Over 6000 fans poured into Pauley Pavilion this afternoon to watch the much anticipated rematch between #3 Stanford and #9 UCLA. It was a great crowd that was rocking, especially in the first half as UCLA went toe to toe with the Cardinal. In previous games, Stanford's obvious advantage in size and height led to domination of the boards, freethrows, and blowouts. UCLA was able to fight against that through sheer will and desire, though poor shooting would doom UCLA.
In earlier meetings, Stanford would punch UCLA in the mouth early and seem to knock UCLA out of the game from the start. This time, UCLA was not only absorbing the punches, but giving them out just as well. The first half was a back and forth affair. Though Stanford led for the majority of it, UCLA never allowed the Cardinal lead to grow bigger than 5 points, and on several occasions tied the game or took a 1 or 2 point lead. If anything, it felt like UCLA could have built a 5-7 point lead with how aggressive their rebounding, drawing fouls, and press was leading to disrupting the Cardinal, but the bugaboo that would haunt UCLA all game was poor shooting, especially in the paint. Throughout the game, UCLA would get the ball to Jasmine Dixon inside only for her to be swarmed by 2 or 3 Cardinal vastly taller than her causing terrible shots, blocks, or turnovers.
With Dixon struggling, Darxia Morris stepped up with 11 first half points with 3 3-pointers, and Doreena Campbell had 6. I'd like to somewhat pat myself on the back for saying that the performance of Doreena and Darxia would be key, and when they had a strong first half, it led to a tied 28-28 halftime score. For the half, Stanford outshot UCLA 40% to 34%, but UCLA's surprising 21-16 lead on the boards to go with a slightly stronger performance from the line and behind the arc than the cardinal made up for the poor shooting.
In the second half, UCLA started out strong. However, about 5 minutes in, the Cardinal pulled away with a 12-2 run to take a 10 point lead, as Stanford's size started taking a toll on the Bruins, as Stanford started getting to the line more, and outrebounded the Bruins in the half. With UCLA continuing to shoot poorly, Darxia Morris and Doreena Campbell scored only 3 points each in the half, spelling doom for the Bruins. The only major factor was that Chiney Ogwumike, who was held for a quiet 5 points in the first half, exploded in the 2nd half for 13 points, giving Stanford 18 points and 15 rebounds on the day. After a mix of the refs allowing UCLA to play physical in the first half and UCLA doing a great job denying getting the ball inside to Chiney in the first half, Stanford started to wear the Bruins down at the line in the second half, going 16-18 from the line to just 7-9 for the Bruins for the half. UCLA shot a frigid 28% for the half to 43% for the Cardinal, and fell 67-53.
When you consider how much size and length Stanford has on UCLA, UCLA fought hard to only be outrebounded by 1, give up only 5 more freethrow attempts to the Cardinal, tie Stanford with 13 turnovers, and have only one player get to 4 fouls for the game. What doomed UCLA was it's poor shooting, 60% attributed to Stanford clogging up the paint against our much smaller front court, and 40% UCLA unable to hit the shots when they did get open looks. Stanford won the game by shooting 42% to just 31% for the bruins, as Jasmine went 3-13, Darxia 4-16, and Markel Walker 3-9.
UCLA did have 2 players score in double digits. After a great first half where her outside shooting at critical times kept UCLA in the game, Darxia had a fairly poor 2nd half but finished with a team high 14 points. Jasmine Dixon had 10 points and despite being so undersized against the taller Stanford posts, had a team high 12 rebounds. Doreena Campbell finished with 9 points.
With the loss, UCLA drops to 22-3, 12-2, and 2 games behind Stanford. It is pretty much a given at this point that Stanford will be the Pac-10 champions once again and UCLA will finish in 2nd baring some catastrophic finish, as UCLA has a 4 game lead with 4 games remaining. Unfortunately, Nikki Caldwell will have to wait for the elusive victory against the Cardinal, but might not have to wait long with the Pac-10 tournament just a few weeks away. A win against Stanford today would have been great to firmly place UCLA on the 2 seed line come NCAA tournament time, but right now UCLA is a clear top 4 seed team that is looking likely as a 3 seed with an outside shot at a 2 seed depending on how the rest of the nation does. UCLA now travels to the desert for what I think is the 2nd hardest road trip in the conference outside of the bay area for the Bruins this season. UCLA takes on 5th place Arizona Thursday, before facing 3rd place ASU on Saturday.