Against Washington on Saturday in a 97-68 loss, the UCLA men’s basketball team wilted.
Against Oregon State on Thursday, the Bruins sagged, too.
Only this time, they were ahead by 10 and not down by 20, and UCLA held on as the Beavers mounted a late-game charge to defeat Oregon State 65-56, in front of 7,589 at Pauley Pavilion.
Early in the game, the Bruins were running and jumping with energy, defending with tenacity and passing with precision.
In other words, everything they didn’t do against the Huskies on Saturday.
“When we lose like that, it really shows you we’re inconsistent and what we need to work on,” said freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and three steals. “But when we do work on those things, we play pretty good basketball.”
UCLA addressed its plagues early, dishing 11 first-half assists to just four turnovers, while shooting 16-of-30 from the field to build a 10-point halftime lead.
Loose balls, they dove after.
High passes, they jumped for.
The hustle translated to the offensive side, with Honeycutt having most of the fun, finishing with 13 first-half points.
“When the gettin’ is good, everybody’s on it,” Honeycutt said. “When it’s going well, you can make mistakes here and there. When things are bad, you can’t do those same things. You can’t keep taking those same shots. It’s hard to change the momentum – when you’re down 7, it can turn into 14, 21.”
Or, in UCLA’s case, a big lead can turn into a small one.
After senior forward Nikola Dragovic, who finished with 14 points, hit a 3-pointer less than a minute into the second half, the Bruins went up by 11. Less than five minutes later, that lead was three points.
Turnovers plagued UCLA in the second half, as passes sailed either three feet too high or two feet two low, eight turnovers in total.
“In the second half, their zone tightened a lot,” Honeycutt said. “One time, (sophomore guard Malcolm Lee) caught the ball and everyone just stayed there. Sometimes it’s like they have a guy everywhere it seems. But once you get some dribble penetration, kicking the ball, swinging the ball, the ball moves faster than they do and you get open shots.”
Senior guard Michael Roll was the primary passer, handling the ball when Oregon State (12-15, 6-9) pressured the top of the key. Roll, who leads the team with 3.6 assists per game, finished with seven, though he scored just three points.
“Last game, I played the point guard just because they were trapping, so we stuck with the same thing today,” Roll said. “Today I was more of a facilitator. I didn’t shoot well, one-for-six – that’s not like me. But they were trapping us, trying to get into other guys, trying to bring the zone to me, and other guys were open.”
Just as important, the Bruins (13-14, 8-7) hit their shots, knocking down 16-for-30 in the first half and 9-of-18 in the second.
A far cry from the performance at Washington, when UCLA shot just 46 percent, and 3-for-17 from long range.
That game stung the Bruins, much as a 21-point loss at Pauley Pavilion to USC on Jan. 16 hit home.
But as UCLA did after that the disappointment against the Trojans, nipping Washington five days later by one point, the Bruins rallied back on Thursday night.
“We were upset, we were hurt about it,” guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid said about the Washington loss. “Personally, it was a bad loss; seeing Coach Bobby Knight sitting on the sidelines, someone I have great respect for, just really hurt me. From an individual standpoint, I know we had to get back on the ball. We’ve been battling back all year; that knock down, get back up team.
“Hopefully now we stay up on our feet for a little bit.”