NEW YORK –
UCLA was out-savvied by a team starting five true freshmen.
UCLA was out-hustled by a team down to just six players in its rotation.
And UCLA ultimately was outplayed by a team that had lost its previous four games by a combined 87 points.
St. John’s sent UCLA back across the country with a 66-63 loss at Madison Square Garden in front of 7,305 and many more watching CBS’s marquee Saturday afternoon game.
The Bruins’ lights flickered out quickly, though, as the Red Storm clearly displayed more energy and emotion.
“They played very inspired,” UCLA senior guard Jerime Anderson said. “They played like they’ve had a tough time the last few games and they really wanted to come out and get the win. They got to most of the loose balls, offensive rebounds – that really hurt us.”
The Bruins hurt themselves more:
By turning the ball over with ruthless efficiency, finishing with 16, including eight by sophomore guard Tyler Lamb alone.
By failing to box out, particularly when it mattered most, as Red Storm freshman guard Phil Greene tipped in a D’Angelo Harrison 3-point miss right over Anderson with six seconds left to give St. John’s a four-point lead.
And, most egregious, by playing with the gusto of a napping sloth as St. John’s played as if the ball was made of 24-karat gold.
“They had the sense of urgency to go and get the rebound and they made it happen,” Lamb said. “They made that win happen.”
In many ways, UCLA made its loss happen.
St. John’s atoned for 37 percent shooting with 19 offensive rebounds – which led to 26 second-chance points – including six offensive rebounds by forward Moe Harkless, who finished with 12 total. The Red Storm set the tempo tone early, grabbing back-to-back offensive rebounds on their second possession, including the latter by Harkless, who then laid the ball in for the game’s first points.
And just when UCLA’s energy seemed to be up, St. John’s sapped it right back, with the ball seeming to bounce directly the Red Storm’s way.
Case in point: With 8:02 left in the game, St. John’s freshman Sir’Dominic Pointer missed a jumper, fell to the floor as the ball bounced directly into his hands. The ball eventually went to Harkless, who missed a shot as Pointer exploded toward the rim, grabbed the rebound and slammed it in to put the Red Storm up 56-53.
UCLA would get no closer than two the rest of the way.
“The offensive rebounding, allowing 19 offensive boards in a game that is not an up-and-down game today – they were using the clock and being patient as short-handed as they are – is way too many,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “That’s really the biggest stat that jumps out. It was hurting us at halftime. I felt we did a good job coming out at the start of the second half and came out and scored quickly the first four minutes and got some momentum, but give them credit.
“They got the loose balls, they got the second shots.”
For a team that likely needs to win the Pac-12 Tournament in order to advance to the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins blew their last shot at what might be considered a showcase win. UCLA has just for regular-season games left, with a trip to the Arizona schools next weekend before closing with Washington and Washington State before the conference tournament.
“It’s a disappointing loss because I felt like we prepared well for this game,” Lamb said. “We knew what we were going up against. I don’t take anything away from them, freshmen or not, they came out here and played hard. They outrebounded us, they converted on our turnovers and it helped them win.”