Friday, December 30, 2011

UCLA BASKETBALL: Jones, Bruins don't get final word in losing Pac-12 opener at Stanford 60-59

UCLA guard Lazeric Jones (11) drives in front of Stanford guard Aaron Bright (2). Jones scored a career-high 26 points in the loss. AP PHOTO

UCLA BASKETBALL: Jones, Bruins don't get final word in losing Pac-12 opener at Stanford

By Jill Painter Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/29/2011 11:42:49 PM PST
Updated: 12/29/2011 11:53:02 PM PST

PALO ALTO - UCLA guard Lazeric Jones drained shots from all over Maples Pavilion in the Pac-12 Conference opener against Stanford to score a career-high 26 points.

Yet it was the last shot he took that troubled him so much.

Jones made a move through the lane and tried to split two defenders, but his shot was blocked by Josh Huestis with two seconds left as Stanford held on for a 60-59 victory Thursday at Maples Pavilion in the Pac-12 Conference opener.

Jones made 8 of 13 shots and 6 of 8 free throws, but he couldn't sink the potential winning shot.

"I should've passed it. I knew as soon as I did it," Jones said. "I was rushing for no reason."

There was absolutely good reason to be rushing. Stanford was ahead by one point with two seconds left.

UCLA (7-6) started as preseason favorites to win the Pac-12, but opened with a road loss.

Stanford improved to 11-2 and hosts USC - which lost to Cal at Berkeley, here Saturday. UCLA plays at Cal (11-3, 1-0) on Saturday.

Stanford's Aaron Bright scored a team-high 16 points, and the Cardinal made 13 of its 16 free throws.

Had the Bruins not turned the ball over so much in the first half (nine turnovers compared to just two in the second half), made more free throws (they missed 9 of 24) or not made an embarrassing defensive error on three consecutive possessions.

"You look at the game and see we missed nine free throws," UCLA center Joshua Smith said. " If we made three (more) of them, you're coming down the court, you're up 2 and they have to foul you."

UCLA's zone defense was broken down by the Cardinal, as it made three consecutive 3-pointers from the same spot on the baseline to build a 56-51 lead with 5:08 left. Chasson Randle made two of those and Anthony Brown sank the other.

"It was a disappointing finish," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We fought back hard and put ourselves in position with the ball to be able to take the open shot that we got and we just missed it. When you get in position down 1 with the ball, because we're 15 of 24 from the free-throw line, that's disappointing.

"Every one of those points helps us. That zone (defense) helps us, then they hit three in a row on the same side and we came back out of it."

Jones, who sprained his left ankle but returned to practice Wednesday, seemed to suffer no ill effects as he scored 14 first-half points, including seven in a row in the first half.

Norman Powell, who also sprained his left ankle, played against Stanford but missed all three of his shots in the first half.

Powell, Tyler Lamb and David Wear combined to shoot 0 for 10 from the field in the first half.

Lamb had three early turnovers as well, earning him an early seat on the bench.

UCLA trailed 21-12 early, but Jerime Anderson made consecutive baskets, including one off a steal, to help get the Bruins back in the game.

It was close the rest of the way, and although UCLA tied the score several times, it never took the lead.

Smith, who's failed to capitalize on his fantastic freshman season, was backing down Andrew Zimmerman in the paint, and was whistled for his third foul early in the second half. He walked right to the bench, and Bright nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing, immediately after, to give Stanford a 29-26 lead with 16:41 left in the second half.

Smith, who scored 10 points, fouled out with 1:24 left. He had a good view of the last shot that never had a chance.

"We didn't have the timeout. There was only five seconds left," Smith said. "Zeke (Jones) was our horse the whole game. He was carrying us. We wanted him to have the ball. He tried to make a play."

UCLA was the preseason favorite to win the inaugural Pac-12, but started the year in dumbfounding fashion with losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State and more scuffling.

After a roller-coaster ride with Reeves Nelson - the Bruins returning leading scorer - that ended with him being kicked off the team, the Bruins won five in a row until opening conference play with a loss.

This wasn't the big game on campus this time of year. Stanford's football team is in Arizona, for Andrew Luck's final game in the Fiesta Bowl, and the UCLA football team is nearby, making final preparations for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on Saturday.

UCLA had a sizeable fan base, probably many of whom are headed to San Francisco for Saturday's bowl game.

This was a disappointing loss for the Bruins, who figured they could've easily been 1-0 in the Pac-12 if not for all the mistakes.

"We want to win. It don't matter who we play, where we playing or how," Smith said. "We just want to win. Gotta give credit to them. They outplayed us."


Bruins' loss is a missed chance

UCLA (7-6, 0-1) now tries to regroup before traveling to Cal on Saturday.

Published: Dec. 29, 2011 Updated: 11:37 p.m.

