Rabbits fall to Foxes 85-72

STAPLES CENTER –

The rabbit sensed his opening and took off, frantically trying to escape the stalking predator.

The fox laid off, waiting for the rabbit to grow desperate.

The rabbit kept his distance, maintaining a cushion on the fox as long as he could.

The fox stayed patient, tried to take inch-by-inch.

The rabbit grew weary, its tired legs pattering as fast as they could, the steps getting smaller, smaller, smaller.

The fox pounced as everyone knew it would, finally caught up to the rabbit and promptly tore it to shreds.

On Friday night, the UCLA Bruins were the rabbit, cute and cuddly, trying their darndest to postpone their season one more night, for the Pac-10 Tournament championship game.

The Cal Bears were the fox, cunning and experienced, wily, just knowing their time would come.

Jerome Randle was the fox’s razor-sharp teeth.

The Pac-10 Player of the Year scored 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting and hit a crucial 3-pointer as the first half expired as Cal advanced to the Pac-10 Tournament championship game with an 85-72 win on Friday night at Staples Center.

“It was the story of the fox and the rabbit,” said UCLA sophomore guard Malcolm Lee, who finished with six points and five assists. “The fox was just looking for a meal, the rabbit was just running for his life. We were the rabbit. We jumped out ahead, but you could feel their intensity come out of nowhere.”


As they’ve done so often this year, the Bruins got ahead early, forging a 20-10 lead with senior forward Michael Roll on fire. Roll had 10 points during the spurt, working well off screens and finishing creases in the Cal defense, finishing the first half with 16.

His 3-pointer with 1 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first half gave the Bruins a 39-30 lead with the ball, but he missed a layup, fouled Cal forward Theo Robertson, and it began.

Robertson hit both free throws, the Bears got a Reeves Nelson turnover on the ensuing possession and Randle milked the clock, picked up a screen on Lee, bounced back and drained a 3-pointer over Nikola Dragovic, the nine-point lead falling to four in less than a minute.

“I was gonna stay with it at first, but I heard coach call to switch, and that’s when I saw Jerome’s eyes light up,” Lee said. “I knew he was gonna pull it, too. I didn’t think it’d be that deep, though.”

If that was the end of it, though, UCLA might have had a chance.

It was not.

The Bears continued their torrid stretch by moving into the Bruins defense, Randle and backcourt mates Patrick Christopher and Jorge Gutierrez penetrating with ease.

When it was over 10 minutes later, a 24-5 run had Cal up 10, and UCLA would get it no closer than six the rest of the way.

“We knew what we were going up against and we wanted to come in and try to be aggressive,” Randle said. “Like coach said, they came in and played really hard in the beginning. We didn’t want to back down so we came in the second half and threw the first punch.”

The Bruins’ response had little force. Forget a punch; UCLA barely managed a playful slap to the cheek.

With Nelson plagued by leg soreness after a standout performance in UCLA’s 75-69 win over Arizona on Thursday, his first game back following a four-game absence because of eye troubles, the Bruins had little clout in the post. Nelson went from 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Wildcats to eight points, five boards and five turnovers.

With little inside impact – the Bears outscored UCLA 42-28 in the paint – the Bruins had to rely on their outside game.

Instead of going to Roll, though, they went to senior forward Nikola Dragovic.

After hitting a 3-pointer to give UCLA it’s last lead at 44-42, Dragovic took bad shot after bad shot, finishing with eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, making just 1-of-8 3-pointers.

Roll had his first second-half shot attempt with 10:49 left, his first points with 7:42 left.

“It didn’t feel like they played me any different, the team kind of went away from me,” said Roll, who led all scorers with 27 points and became the 49th Bruin to reach the 1,000-point plateau. “They tried to get it going elsewhere, other people were taking shots. It was just frustrating. I had it going, and I had it going late, too. I wanted to keep it going.”

But UCLA could not pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Couldn’t pry itself from Cal’s teeth.

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  • Mike Roll FTW

    I don’t usually comment, but Jon, if you have the chance to relay this message to Mike Roll, tell him that all Bruin fans everywhere are very proud of him. We had a fighting chance and that was all due to him. He had made the best out of this horrendous season and he should be proud of what he has accomplished. It’s been fun watching him the past few years and he will definitely be missed. Best of luck for him whatever path he chooses next and I hope that we can still see him back in Pauley in one capacity or another.

