Stanford defender. If nothing else, the play was emblematic of the rough and disappointing afternoon.

UCLA didn’t start so hot, either. The Bruins missed six of their first eight shots and trailed 13-5 in the early minutes, but then Howland switched to a 2-3 zone defense.

The schematic change, along with better perimeter shooting from Roll and Dragovic, allowed the Bruins to erase their deficit.

“I thought we came out with a great sense of urgency,” Howland said.

That urgency quickly turned into sloppiness.

Some of the Bruins’ 23 turnovers occurred in transition or on mishandled passes. Others were a product of player-control fouls. They eventually piled up, and UCLA was overwhelmed.

Howland said, “At the end of the day, if we just take shots in those possessions …”

Howland trailed off before he finished his thought, perhaps wondering what could have been.

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