STANFORD -- Stanford gave UCLA a series of chances to stay close in Thursday night's Pac-12 opener and ultimately an opportunity to win in the final seconds — and the Bruins wasted all of them.

Cardinal forward Josh Huestis rejected Bruins guard Lazeric Jones' shot from the top of the key with three seconds remaining to finally slam the door on UCLA and close out a 60-59 Stanford victory in front of 6,777 at Maples Pavilion.

The blocked shot was one of the few setbacks for Jones on a night he finished with a game-high 26 points and repeatedly brought the Bruins back, capitalizing on Stanford's inability to close out what could have been a blowout in the first half.

Stanford, having led since the early minutes of the first half, provided the Bruins with one final opportunity when Cardinal point guard Aaron Bright threw up a wild shot at the end of drive to give UCLA the ball with 25 seconds remaining and trailing by a point.

But UCLA guard Jerime Anderson missed a jumper from the left corner. After the teams tied up in a scramble for the loose ball, UCLA was awarded the ball by the possession arrow. A series of tentative, ragged passes finally found Jones at the top of the key where the game's final shot was barely out of his hands before Huestis sent it into the backcourt.

UCLA (7-6, 0-1) now tries to regroup before traveling to Cal on Saturday afternoon in what despite its early spot on the Pac-12 schedule is already a must-win game for a Bruins team still in search of a quality victory.

Stanford was able to jump out to an 18-7 lead midway through the first half largely because of UCLA's poor shooting. The Bruins made just 2 of their first 12 field-goal attempts and sank just 1 of 11 first half 3-point shots. UCLA sophomore center Joshua Smith finally snapped the Bruins out of the drought with a put-back of his own miss to make 18-9.

Even so, the Cardinal blew a chance to blow the game wide open. Jones outscored Stanford, 10-6, down the stretch to send the Bruins into the locker-room at halftime down only 24-23. Jones finished the half with 14 points.

The intensity UCLA displayed in a 2-3 match-up zone also was a major factor in the Bruins' turnaround. Stanford was 5 for 9 from the field against the man-to-man defense with which the Bruins opened the game.

After UCLA switched to the zone Stanford was 3 of 20 from the field.

Smith tied the score at 24-24 with a free throw in the second half's opening moments but was then benched after picking up his third personal foul with 17:03 remaining.

A pair of 3-point jumpers by Stanford guard Aaron Bright stretched the gap to 32-28.

Again Jones kept UCLA in the game, hitting a 3-point jumper that cut the Cardinal lead to 34-33, then tying the score at 40 with another 3-pointer.

But Stanford's John Gage was just as hot, responding to Jones with a long turnaround jumper and then pumping in a 3-pointer that hit the back of the rim, nearly jumped over the top of the backboard before falling through the hoop to put Stanford up, 45-42.


Bruins fall in Pac-12 opener against Stanford, 60-59

Missed shots and miscues lead to a UCLA loss against the Stanford Cardinal as Pac-12 play gets under way.

By Diane Pucin
The Los Angeles Times
11:20 PM PST, December 29, 2011

It was an "almost" kind of basketball game for UCLA on Thursday night at Maples Pavilion.

The Bruins would almost get a rebound. And then a Stanford player would tip it away. The Bruins would make a steal and almost get a layup. Except the ball would rim out or get blocked. The Bruins would almost get a lead. But never in the second half.

In the Pac-12 season opener for both teams, Stanford beat UCLA, 60-59.

The Cardinal (11-2, 1-0 Pac-12) gave itself just enough of an edge by piercing UCLA's work-in-progress zone defense with three straight three-pointers and a 56-51 lead with about five minutes left.

Until then, UCLA (7-6, 0-1) had hung close because of senior Lazeric Jones, who had a game-high 26 points, mostly from jump shooting, and from the work of center Josh Smith, who had 10 points in 20 minutes. But Smith was often on the bench with foul trouble.

"This was a disappointing finish to a game where we fought back hard," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

There were at least a half a dozen times in the second half when UCLA had a chance to take a lead, but always there was a shot an inch short or a missed free throw or a turnover.

Still, the Bruins were within a point, 56-55, with 2:07 left. Jones, who had just missed a free throw that would have tied the score, committed a foul while trying to make a steal against Aaron Bright. Bright made both foul shots, and the constantly uphill climb for UCLA ended.

UCLA's last stand came when it forced a Stanford miss with about 25 seconds left. Anderson missed a 12-footer, but on a tied-up rebound UCLA got the ball back. With four seconds left, Jones had a five-foot shot in the lane blocked by Stanford's Josh Owens.

Jones said he should have passed the ball.

"I made a mistake," he said. "I wasn't open."

At halftime the Bruins trailed by a point, which seemed unlikely when they were down by as many as 11 and were outrebounded 24-18 and allowed the Cardinal 10 offensive rebounds.

