Stanford tied its season high in points allowed and fell 88-80 to visiting UCLA on Saturday afternoon at Maples Pavilion. The loss was Stanford's second straight after a stretch in which the Cardinal won four of five.
For once, Stanford's issue wasn't on the offensive end. Though the Card shot only 38.5 percent from the field, the 80 points scored was among their top five scoring outputs of the season. Rather, Stanford couldn't stop a UCLA team which was limited to 63 points in a blowout loss to Cal on Thursday.
"We typically defend a lot better than we defended tonight," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "For them to have the field goal percentage that they did, for them to have the amount of points that they had, it's not characteristic of how we've defended any year."
"We just didn't make the stops tonight."
Dawkins commended UCLA on its shooting proficiency.
"I have not seen them make shots like that," Dawkins said. "They had one of those nights. We had hands in guys' faces and they still made shots, we fouled guys, they still made shots. And unfortunately we caught that night. I thought our kids came ready to compete and we have to learn from that experience."
Stanford's cold shooting didn't help Cardinal's cause, either. Stanford attempted 13 more shots than the Bruins from the field, but shot only 39.7 percent from the field compared to 52.7 for UCLA. Stanford was particularly inaccurate from deep -- Stanford made only five of 23 three-point attempts.
Gage, bench scoring stalled: Before the Los Angeles schools came to town, John Gage was one of the Pac-12's hottest shooters. He made over 60 percent of three-point attempts through the first 11 games of the conference schedule. But over the weekend, Gage went 0-8 from deep. Stanford didn't get much help from players on the bench other than Gage, either, receiving only two points from its reserves.
"We talked about that this weekend after the USC game, stepping up, we need more guys stepping up and contributing," Dawkins said. "And they will. Some of these guys are still trying to find ourselves. Rosco Allen is a freshman and the game is still moving fast for him at time. He's going to be fine. He's going to be a terrific player. Christian Sanders same thing, trying to find his way.
"I thought John the last couple of nights, he's been the guy really giving us the most off the bench. Everybody is aware of him the second go-around in conference play and quite frankly he's had some great open looks he just didn't make. You can't fault him. I told john, I said I don't care, keep taking your shots. You're getting good looks. You'll knock those shots down, but he hasn't knocked them down the last two games."
Bruins better than advertised: Any thought that UCLA would crumble after a blowout loss to Cal and with a coach (Ben Howland) firmly on the hot seat was dashed early. The Bruins were successful in transition early in the game and stayed hot throughout, posting their highest scoring output in Pac-12 play this season.
Shabazz Muhammad scored a game-high 25 points on 9-14 shooting, Jordan Adams scored 20 on only nine shots, and Kyle Anderson added 18.
"First and foremost, we let them do what they do, which is to get out and run," said Stanford forward Dwight Powell, who led Stanford with 22 points on 8-16 shooting. "And they're a high-scoring team, good shooters, and we just didn't key in on their key guys as well as we should have, and we let them get going. It's not the kind of team you can outscore. You've got to stop them and we didn't do that tonight."
Added Dawkins: "I think seeing the ball go in getting some easy baskets early definitely helped what they were doing."
Four-point play dagger: Trailing 75-71 with two minutes and change left in the second half, UCLA had possession and Stanford needed a stop. Instead, Muhammad drained a three from the right wing and drew a foul on Stanford's Chasson Randle. The four-point play extended UCLA's lead to eight points and effectively sealed the Bruin victory.
"During that time in the game it was a very, very difficult play to have," Dawkins said. "The three was going to be bad enough. The four point play makes it even harder to swallow. It's a huge play. I think it's a four-point game at that time. All of a sudden it balloons to eight. You're two possessions down, all of a sudden you're three possessions down. That's huge when you have a few minutes on the clock."
At-large hopes effectively dashed: After losing to USC 65-64 on Thursday, Stanford didn't have much room for error if it wanted to have any shot at earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Now, short of a Pac-12 tournament title, Stanford's postseason hopes are probably limited to the NIT. While the conference is much better this season than it was last year, it is worth noting that only two Pac-12 teams made the tournament - Cal, which had five conference losses - and Colorado, which earned an automatic bid. Washington (four league defeats), Oregon (five conference losses), and Arizona (six), fell short of a tournament bid. Even if Stanford runs the table in conference and finishes with an 11-7 Pac-12 record, it seems unlikely the Cardinal will earn an at-large bid.
Nonetheless, the Cardinal insist they still have plenty to play for.
"We still want to win as many games as possible," Powell said. "Our short-term goals, there's only one game ahead of us. We're only promised one right now, so that's our next focus."