    Can’t say the same for Dragovic. All I can say is thank god this season is over and we will never ever have to watch him again.

  • Rabbit and Fox?

    I don’t understand how this analogy works for us…

  • Keith

    JON–NICE ARTICLE AND I ENJOYED THE ANALOGY. THE GAME DID SEEM TO HAVE A CERTAIN INEVITABILITY TO IT.
    PLEASE GIVE MIKE ROLL THE PROPS HE DESERVES FROM ALL OF US. HE HAD A GREAT CAREER AND HE WILL BE REMEMBERED FONDLY AND APPRECIATIVELY.

  • lavsmousse

    Rabbits, unlike the Bruins, at least have the quickness to play tough man to man D.

  • VB

    Michael Roll played his heart out and will always be remembered by the UCLA family. He will always be in the record books as playing the most games as a UCLA player.

    Dragovic, on the other hand, is a low-life scumbag who didn’t do anything for our program but slow our progress. In five years, we aren’t even gong to remember that stupid loser. Good riddance, Drago, you selfish Serbian pig!

  • David G

    I’m tired of Howland basketball, I know 3 final fours,but today’s college game has passed him by. You see other teams that have an offensive plan…did he ever have one?

  • MichaelRyerson

    So it’s finally over, mercifully. A team plagued by uncomplimentary parts due in part to the silly one-and-done reality of current NCAA regs, some unseasoned players being asked to play out of position, a couple of kids with enormous hearts and a couple of underachievers. And yes, some coaching/recruiting gaffes. But let’s remember these are still young men and regardless of their relative contributions in this off-year they don’t deserve the kind of sophomoric vitriol I see on this page. I, personally, think VB’s comment should be deleted. None of the kids on this team is a pig nor deserves to be called one and like their game or hate their game, it’s still a freaking game, fer gawdsake.

  • Anonymous

    Michael Roll a nice kid. Glad to have met him.
    Good luck to him.

  • TK Bruin

    Here’s the silver lining: we have a couple of standout Freshman that make the future look bright

  • Anonymous

    Standout freshman indeed. Josh smith should def make our froncourt much more potent. We just need a Farmar or Collison at the point.

  • Bruintx

    Hey VB, why don’t you go hang out at Bruins Nation… you can be with your own kind there

  • Anonymous

    Why does Dragovic suck so much.

  • The Big Woof!

    No VB’s comments should not be deleted. Despite the fact that Drago’s shot selection was pitiful, and he hurt us offensively, he did make some other plays yesterday that were good and his defense in the center rather than the wing was not bad at all.
    The comments should stay as an example of what an idiot and schmuck VB clearly is, and that probably 98% of the readers of this blog will agree with that.

  • anonymous

    David G,
    Are you saying today’s college game is different than last year’s, or the game of two years ago?
    Instict tells me the NBA players who were drafted in the first round and in the lottery, who played for Coach Howland, and their scouts, might disagree with you. And, getting to the final four three years without an offensive plan becomes fifficult to argue, and we’re talking two years ago. Also,I suggest you reconsider the Coach Howland offense of less than a year ago. Statistically his elite offense was superior to over ninety-five percent of the teams we faced last season. UCLA’s offensive efficiency and points per posession ratio was in the top ten nationally throughout the 08-09 season — and during the height of the conference schedule in the top five. Would you consider this getting passed by? And contrary to what some believe, this kind of offense usually requires a painfully deliberate plan. In fact, to the disbelief of some pundits, statistically the offensive performance exceeded the defensive performance last season. The offense in the prior season, arguably was better, although statistically, in the national top twenty, as opposed to the top ten, and inferior to our defensive numbers.

  • one-and-done

    NCAA BB now involves a yearly shuffling of the lineup like decks of cards. Without knocking CBH much, like his players he needs to learn more and teach offense to match the level of defense. Remember the NC game against Florida? One 100-point game a year doesn’t cut it.

    As for dragonvict, he basically cast a cloud over the team that could not be lifted. At UCLA of another generation, he would have been bounced out swiftly. This team was so thin he not only stayed on the team, but started.

  • la-ukla

    Was I the only one pouting yesterday during the Selection Sunday show? It sucks to not have your team even make the tourney, while that weasel Calipari is enjoying his #1 seeding. Which got me thinking…would I rather have Howland or Calipari? Hmmm…two years ago I’d laugh, now, not so sure.