UCLA wins 78-76; Howland keeps his eyebrows

UCLA has been there before.

Comfortable, easy, breezy, a mai-tai in hand, beach umbrella up.

And then the storm came, and the Bruins had to run for cover.

Only in the end, it was Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas who took a few too many steps, and No. 7-seed UCLA withstood a furious Spartan rally to advance to a Saturday showdown with two-seed Florida after a 78-76 win at Tampa’s St. Pete Times Forum.

After building a 23-point lead with 8 minutes, 35 seconds left, UCLA eased off the gas pedal, essentially grinding to an absolute stop. After a Malcolm Lee missed free throw with four seconds left, it took a travel violation by Lucas with less than a second left to close it out for the Bruins.

“It got closer than we wanted; we weren’t able to make free throws, gave up too many threes,” UCLA sophomore small forward Tyler Honeycutt said. “The game wasn’t close until about the last 10 minutes when they came back. We have to do a better job closing out games. We’ve done this too many times. But this is going to be one of our biggest learning experiences.
“We lose this game, we go home.”

Even as their focus slipped, as their attention to detail waned, the Bruins stayed focused on that simple premise. But at times, it sure didn’t look like it.

Michigan State shot 48.6 percent from the field in the second half after a 29.6-percent first half, hitting 9-of-18 3-pointers after the break.

Meanwhile, UCLA’s free throws clanked off the rim as if immune to the net, the Bruins shooting just 15-of-28, 53.6 percent, from the line in the second half.

“We definitely could’ve made our foul shots down the stretch, and it definitely wouldn’t have been the two-point game it ended there,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “We definitely could’ve hit our foul shots. We’ll practice them (today). We make our foul shots, and we win this game comfortably. We’ll get back to that.”

Ultimately, though, the Bruins weathered the storm.

Only because they built such a sturdy hut, though.

UCLA jumped to a 42-24 halftime lead – the team’s biggest advantage at the break since its season-opening 83-50 win over Cal State Northridge – by playing incredibly tight defense and working the ball inside out.

A balanced offensive effort was spurred by the post play of Honeycutt, freshman center Joshua Smith and sophomore power forwards Reeves Nelson and Brendan Lane. Honeycutt had 16 points, three blocks and two steals, Smith had 14 points, Nelson 12 and 10 rebounds, and Lane had a crucial eight points and four rebounds off the bench.

The Bruins kept rolling early in the second half, slowly and steadily rebounding from each Michigan State spurt, as the Spartans cut the lead to 10 with 13:16 left before a 15-2 UCLA run put the Bruins up 64-41 with less than nine minutes to play.

And then, Michigan State showed why it has advanced to back-to-back Final Fours.

Lucas had 11 second-half points, forward Draymond Green had 19 and backup guard Keith Appling hit three second-half 3-pointers as the Spartans crept back.

“We slacked up by nature; you’re going to slack up with a 23-point lead,” Honeycutt said. “You know, ‘There’s two points here, there’s two points there.’ But they end up adding up.”

They keep adding up, while Howland’s hair keeps disappearing.

Heading into the tournament, he joked with reporters that his brothers both have full heads of hair, and here he is, the before picture in a Rogaine commercial.

Asked if he worried he’d lose his eyebrows after this one, Howland chuckled, corralled his mother who was standing near and threw an arm around her shoulder.

“We have prominent brows in our family,” Howland laughed. “Those will stay.”

Share this post:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on TumblrShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page
  • gobruins

    One thing that really stuck out like a sore thumb to me in this game besides the fact that we blew a 23pt lead was how Malcolm Lee really got robbed of the Pac10 DPOY. He held Kalin Lucas scoreless in the first 30 minutes and a total of 11 points, well below his 17 pts average in the season. Lucas was a nonfactor until late in the game. And remember that Lee is also playing with a bum knee.

  • Lifelong Bruin Fan

    On a positive note: UCLA would have been blown out by MSU at the beginning of this season. MSU beat Washington early in the season, and in our first Pac-10 game Washington beat us handily at Pauley. The fact that we were in command with 10 minutes to go is a testament to the progress of this team this year. Of course, the fact that we did not play with composure in the last 10 minutes is a testament to the fact that we are still young. Just about each of our players made plays they know they shouldn’t have as the game got tight (bad pass, missed free throw, bad foul, etc.)–I hope they all reflect on what they could do better to close out the game.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to a good game against Florida and advancing to the Sweet 16. Go Bruins!!

  • ucla-of-the rockies

    What a surprising spark off the bench by Brendan Lane. Another key seems to be the major extra minutes Jerime Anderson is handling at the point to keep injured Zeke Jones fresher for his turns at running things.
    A very intriguing battle at the swingman position is looming come Saturday: If Tyler Honeycutt — fresh off two solid back-to-back games — outplays SEC MVP Chandler Parsons, we beat Florida and dance right into the Sweet 16 … and may even keep on rolling further.

    A nice night to be a Bruin fan far from home!

  • Bruin_Bry

    I think Howland made a critical error by having Zeke, instead of Jerime finishing the game. Jerime was solid and broke his defender down multiple times. He’s shown he’s a composed player now and would’ve been a scoring threat in addition to a more solid free-thrower in these critical situations. In those free throw situations, I want Lee or Jerime at the line. The soph’s are getting rattled at the line when the game gets tight. They’ll grow from this, but until then, late game free throws need to go to Lee and Jerime.

  • ucla-of-the rockies

    B_B: Good take. I’d agree with more than just Jerime handling “part” of the PG duties … Jerime down the stretch would be my choice, too, in terms of FTs. Of course, it’s hard to be disappointed with Zeke in the game whenever CBH so chooses — could you imagine this season w/o him? He’s got more heart than any UCLA guard I can remember since Tyus Edney.

  • hogsman

    I agree with Bruin_Bry — I think Anderson played a very solid game, and I think he directed the offense better than Jones did, including a nifty dish to Smith for a dunk. What a contrast to the way he started the season — I’m really happy for him and hope that he can finish the tournament strong and use that as a springboard into his senior season.

  • Johnny Angel

    Not that there was any doubt why the Bruins didn’t win by forty or more points against a mediocre MSU team but Honeycutt summed up the great weakness of this team when he said by nature they let up. The team probably has enough talent to do well but the lack of mental discipline and consistently high level of effort by this team is frustrating.

    Good win, Bruins, but get tougher!

  • Reformed Droog

    Jerime Anderson – What a difference a year makes…

  • Bruintx

    Honeycutt obviously doesnt realize… truly good teams dont automatically “slack up” with large leads. The really good ones kick their opponents when they’re down so they never get up. Did florida slack up by nature yesterday? I dont think so. The best teams dont slack up by nature, period.