January 11, 2020
Shipp had his second straight big game with a game-high 22points as the Bruins embarrassed a porous, effortless Cal defense en route to shooting 61.1 percent from the field, but it was Mata’s prowess from the foul line that kick-started UCLA. Usually, Mata making two free throws is a windfall for UCLA, but against the Bears it was only the start. He hit his first two free throws with 3:54 remaining in the first half to cut Cal’s lead to 30-26, but it wasn’t the end. After Shipp scored on a steal and lay-in, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute drove and scored and then had a pump-fake and dunk. Mata ended the run and gave the Bruins a 34-32 lead with two more free throws 52.9seconds before the half. “It’s just a matter of confidence,” Mata said. “I’ve been shooting them well in practice. It’s just been getting them to a game. I’ll make them, so don’t foul me anymore.” Mata finished 8 of 9 from the line, and actually made nine straight dating back to last weekend’s game at Arizona. For perspective, Mata made eight of his previous 27 free-throw attempts, which came during an 11-game span. The success against Cal pushed Mata’s percentage to 37.7. “I expect him to make them like that the rest of the year,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “He’s been shooting them real well. We did change a tiny little thing, but it’s just relaxing. I’m just happy for him because he’s put the work in. He’s got a routine now, and I think this is a good confidence builder for him.” Mata’s success from the free throw line is parallel to his play lately. He scored in double figures each of the last three games, averaging 11.3 points. His play gives the Bruins a low-post option at a crucial time. “It’s hard to beat us (when Mata is scoring),” said Collison, UCLA’s point guard. [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Mata, one of the worst free-throw shooters in the nation, provided the emotion with his spot-on foul shooting and career-high 14 points as the fourth-ranked Bruins increased their lead atop the Pacific-10 Conference with an 85-75 defeat of Cal in front of 11,230fans Thursday. UCLA (24-3, 13-2) can clinch at least a share of the Pac-10 title by beating Stanford on Saturday, and with it the Bruins, by virtue of holding most of the tiebreaker advantages, would likely get the No.1 seed in the Pac-10 Tournament. That came after second-place Washington State (22-5, 11-4) lost at Oregon 64-59 to fall twogames behind the Bruins. “It doesn’t mean anything to us. We just have to come out and win our game,” UCLA wing Josh Shipp said. “We’re focused on Stanford right now. (The Pac 10 title) all adds to it, but I feel like we play hard no matter what.” The Cougars’ loss at Oregon capped a stellar night for the Bruins, led by Mata. A 30.9-percent shooter from the free-throw line entering the game, Mata made his first seven attempts, with the initial two triggering a 10-2 run that gave slow-starting UCLA a lead it did not relinquish. During a ridiculously easy second half, UCLA shot 64.5percent as Shipp, Arron Afflalo and, really, any other Bruin who wanted to, scored on lay-ins, dunks and chippies as the Bears (14-13, 6-9) were crushed in transition, and carefree in the half-court. At one point, UCLA led by 26 points before Cal scored a few late baskets to distort the competitiveness of the game. “We just couldn’t play defense consistently enough inside-out,” Cal coach Ben Braun said. “It’s uncharacteristic of us. We gave up those inside baskets not to just the post players, but to Josh, Arron and Darren (Collison).” UCLA center Lorenzo Mata stood at the foul line, bounced the basketball a few times and released it toward the rim. The ball bounced high, off the back of the iron, and fell harmlessly to the floor. Yet, many in the sold out Pauley Pavilion crowd rose to their feet and applauded Mata, because for once his miss from the line was well beyond the norm.