UCLA makes it interesting until the end in 69-65 win over Stanford

Reporting from Palo Alto — It’s a template for success, and for heartburn.

Build a double-digit lead, watch it dwindle and ultimately hold on in the final minute.

UCLA used that formula again Thursday night at Maples Pavilion in a 69-65 victory over Stanford, going up by 16 points with 7 1/2 minutes to play only to sweat out its sixth consecutive triumph.


“This is a great team for TV ratings and keeping fans involved for sponsors all the way to the end,” Bruins Coach Ben Howland said. “We should get some accommodations for it.”

UCLA sophomore forward Reeves Nelson scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, including three free throws that sealed the outcome after a barrage of three-pointers by Jeremy Green had pulled Stanford to within four points with 1:12 remaining.

The Cardinal had two more chances to cut into its deficit, but Green committed a turnover and missed a three-pointer as UCLA (19-7 overall, 10-3 Pacific 10 Conference) improved to 18-0 when it has led by at least 10 points.

It was a balanced effort for the Bruins. Sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt had 16 points and freshman Joshua Smith introduced himself to the Cardinal (13-12, 6-8) with 13 points and nine rebounds after sitting out the teams’ first meeting last month with a head and neck injury.

“Nobody on this team really cares about stats,” Nelson said. “We have so many options that are going to help the team win that we’re going to use them.”

Honeycutt was aggressive offensively in the early going, making three three-pointers and scoring 13 points to help the Bruins take a 36-29 halftime lead. He also had some sloppy moments, including back-to-back traveling violations that prompted Howland to briefly remove him from the game.

UCLA then repeatedly went inside to Nelson and Smith in the final 20 minutes. Smith had three offensive rebounds on one possession, helping the Bruins amass 35 rebounds overall to Stanford’s 26.

Smith made a variety of hustle plays in his 28 minutes, chasing down a rebound in the corner, diving to the floor for a loose ball and altering a shot to force a shot-clock violation.

“His big thing is being able to play really hard for major minutes,” Howland said.

A block by Smith resulted in a layup by Nelson that gave the Bruins their largest lead, a 57-41 advantage with 7:26 left. Green then started heating up, splurging for 16 of his game-high 27 points over the remainder of the game.

Honeycutt missed three free throws in the final 1:22, including the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, to help fuel the Cardinal’s comeback.

But after Green missed a three-point attempt with 22 seconds left and Stanford trailing by only four, Cardinal guard Aaron Bright wrapped his arms around Nelson and was called for an intentional foul.

Nelson made both free throws with 12 seconds to go, delighting a large and vocal contingent of Bruins fans.

Mental mistakes continued to hurt the Bruins, who committed 17 turnovers and suffered a few defensive lapses late in the game.

Ultimately, they overcame another late letdown to complete a season sweep of Stanford and will have two days off before trying to beat California for a second time this season.

“We’re playing more together,” Smith said. “It was up and down, but we stayed together.”