Apparently, all those pundits and fans who were predicting the UCLA basketball team’s loss to the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night forgot to tell those Bruins.
Despite Joshua Smith sitting out the game due to a concussion suffered on Tuesday, Ben Howland’s team was quicker on defense, holding Arizona to 36% shooting, agressively attacking the basket on offense, and committing just nine turnovers on the way to a 65-58 win in the John R. Wooden Classic before a season-high crowd of 9,274 at the Honda Center.
“We made a good step forward,” Howland said after the game, in which the Bruins earned their first Pac-12 win after getting swept in the Bay Area, improving to 8-7 overall.
By winning, UCLA avoided their first 0-3 conference start since 1987-88.
The Wear twins, Travis and David, were the go-to guys as they combined for 34 points and ten rebounds, Travis scoring a career-high 20 points with David contributing 14 before fouling out with five minutes left in the game.
Lazeric Jones was the other Bruin in double figures, scoring 13 points and hitting two clucth free throws with 8.3 seconds left to seal the game.
UCLA used a 17-4 run in the first half to take a 37-30 halftime lead, and although they made just one basket – a layup by Travis Wear – in the game’s final 5:37, the Bruins held on with free throws and clutch stops, including forcing a key turnover by Arizona’s Solomon Hill with less than two minutes left and UCLA only up by five.
John Wooden would have been most pleased with his former team’s effort, with 35 members of the late coach’s family in attendance cheering UCLA on, obviously liking what they saw.
The Bruins now need to maintain this momentum against Arizona State on Saturday; a win would even their conference record and, as there is no clear-cut favorite to win the Pac-12 this season, put them in the thick of the race.