As inconsistent as this team was earlier this season, they do appear to be settling into a groove as we head down the stretch. The Bruins played to their template for a solid workmanlike win once again.
1. Individual Bruin sparks early offense, waits for team to warm up.
Tonight this honor belonged to Tyler Honeycutt, opening up with a couple of threes and a long two to help pace the Bruins.
2. Sic Malcolm Lee on opponent's best player.
Yes, Jeremy Green caught fire at the end, but for the majority of the game Lee was all over him, denying him the ball and open looks. With the game in the balance and the Bruin lead at just four, Lee gave Green nothing, and Green comically lost control of the ball with a chance to cut the lead to one possession.
3. Experience success offensively; turn the ball over
More sloppy ball handling from Honeycutt, and Jerime Anderson who was again taking more of the point guard duties with Lazeric Jones still hurting, helped keep Stanford in it when the Bruins were threatening to pull away and ice the game. Reeves Nelson chipped in in this category with some over aggressive play.
4. Rest of team warms up. Offensive onslaught begins.
One of the reasons it's hard to be upset with Nelson's offensive fouls is because he's able to make plays that no one else can when he channels that aggressiveness at appropriate times. Big baskets from Nelson and Smith are highlights in an otherwise balanced offensive attack for the Bruins. Of the nine players that saw the floor for UCLA, all but Stover got in the scoring column. It also helps when you assert your advantage on the glass as well, as the Bruins held a healthy lead in that category as well throughout the game.
5. Miss free throws that would ice the game, opponent makes things interesting. (???)
This "honor" also belongs to Mr. Honeycutt. You don't want to think that these guys have contacts in Vegas and know what the lines are, but when you make free throws reasonably well throughout the game and then start going 0-fer in the last two minutes, it does make you think...
Or "profit" as it were. Maybe not a great choice of words to use considering #5...
Now when I say "achievement unlocked", I refer to the sub goal of splitting the road trip in order to maintain momentum to enhance our tournament profile. However, as we've laid out here, there are many permutations that the remaining schedule can take, and there's no better way than to get that first road win.
If it seems like there's not a lot to say, that's probably because, as shown above, we've seen this game before. Many times in fact. The names are somewhat interchangeable, but the ebbs and flows of momentum with this year's Bruins are like clockwork. In a way that's really remarkable. These guys almost never get blown out, and never really blow another team out. If this is Howland's trademark, then he's the anti-Lavin in more ways than we could have imagined when he got here.
The Bruins help keep the pressure on first place Arizona and remain a game back. Perhaps more importantly, at 19-7, UCLA now finds itself within a win of the psychologically important 20 win mark. The Bruins can continue their "A+" pace when they play at Cal on Sunday.