Michael Roll’s shot is a winner for UCLA
There was no doubt in Michael Roll’s mind.
The clock was ticking down. The ball was ricocheting amid a jumble of players.
That bouncing ball somehow found its way to the UCLA senior, who calmly sank a 15-foot jumper with 1.9 seconds to play in overtime, giving his team an unlikely 76-75 victory over California.
“I just turned and shot it,” Roll said. “And it went in.”
The victory was, as Coach Ben Howland called it, “huge” for a Bruins team struggling this season, facing an opponent picked to finish among the top two in the Pacific 10 Conference.
“I felt like they played harder than we did,” California Coach Mike Montgomery said. “Kind of from the get-go.”
The win also justified a lineup change, point guard Jerime Anderson on the bench to begin with -- Howland called it punishment for showing up late to a rehab session.
The switch made for a longer and arguably more athletic squad on the court, Malcolm Lee shifting to the point and 6-foot-7 freshman Tyler Honeycutt inserted at forward.
“Tyler, I mean, he brings more of a slashing threat,” Roll said after the shift was announced. “I feel he can get some more rebounds and obviously we’re taller.”
The move paid dividends, Honeycutt grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds and earning another start against Stanford on Saturday.
Still, the Bruins (7-8 overall, 2-1 in conference play) would need a comeback.
They simply had too many missed free throws and turnovers, and by midway through the first half, the Golden Bears (9-5, 1-1) had scored 13 points off miscues to open an eight-point lead.
Cal guard Patrick Christopher, on his way to 14 points for the game, did most of the damage, showing a nice jumper and hyper-quickness getting to the basket.
The Golden Bears led, 34-26, at halftime, but Roll and two of his teammates -- Lee and Nikola Dragovic -- told each other to keep shooting.
“We figured we’ve got to start making shots,” Dragovic said.
It was not the best environment for a comeback, not at Haas Pavilion, where fans go so far as to cheer over the national anthem, yelling “Blue!” over “rocket’s red glare” and changing the end of the song to the “home of the Bears.”
But the Bruins started a turnaround with Roll and Dragovic getting hot, making six of seven shots from three-point range. They would finish with 19 and 18 points, respectively.
Freshman center Reeves Nelson got into the act after that, powering inside and making his free throws.
With less than seven minutes remaining, UCLA led by a basket and the game turned into a back-and-forth affair, both teams missing chances to win in regulation.
Overtime was more of the same, UCLA opening a brief lead, the Golden Bears fighting back to tie the score.
In the final seconds, Anderson drove the lane off a screen and tried to dish to Reeves but the pass got knocked away. It glanced off Cal guard Jerome Randle’s hands and deflected straight to Roll.
“The ball was there,” Montgomery said. “Should have been ours.”
Watching from a few feet away, Dragovic knew Roll’s jumper was good.
Cal had just enough time to heave up a desperation shot that missed the mark.
No doubt about it.