UCLA puts it all together to beat Pepperdine, 62-39
This was the kind of retro feel UCLA was going for this season.
There were huge runs against a seemingly overmatched opponent.
Waving arms swatted shots and forced turnovers.
Fans had something to cheer besides having beer at a college sporting event.
The Bruins were back to dominating in the building where they routinely humbled foes and won two national titles, thrashing Pepperdine on Monday night at the Sports Arena during a 62-39 victory.
UCLA (2-4) used suffocating defense and a 22-4 push to close the first half to move into the win column against Division I opponents and notch its first victory at home after dropping its first two games against mid-majors.
“Sometimes you have to get a win to know how to win,” said guard Lazeric Jones, who supplemented a game-high 14 points with six steals and four assists.
Not that there were many around to see it. An announced crowd of 3,885 that seemed less than half that number included a student section 34 strong.
Those who were there witnessed the Bruins’ best defense of the season as they forced 15 turnovers, blocked eight shots and held Pepperdine (3-3) to 31.3% shooting.
“It was a completely different group of guys out there,” said UCLA Coach Ben Howland, whose team had allowed three of its first five opponents to shoot better than 50%.
“We did a much better job rotating, helping, scrambling, supporting one another, switching when we needed to switch. Our team defense was by far the best effort we’ve had all year, and that’s how we have to play.”
Their offense wasn’t too shabby either.
Sophomore forwards David and Travis Wear combined for 18 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks and two lost teeth when Travis Wear ran into an elbow while trying to rebound a free throw.
“I picked one up off the ground,” said Travis Wear, who will have the teeth re-implanted Tuesday.
UCLA freshman guard Norman Powell turned in a pick-me-up performance with a steal and a breakaway dunk on the way to a career-high 10 points.
It was the kind of showing longtime UCLA fans became accustomed to when the Bruins won 86.1% of their games as the home team in the Sports Arena from 1959 to 1965.
Comfortably ahead in the second half, the Bruins refused to let up, using a 19-7 surge to take a 27-point lead. UCLA also held the Waves without a double-figure scorer; center Corbin Moore and guard Josh Lowery each scored nine points.
Ten years to the day of its last victory over UCLA, Pepperdine hung around for the first 10 minutes as the teams combined for only 17 points and the Bruins held a three-point lead.
That’s when UCLA’s defense stiffened considerably, helping the Bruins transform a 7-6 deficit into a 28-11 halftime lead. Senior guard Jerime Anderson forced a turnover and then fed Jones for a three-point basket. Travis Wear took a charge and then made a putback on the other end of the court.
The Waves didn’t reach double digits until Moore’s tip-in with 1 minute 54 seconds left in the first half.
Howland credited his players for redoubling their efforts and changing how they defended ball screens.
“It just goes to show if we play hard and do what we’re supposed to do on defense, everything falls into place,” David Wear said. “This is how we need to play going forward.”
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