UCLA is back in the top 25 and the schedule lined up to give the Bruins a run of 9 straight victories to close out the year on the way to the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments. Coming off of a big 86-66 win over UC Berkeley, UCLA went into Palo Alto to take on Stanford (17-8, 8-5 in Pac-12).
The first three minutes featured a great deal of Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, combining for the first 5 points, an assist and a steal. Sloppy opening from both sides overall, with only one less combined turnover than combined made baskets in the first 5 and a half minutes (7 TOs to 8 baskets). Going into the first TV timeout the score was 11-8 in favor of the Bruins.
After the timeout, the Cardinal converted a pair of free throws to narrow the gap, and a Norman Powell turnover gave them the ball right back (evening the turnover to made baskets at 8-8). Bryce Alford and Zach LaVine came in after a ball went out of bounds. The two teams traded baskets, but the Cardinal made a 3 to tie the game at 13.
A questionable foul call on Travis Wear gave Stanford a pair of foul shots, but, as the saying goes, "Ball Don't LIe" and the Cardinal missed both with Tony Parker entering the game for Wear. The defense struggled rotating and Stanford made an open 3-point shot. Kyle Anderson answered back and found Bryce Alford for a wide open corner three to knot it up at 16.
Going into the second TV timeout, the score was 20-18 in favor of Stanford, mostly due to a crazy hot start for the Cardinal behind the 3-point line (4-6 from behind the arc in the first 10 minutes).
The hot shooting continued, as Chasson Randle made his 4th 3-point shot to make it 23-18. After a few missed shots by the Bruins, Stanford got an offensive board and made a tough layup at the shot clock buzzer to make it 25-18. A bad shot and unsurprising miss by LaVine gave Stanford another opportunity and they converted another 3-pointer to make it 28-18. The bench rotation group saw a 10-0 Stanford run occur in just over 3 minutes of play with all 3 on the court.
After a timeout and another turnover by Powell, Josh Heustis got an offensive board and put it back for a layup, which was followed by Bryce Alford converting a pair of free throws and Travis Wear scoring off of an assist by Adams to make it 30-22.
LaVine got a fast break off a steal by Travis Wear and got fouled on the fast break (and by fouled, I mean missed a layup where he was 100% untouched), making 1 out of 2 shots and making it a 7 point game at 30-23. LaVine followed that with a terrible turnover the next possession, which Stanford took for an easy layup.
The half closed with 2 free throws from Adams, a layup by Anthony Brown, a jump shot by Alford, a Huestis layup and 2 foul shots, and a Tony Parker And-1. Score at the half was 38-30 Stanford.
Adams and Alford both had 7 points for UCLA at the half and Anderson had 4 points, 5 assists and 4 steals.
To start the 2nd half, the teams traded 3-point plays. An And-1 for the Cardinal and a 3-pointer by Norman Powell. The two sides went back and forth a few more times, as both sides were getting easy shots in the early going both inside and outside. Then the Bruins cooled and the Cardinal stayed hot.
The Cardinal made 6 of their first 7 shots in the 2nd, pushing the lead to 52-39 and forcing Steve Alford to call a timeout to try and stop the momentum. It was to no avail as, out of the timeout, UCLA missed three shots in one possession and then the TV timeout came.
Norman Powell made a pair of free throws and a 3-point shot, and Tony Parker made back-to-back baskets on surprising post moves. Then Parker poked the ball away and fed it up court to Alford, who was fouled and made both shots, narrowing the gap to 8 points at 58-50.
After another bucket by Huestis (his 17th point of the game), Zach LaVine drained an NBA-range 3 to make it a 7-point game.
Parker made another basket, after calling for the ball for the first 15 seconds of the next possession, making it a 5-point game at 60-55. A steal by Powell was rewarded with a pass back to him in the half court, and he made a great decision to pass up a contested three and dribble in to take a wing-jumper to make it 60-57. The bench group stepped up like crazy during this run.
Anthony Brown answered, draining a highly contested 3 to push it to 63-57 with just under 9 minutes left. A missed 3-pointer by Powell on the next possession gave Stanford a shot to push the lead back to 9 and they converted with a Randle 3-pointer.
Stanford got back to a double digit lead after a Brown jumper, but Tony Parker scored inside again, but missed his 3rd free throw of the game on the back end, making it 68-60.
LaVine then got his 3rd steal and converted a layup to make it a 6-point game, but got turned around on defense and gave Randle a wide open look from 3, which he converted.
Misses both ways made it 71-62 with 3:54 left in the game, going into the last TV timeout.
LaVine made a 3 out of the break, followed by a smart foul by UCLA where Stanford only made one shot instead of an easy dunk. A nice feed by Kyle Anderson set up LaVine with another good look from 3 and he got fouled, making all 3 to make it a 4 point game at 72-68.
A poor foul by the Bruins gave Stanford an easy two points and the Bruins then got lucky to not turn it over after LaVine lost the ball.
Missed front end of a 1-and-1 by LaVine forced UCLA into must-foul mode. The Cardinal only made one out of two, and the Cardinal fouled Travis Wear, who converted both shots.
Lackluster defense to close out the game cost the Bruins any chance of mounting a comeback though, notably by Zach LaVine losing track of spacing in zone and trap defense. The Cardinal converted free throws as the Bruins went into desperation foul mode and the game ended with the Bruins losing 83-74.
The biggest story of this game was the shooting of Stanford, which is as much a credit to them having a great day as it was UCLA having a bad defensive day. Josh Huestis, Anthony Brown and Chasson Randle were the top 3 scorers in the game with 26 for Randle (7-10 from 3-point range, 8-13 overall), 22 for Huestis (8-12) and 18 for Randle (5-8).
For all their struggles in the first half, this game would have been a 20+ point blowout if not for the bench play in the second half, as Tony Parker shot 6-8 but for some reason disappeared in the last 5 minutes of the game. Bryce Alford and Zach LaVine scored 9 and 14 points.
Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams did not have good games, and it is hard for the Bruins to put together victories with those two both playing poorly. UCLA is not going to win many games when those two combine for 14 points and shoot 5-14 and only get 8 total rebounds. Losing Travis Wear to foul trouble was an issue as well in the 2nd half, as he had a nice game prior to picking up foul number 4.
The Bruins had no excuse to not close out this season with 9 straight wins, but now it is near impossible to win the Pac-12 regular season crown unless something weird happens to Arizona.
Zone defense is fine if you can close out on shots and make teams miss outside, Stanford did not miss much, shooting 55% from behind the 3-point line and 62% overall.
Not a fun game for UCLA.