No. 4 UCLA will take its highest ranking of the season up against a visiting Stanford team that’s been a ranking ruiner Thursday night in Pacific-12 Conference play.
The Bruins (21-4, 12-2 Pac-12) have won four in a row to take command of the conference standings with just six games remaining in the regular season. UCLA will get four of those six at home, including the regular-season finale against eighth-ranked Arizona.
UCLA has been ranked fourth or higher 16 times when facing Stanford over the years and hasn’t always walked away a winner.
The Cardinal beat a second-ranked UCLA team in 1975 and 2007 and topped a third-ranked Bruins club in 1978. All three of those wins were at home.
The Cardinal also had a win of significance Jan. 15, 2020. That’s the last time UCLA lost a home game with fans in the stands.
It occurred during Bruins coach Mick Cronin’s first season at the school. When asked about it this week, he conveniently couldn’t recall the 74-59 defeat, but he was plenty clear about what has happened since.
“Good teams win at home,” he said. “We’ve got good players. They care. Guys on our team have been extremely loyal to the school, to the program. Especially the older guys. It gives you a chance to build something.
“All you have to do is turn on the TV. Most teams are constructed of multiple transfers. This team is special. We don’t have one. Because we didn’t need one. Because our guys didn’t transfer. Our guys didn’t go to free agency, to the open market.”
One such player, Jaime Jaquez, was on hand for the loss to Stanford in 2020. The freshman paced the Bruins with 15 points that day.
Fast-forward three years and Jaquez, now a senior, leads UCLA in scoring at 16.3 points per game. He had seven points with 12 rebounds, then 25 points with 12 more rebounds when the Bruins swept Oregon State and Oregon, respectively, last week.
Jaquez was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for his performances.
Stanford (11-14, 5-9) returns this time riding the momentum of an 88-79 home win Saturday over Arizona, which was ranked fourth at the time. Michael O’Connell had 22 points and Spencer Jones 18.
Jones was on hand for Stanford’s last memorable win at UCLA. He contributed 14 points to the 2020 victory.
The Cardinal’s stunning win over Arizona came on the heels of consecutive losses to Colorado and Arizona State.
“We’ve had a lot of challenges, and, man, they stuck with it, through good times and bad,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said after the win. “My guess is we’ll have some smiles moving forward and some tough times moving forward. And what we’re going to do is stick together like we’ve done.”
–Field Level Media