The Stanford men’s basketball team returns home to face UCLA Thursday night, fresh off last week’s trip to the Pacific Northwest, where the Cardinal earned a victory over Washington State but suffered a loss to Washington.
The Cardinal (13-11, 6-7 Pac-10) will attempt to avenge last month’s 68-57 loss to the Bruins (18-7, 9-3 Pac-10) and begins the Pac-10 home stretch looking for its fifth home conference victory.
The Cardinal squares off against a hot UCLA team tonight that has won five straight and nine of its last 10.
The Bruins have powered to second place in the Pac-10 thanks to a league-leading defense that has allowed just 0.97 points per possession. In conference play, UCLA has held opponents to 44 percent shooting overall and 32 percent from the three-point range, both good enough for second place in the Pac-10.
In the first matchup on Jan. 22, the Cardinal stormed to a 22-8 lead with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the first half. However, they were unable to maintain that margin, going 2-for-18 from the field for the rest of the half as UCLA came back to trail by one at halftime.
UCLA then went 25-for-33 from the free-throw line in the second half and the Cardinal was outscored, 42-30, in the second period.
UCLA’s well-balanced offense has five players who average 10 or more points per game. In last month’s matchup, Malcolm Lee scored 23, Tyler Honeycutt had 16 and Lazeric Jones went for 17.
The Cardinal will look to the improved play of junior guard Jeremy Green to help them knock off the Bruins this weekend.
After a January in which he averaged 11.6 points per game and shot just 32 percent from the field, Green has bounced back in February, shooting 53 percent from field-goal range and scoring more than 20 points in four straight games.
Stanford Coach Johnny Dawkins attributes Green’s resurgence primarily to better preparation.
“I credit it to his work ethic, to his dedication to the game. He did a lot of studying the game and learning more about himself as a player,” Dawkins said. “Sometimes you find more about yourself through adversity than at any other time. He’s becoming a better all-around player because of what he experienced.”
Dawkins noted how he’s had to face unique on-court challenges in this Pac-10 season.
“He’s now being guarded by other teams’ best defenders–who, last year, always guarded Landry Fields,” Dawkins continued. “He’s learned to free himself better and create better offense for himself.”
Another indication of a strong finish by the Cardinal has been the maturity and leadership of junior guard Jarrett Mann.
Dawkins noted several signs of Mann’s progression over the course of the season.
“Mann has gotten better all season,” he said. “He’s probably the most selfless player on the team from a standpoint of what he’s called upon to do. He started off [last year] as a wing player and converted to a point guard, and then this year played off the ball–and now he’s back on the ball. Yet, the young man has never wavered. He asks ‘what can I do to help the team?’”
The Cardinal also looks to win the turnover battle, as UCLA coughs the ball up on a conference-worst 23.2 percent of possessions in Pac-10 play. Conversely, the Bruins struggle to force turnovers, only doing so 16.8 percent of the time, the conference’s second-worst percentage.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Maples Pavilion.