By Morris Phillips
This wasn’t by statistical measures a great defensive effort by UCLA, but the Bruins did draw a line that the Cal Bears weren’t capable of crossing.
That line came minutes into the second half when Cal’s final lead of the afternoon (25-24) morphed into an 11-minute scoreless drought that propelled UCLA to a 50-40 win at Pauley Pavilion.
During that painfully lengthy dry spell the Bears took shots and missed shots or took shots, rebounded, only miss more shots. 14 misses in all concluding with Matt Bradley’s short jumper that trimmed UCLA’s lead to 38-27 with 5:55 remaining.
The drought could be attributed to Cal’s season as a whole in which they’ve digressed, failing to make more than 35 percent of their shots in four of their last six games.
“When we’re not making the three, we have to find other ways to score,” Coach Mark Fox said. “We were not scoring. I have to give them credit. We couldn’t score in the paint.”
Or UCLA could be the culprit, still smarting from their first home loss to Stanford in 15 years on Wednesday, and having to hear coach Mick Cronin say some very disparaging words as a result.
“Our older guys are bad defensive players, which is really ridiculous because it’s not like they didn’t do scouting reports before me,” Cronin said following the Stanford loss. “If you’re in your fifth year, you should know how to play defense by now.”
The Bruins definitely got Cronin’s message. They didn’t win the rebounding battle or protect the basketball (13 turnovers) but they piled up the stops.
“We should have held them to a lot less than 40. We gave them a lot of layups, offensive rebounds and second-chance points,” said Chris Smith, who led UCLA with 17 points. “It was a decent defensive performance, but we could’ve definitely done better.”
Bradley led Cal with 17 We should have held them to a lot less than 40. We gave them a lot of layups, offensive rebounds and second-chance points. It was a decent defensive performance, but we could’ve definitely done better.”
After a rough weekend in Southern California, the Bears limp home with none of the momentum they built in beating both of the Washington schools. They’ll have a week to prepare for their rematch with Stanford, but that’s no cushy assignment. The Cardinal lead the Pac-12 with a 5-1 record and continue to prove that their one of the nation’s best defensively.