Heartbreak is not just forgotten in 42 days.
The last time the UCLA basketball team saw Stanford, the Cardinal were erasing a Bruin win with one swipe of the arm, as Josh Huestis blocked a Lazeric Jones jumper with three seconds left to preserve a 60-59 win on Dec. 28.
Unfortunately for UCLA, the conference opener was not a forgettable one.
“We had it at the end and we let it slip,” sophomore guard Tyler Lamb said. “It was a good game, both teams played hard – but if we cut down on some of our mental mistakes, it’s a different game.”
The Bruins (13-10, 6-5) committed 11 turnovers and shot 4-of-15 from 3-point land as they could not capitalize on an even worse performance by the Cardinal (16-7, 6-5), who committed 14 turnovers and shot just 34.5 percent from the field for the game.
“We’re not worried about what the games going to be like; we already know what the game is going to be like,” sophomore forward David Wear said. “They already know how we’re going to play – we got the scouting report on them, they got the scouting report on us – so you basically just have to go out and try to execute a little bit better than you did the game before.”
The Bruins aren’t just worried about themselves, though.
Bitterness remains from the last battle, and only a win will make it go away.
“It bothers anybody any time you lose,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland. “Hopefully it motivates you to bounce back and want to get that sour taste out of your mouth.”
UCLA’s offense may be executing offensively better than any team in the conference – the Bruins lead the Pac-12 in field-goal shooting percentage and 3-point shooting percentage in conference play – but the team is struggling with the simplest of shots.
At just 65.6 percent from the free-throw line, UCLA ranks sixth through 11 games.
“We’re all really good free throw shooters, so it’s frustrating when you get into the game and we’re shooting 50 percent some games,” Wear said. “It’s frustrating to get into games and not make our free throws.”
UCLA’s foul shooting has been downright foul, but Howland wants one Bruin in particular to get more attempts.
Or one, for that matter.
Freshman guard Norman Powell has zero free throws attempted in 205 minutes in conference play as he has settled for jumpers without attacking the rim.
“He’s got to attack and want to get hit and want the contact,” Howland said. “I mean the bottom line is 205 minutes without a foul shot is something he’s got to improve at. It’s not enough. Not even close. Good scorers get to the foul line and we need Norman to learn how to do that.”
Smith feasts in Apple State
Sophomore forward Joshua Smith got a little home cooking during the Bruins’ two-game Washington swing, and it tasted good.
Smith had 24 and 19 points against Washington and Washington State, respectively, his two biggest scoring outputs of the season.
“I’m always motivated to go home and play well,” Smith said. “Last year I thought I played alright. Feeding off the crowd a little bit, a lot of people talking mess – I’m a competitor and I was out there trying to be aggressive.”