It was delayed aggravation.
UCLA already was trailing Stanford by nearly double digits Saturday night at Maples Pavilion when the start of the second half was pushed back by a basket malfunction.
The Bruins milled about as a worker stood atop a ladder for several minutes trying to stabilize the rim. Both teams eventually retreated to their locker rooms after it was determined the basket was inoperable.
“In the first half,” UCLA interim coach Murry Bartow said, “we could see that it was a tad loose but then it got incredibly loose, just non-playable.”
Fans booed when it was announced there would be a delay of 30 to 40 minutes. New baskets were rolled in while the ones previously in place were retracted toward the rafters. Digital clocks showing the game and shot clocks were placed in a corner of each baseline.
The Bruins eventually emerged to play the second half, though it was as if they were still shooting on the old basket about 100 feet in the air.
UCLA missed six of its first seven shots and couldn’t get nearly enough stops on the way to a 104-80 loss that continued a disturbing trend in Pac-12 Conference play.
Three times now, UCLA has had a chance to complete a conference road sweep.
Three times, the Bruins have come up empty.
They never seemed to have much of a chance against the Cardinal after failing to sustain an early energetic burst that helped them build a nine-point lead. They trimmed a 23-point deficit to nine in the final minutes before Stanford rolled off 10 straight points to retake control.
“We just got whipped,” Bartow said. “It had nothing to do with the delay or anything else. They were much more ready than us, much more high energy than us.”
UCLA point guard Jaylen Hands scored 17 of his career-high 29 points in the first half and guard Jules Bernard added a career-high 19 points, but they didn’t get nearly enough offensive support.
Forward Kris Wilkes took a shot to the face in the game’s opening minutes and seemed a bit wonky the rest of the wayas he finished with seven points on two-for-11 shooting.
The Bruins’ biggest problem was allowing the Cardinal to make too many shots no matter which rim they were attacking; Stanford shot 51.4% in the first half and 54.3% in the second.
“Our defense has really been what’s kind of kept us in games and then tonight we just had no answer,” Bartow said. “We tried man, we tried 2-3, we tried 3-2, we tried 1-3-1 and just couldn’t get a stop. They killed us in transition, they killed us in the paint, they made a lot of threes.”
Josh Sharma scored 22 points and KZ Okpala added 20 for the Cardinal (14-11 overall, 7-6 Pac-12), who surged ahead of UCLA (13-13, 6-7) in the conference standings after entering the game as part of a four-way deadlock for sixth place.
The loss was another dent in the Bruins’ hopes of obtaining one of the top four spots in the Pac-12 and the accompanying first-round bye in the conference tournament.
The Bruins were spirited in pregame warmups, staging their own dunk competition. Wilkes went in for a windmill, Hands added a double-pump reverse move, and Moses Brown followed with his own windmill.
The vitality carried over to the game’s early going, when Hands was involved in almost everything his team did while building an 11-2 lead.
But two old themes reemerged: UCLA had trouble running a fluid offense and couldn’t defend the three-point line. Stanford capitalized to go on a 26-5 run to wipe out the Bruins’ early advantage while building its own double-digit cushion. The Cardinal were up 49-40 at halftime largely on the strength of making seven three-pointers.
Then came the 45-minute delay, followed by a nearly immediate end to the drama.
“After the delay, they came out with energy and punched us in the mouth,” Bernard said. “I don’t know what it was, I don’t know why, they just came out a little bit harder than us and it showed.”
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch