During the first six games of their winning streak, which included a win over No. 7 Missouri and a victory in their Pac-12 opener against California, the UCLA Bruins averaged 86 points a game in what looked like a new high-scoring brand of UCLA basketball.
Coach Ben Howland, though, is known for coaching teams with a stifling man defense and a slow-paced half-court offense. That came through more than ever in UCLA’s (12-3, 2-0 Pac-12) 68-60 win over Stanford (9-6, 0-2), their seventh straight victory.
The Cardinal shot only 34.4 percent from the field while the Bruins were only able to score 45 total points from the floor.
The win wasn’t as flashy as UCLA’s previous six victories, but it was what Howland wanted.
“Any win is beautiful,” Howland said with a smile.
The game started out slowly as UCLA took almost four minutes to score its first points, and only redshirt junior forwards David and Travis Wear were able to score until there were less 10 minutes to go in the first half.
Eventually, freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad was able to take charge and end the afternoon with 23 points and 10 rebounds on six of 12 shots.
“The Wears started off really hot and then (Stanford) turned it up on defense,” Muhammad said. “Then in the second half, things started opening up for me, and I started scoring the ball.”
The slower pace of the game allowed UCLA to get the free throw line more consistently while still playing strong defense. Freshman guard Jordan Adams had a career-high seven steals on the night as the Bruins held the Cardinal’s shooting to more than 6 percent lower than their season average.
“We played really well on defense and we held them to under 40 percent shooting,” said freshman forward Kyle Anderson, who had five points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
Despite the fact that the Bruins led the majority of the game, the Cardinal were able to cut that lead to five late in the second half after Adams missed three straight free throws on one-and-one opportunities.
“We started relaxing when we were up 15,” Muhammad said. “When you relax, they’re able to get an edge on you. … They tried to make a run on us, and we had to buckle down and play defense and make free throws at the end of the stretch.”
Muhammad made his last five free throws, and the team as a whole made its last nine to seal the game.
The win gave UCLA its longest winning streak since the 2008-2009 season, when the Bruins won 10 in a row.