But Jones had a spurt of scoring seven straight points including a baseline jumper that cut Stanford's lead to 24-23 with 2:18 left in the first half. No one scored again, though Jones, who had 14 points in the first 20 minutes, had a chance to put the Bruins ahead when he tried to convert a steal into a layup. Jones missed, and it appeared that he'd been fouled Jones unsuccessfully begged for the call.

Two disappointing statistics for UCLA — nine missed free throws (15-of-24) and 12 offensive rebounds allowed to Stanford.

Smith shook his head at the mention of the missed free throws. "We missed nine," he said. "We lost by one. If we make three more of them, we're holding the ball at the end with a lead and waiting to be fouled."


Five observations: Stanford 60, UCLA 59

By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
December, 30, 2011 12:08 AM PT

PALO ALTO, Calif -- Opportunity kept on knocking at UCLA's door, but the Bruins never answered as they fell to Stanford, 60-59, Thursday night in a Pac-12 Conference opener at Maples Pavilion.

Lazeric Jones had a shot to win the game as time wound down, but Stanford's Josh Huestis blocked his eight-footer from just inside the free-throw line to preserve the victory for the Cardinal.

UCLA fell behind early, 18-7, but rallied several times though the Bruins couldn't take the lead and leave Palo Alto shaking their heads about missing out on a golden opportunity to get off to a good start in conference play.

"I’m happy the way we competed and found a way to give ourselves a chance to win," coach Ben Howland said. "But we’re never happy or pleased when we end up on the wrong side."

Five observations from the game:

1) The Bruins simply couldn't get over the hump

The Bruins fell behind early, trailing 18-7 with 9:48 left in the first half, but rallied back to tie the score seven times. They never regained the lead, however, after jumping out to a quick 5-0 edge.

The Bruins had possession 10 times with a chance to re-take the lead, eight in the second half, but never got over the hump. Twice in the final 11 seconds, the Bruins had shots to go ahead, but Jerime Anderson missed an open 3-pointer and then Jones couldn't get off his shot.

"I give our team credit for battling and hanging in there on the road against a good team on their floor," Howland said. "We just missed a shot. We make that shot we have a good chance.

2) The Bruins gave it away at the free-throw line

UCLA made 15 of 24 free throws (62.5 percent), which amount to nine misses in a one-point loss. Joshua Smith was 2-for-5, and Jones and Tyler Lamb missed two each.

"We’re just rushing," Smith said. "When you lose a game by one and you look at nine missed free throws, if we made just three of those it's a different game at the end."

Lamb and Smith each missed free throws that would have given UCLA the lead in the second half. Jones missed one that would have tied the score with 2:12 to play.

"Lack of focus," Lamb said. "I practice my free throws every day. I just have to walk to the line and knock those down."

3) Lazeric Jones nearly carried the team to victory

Jones spurred a sputtering offense by taking control and scoring a career-high 26 points, but it's the two he didn't score at the end that will haunt him.

Jones made 8 of 13 shots and the rest of the team made just 12 of 38. Jones made 4 of 6 3-point shots and the rest of the team was 0-for-9 from long range. UCLA missed 10 of its first 12 shots, then Jones took over, scoring nine points during an 11-6 run to end the second half and get UCLA back in the game.

He made a 3-pointer to tie the score at 40-40 midway through the second half and another to get the Bruins to within a point at 47-46 with 7:33 to play. But it was the last shot that Jones couldn't wipe from his mind.

"I knew as soon as I did it I should have passed it," Jones said. "I knew there were two people on me. Just rushing for no reason."

4) The zone defense looked good again

UCLA began the game in a man-to-man defense, but Stanford made five of its first nine shots and Howland switched to a zone. The Bruins held Stanford to four of its next 26 from the floor. UCLA trailed, 13-6, at the time of the switch.

Late in the second half, Stanford began finding holes in the zone and made four consecutive 3-point shots and Howland then switch back to man with 4:36 to play.

"The zone really helped us get back into the game," Howland said.

5) UCLA's post players struggled around the basket

Smith and David Wear often looked as if they had butter fingers when they got the ball down low. Wear finished the game 1-for-8 from the field and Smith was 2-for-6 before hitting two late buckets -- both of which looked like prayers he tossed up and got lucky on.

It continued a season-long trend for the Bruins' post players, who can't seem to make aggressive moves to the basket, instead more often going for soft layups. David Wear did not attempt a free throw. Travis Wear, the other post player, only got off one shot Thursday.

The Wear twins combined for seven points.

"We’ve got to get more offensive production out of those two," Howland said. "David he thinks too much at times where he gets wound up to where he’s maybe going too fast. He needs to slow down on offense."

David Wear acknowledged that he was a little jittery playing in his first conference game and first true road game in a year and a half.

"I just played a little tight," he said. "Conference is starting, the gyms are crowded, it’s like a whole new season. The level of competition picks up, the teams are much more prepared. It’s definitely a step up."

Click on boxscore to enlarge

No comments: