Stanford’s loss to USC Thursday night ended on a missed dunk. Blowing a 9-point halftime lead against a team that went 5-24 in the past calendar year already hurts enough. Losing 71-69 when Dwight Powell had a chance to force overtime on a putback — well, that provides plenty of motivation not to screw up the next game.
UCLA is on a six-game winning streak and brimming with confidence, so it should be able to dispatch an unimpressive Cardinal squad at noon Saturday (Pac-12 Networks, AM-570). The Bruins’ youth might hurt them on the quick turnaround, but they have enough firepower to overcome a slow start, especially at home.
At a glance: Stanford isn’t a good shooting team on paper, ranking dead last in the conference with a 40.7 percentage from the field. It doesn’t help that their stats are dragged down significantly by sophomore guard Chasson Randle’s underwhelming season. Last year, the all-conference freshman took 5.2 threes per game and made 43.8 percent of them. That number is down to 21.9, but Randle still ranks eighth in the Pac-12 with 64 3-point attempts, just ahead of conference-leading scorer Allen Crabbe.
Their big men, however, do have the ability to stretch the floor. Powell is the go-to guy despite a recent slump, and leads the team with 14.2 points per game. The 6-foot-10 forward shoots 47 percent from the floor, but went 13 of 39 in his past three outings. If he’s guarded by the Wears, a bounce-back performance won’t surprise anyone.
Forwards Josh Huestis and Andy Brown — a sixth man coming off a 17-point performance — also have 3-point range.
“They shoot the ball very well,” Ben Howland said. “Their bigs can step out and shoot. … It was a tough loss for them (at USC). We know that they’ll obviously be very prepared for this game tomorrow.
Players to watch: A lot of Stanford’s performance will hinge on Powell, but Huestis could prove problematic for UCLA as well. The Bruins have improved tremendously on what was an atrocious defense, but still struggles with blocking out. That needs to change against Huestis, who uses his 6-foot-7 frame well and has a great nose for the ball.
UCLA gave up 20 offensive rebounds in each of its past two games, while Huestis is tied for the Pac-12 lead with 50 offensive boards. The Bruins rank second-to-last in the conference in rebounding defense, giving up more than any team except Arizona State. Pace accounts for some of that, but their rebounding margin (+3.8) still ranks ninth. The encouraging news is that Stanford’s is eighth at +4.9. The team doesn’t really have any threats on the glass besides Powell and Huestis.
“It’s a huge concern and something that we’ve got to do a better job with,” Howland said.
Kyle Anderson has become an increasingly more fun to watch. He’ll never beat anyone with speed or quickness, but he looks like he’s starting to use his length better on both ends of the floor. The freshman’s wingspan really bothered Cal at times Thursday night, and he’s also making 54.2 percent of his shots through his past three games. Anderson shot below 30 percent through his first six this season.