Last night's win on the farm was a satisfying experience - both for those of us watching the game in person or on TV, and in terms of what the victory means for the team's path through the remainder of the season. As Tydides noted last night, the basic goal for the bay area trip was met, to split the weekend and put the team in position for a late season run. And with Allan Crabbe's health and availability still at issue for Sunday night's game in Berkeley, a series sweep is certainly not off the table. But first, let's look back at how we got here, starting with Jon Gold on the Bruins strong start, ending with a Cardinal stretch that made the game seem closer than it was throughout.
The Bruins, who had been shooting just 32.5 percent as a team from 3-point range, made 9-of-17 3-pointers - including 6 of 11 in the first half - to jump to a 36-29 halftime lead.
The Bruins (19-7, 10-3 Pac-10) committed 16 turnovers, including 11 in the first half, allowing Stanford to keep it close. Long-range shooting late made it even closer, as Stanford guard Jeremy Green hit two 3-pointers in the final minute to close UCLA's lead to 66-62 with 1 minute, 10 seconds left.
As has been the case often this season, turnovers did make this game a bit more interesting in the waning minutes than we might have liked. In his postgame presser, Coach Howland could not resist making light of his team's inability to put teams away for good once they take a lead.
"This is a great team for TV ratings and keeping fans involved for sponsors all the way to the end," Bruins Coach Ben Howland said. "We should get some accommodations for it."
Howland did start that comment by pointing out that the team has not lost a game this season in which it has held a double-digit lead (18-0), however, the team's housecat routine could prove costly in the next few weeks.
In the first game at Pauley, Stanford outmatched the Joshua Smith-less Bruins squad on the boards, winning the rebounding battle and particularly dominating on the offensive glass. Last night, with Smith in the game, the Bruins won the rebounding battle 34-26, led by Josh's 9 boards, which included 2 in a late game stretch that gave the Bruins the cushion necessary to preserve their victory.
Smith had two offensive rebounds, drew a foul, made 1 of 2 free throws then came back on the defensive end and swatted a shot that led to layup by Nelson, giving UCLA a 57-41 lead, its biggest of the game.
While the Bruins featured a balanced effort on offense, Stanford was led by a game high 27-point effort by Jeremy Green. After a slow start under guard by Malcolm Lee, Green heated up after the half, scoring 16 points in the final 8 minutes, and 21 in the second period as a whole.
The Bruins had particular trouble with Green on Thursday, as he exploded in the second half for 21 points, finishing with 9-of-16 shooting and 5-of-8 3-pointers.
"Man, he's such a great shooter," Nelson said about Green. "It's crazy how you can say he's a good shooter, and Malcolm `held' him to 27. It was the same way with (BYU guard Jimmer Fredette); he just has such a good release. (Lee) tried to make things difficult for him, but with a person who's that good of a player, sometimes you just have to accept it and try to do what you can to get ahead."
"I think he might be one of the most underrated players in the country," he said. "That jump shot of his is lethal."
Green was on his game late in the contest, but even his performance could not garner much of a home-court advantage from the crowd. The feeling of being at Maples was discussed some in the game thread, and even the beat writers took note.
Maybe all UCLA needed was a little quiet.
In a sparsely filled and nearly silent Maples Pavilion for much of the game's 40 minutes...
Meanwhile, Ben Bolsch noted the presence of the Bruin faithful while describing the game's final moments:
Nelson made both free throws with 12 seconds to go, delighting a large and vocal contingent of Bruins fans
Maples honestly sounded like a morgue for most of the game, Gone are the days of the late 90's-00's where the home fans, from the student section to the alumni made a trip to Maples Pavilion as welcome as a root canal for opposing players. Tonight, the number of empty seats in the donor sections and the silence of most of those filling the remainder of them could teach a lesson to the greyhairs holding tickets at Pauley about how to pull off their schtick - and their students really weren't much better. The void from the home crowd allowed the several hundred Bruins in attendance to have our voices heard, drowning out the opposition inside the arena, and carrying through into the broadcast.
While we cannot assume that Cal fans will be so quiet, I hope that many more Bruins can make the trip to Berkeley to make our presence felt on Sunday night.