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Bruins have a Bear of a time in 76-72 overtime loss

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UCLA got the first big bounce, Malcolm Lee’s desperation three-point shot at the end of regulation hitting the front of the rim, springing into the air and falling through the basket.

The Bruins weren’t so fortunate a few minutes later.

California got the carom that mattered most, securing a missed free throw late in overtime to help take a 76-72 victory on Sunday night at Haas Pavilion.

After Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez made one free throw to give Cal a 69-68 lead with 1 minute 19 seconds left in the extra period, he missed the second. But Harper Kamp grabbed the rebound and the Golden Bears eventually scored on a putback by Mark Sanders-Frison to extend their cushion to three points.

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“It was just a long rebound and it went to the other side of the rim,” sophomore forward Reeves Nelson said, “so they got the rebound.”

Coach Ben Howland said the Bruins were also to blame for failing to block out, a breakdown that has haunted UCLA throughout the season.

“You can’t miss block outs and expect to win on the road,” Howland said.

The Bruins still appeared in position to steal the victory when Nelson scored inside to draw UCLA within 71-70, but Gutierrez drove into the lane and passed to an open Brandon Smith, whose three-pointer gave Cal a four-point lead with 14 seconds remaining.

Jerime Anderson’s driving layup with six seconds left proved meaningless when the Bruins failed to foul on Cal’s ensuing possession until there were only seven-tenths of a second left. Gutierrez made both free throws, the final of his career-high 34 points helping to end UCLA’s winning streak at six games and end the Golden Bears’ skid at four games.

Gutierrez repeatedly shredded the Bruins’ defense, forcing them to put Lee on him instead of Allen Crabbe, who had eight points in his return from a concussion that had sidelined him for two games.

“It didn’t matter who was guarding him,” Howland said. “They were screening for him and he turned the corner and drove on our bigs.”

Cal students stormed the court in celebration of a triumph that may have served as a wake-up call for UCLA (19-8 overall, 10-4 Pacific 10 Conference).

“This kind of slaps us back into reality,” said Lee, who had 19 points. “When we were on that winning streak, everything was all good. It was like, yeah, we’re going to get into the tournament, blah, blah, blah.

“This kind of levels us and gets us back down and saying we’ve got to start from square one again and just build it back up.”

The Bruins used one zone to try to escape another. After playing as if they were in a fog for much of the first 25 minutes, they went to a 2-3 zone with big men Joshua Smith and Nelson in foul trouble. It was the first time this season UCLA had used a zone defense, and it helped them rally from a six-point deficit early in the second half.

“It slowed them down,” Nelson said. “They had a good game plan coming in and the zone threw them off a little bit.”

Smith gave UCLA its first lead with 7:15 remaining, stepping to the free-throw line and making two shots as Cal fans yelled “Jenny Craig” at the 305-pounder.

The teams exchanged leads over the next few minutes until Cal (14-13, 7-8) took a 60-57 advantage on four consecutive free throws by Gutierrez.

With 3.3 seconds left, Tyler Honeycutt inbounded the ball to Lee, whose fadeaway three-pointer from the top of the key hit the front of the rim, bounced into the air and went in. Lee pumped his fist as he was mobbed by jubilant teammates.

“When I initially let it go, it felt good,” Lee said. “I knew it was going to have a chance because it was straight. When it hit the rim, the way it bounced, I was like, oh, that’s about to bounce in. It did bounce in.”

The next bounce didn’t take the turn UCLA wanted.

ben.bolch@latimes.com


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