2014 Pac-12 Tournament Schedule and Bracket: Semifinal Preview Stanford vs. UCLA
Like the first semifinal on Friday, the Stanford-UCLA nightcap (8:30 p.m. PT, Fox Sports 1) features one team that was expected to reach the Pac-12’s Final Four by seed and one that wasn’t.
While the second-seeded Bru Cru and sixth-seeded Farm Boys both figure to make the NCAA tournament, it never hurts to put a little extra credit on the résumé – not to mention move on to the conference finals with a chance to win the Pac-12 Tournament outright.
Both UCLA and Stanford advanced out of Thursday's quarterfinals thanks to strong second-half starts. Up by two at the break, Alford and Co. opened up the final frame on an 18-4 run to grab a double-digit lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Bruins hit six consecutive jump shots in the midst of that big second-half run and ended the game shooting 57 percent from the floor and 50 percent from bonus distance.
“I thought we did a good job of not turning the ball over and getting high quality shots,” Bruins head honcho Steve Alford said. “We just made shots coming out of the break.”
In Stanford’s win over Arizona State, the Cardinal used a 21-6 run over a five-minute span to push the lead out to 21 with 3:46 remaining in the game. Though the offense was solid for Stanford (55 percent shooting is nothing to scoff at), it was all about holding the Sun Devils’ dynamic duo of Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski to a combined 17 points on 5-18 shooting.
“I thought our guys did a great job focusing on what we needed to do to slow them down,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I thought our guys fought and executed very well.”
Friday's semifinal presents the third meeting this season between Stanford and UCLA. With both teams winning previously on their home courts, Friday night serves as the rubber match.
[Related: UCLA can't miss against Oregon]
If there’s one guy who is happy to see the Cardinal in the semis, it’s UCLA big dude Tony Parker. Averaging 7.0 ppg in the regular season overall, the Georgian had his two highest-scoring games in conference against Stanford, averaging 17.5 points in the two contests on 68 percent shooting. If Parker can trend more toward the Pauley Pavilion outing against Stanford (22 points) as opposed to the Maples one (13), the Bruins will be in very good shape.
Another key for the Bru Cru will be pressuring Stanford into rushed decisions. The Cardinal buckled against a stiff Bruin defense in SoCal, turning it over a whopping 19 times in a 91-74 loss.
On the Stanford side of things, Johnny Dawkins made it clear in the postgame presser after taking care of Arizona State: The Cardinal must make the Bruins a half-court team. With the Bruins’ athleticism on the perimeter, you might see a few more Kyle Anderson monster jams if UCLA can get out and run.
[Related: Stanford upsets ASU]
Another thing to keep an eye on for Nerd Nation is staying out of foul trouble. Fouls have been a bugaboo for Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year Dwight Powell and big man Stefan Nastic all season, and the problem reared its ugly head again Thursday night when Powell picked up two personals in seven minutes and Nastic tallied three in six. Stanford will need its full array of weapons – especially with a short bench – to pull off another tourney upset.