UCLA freshmen conduct master class in 91-78 win over Fresno State

Jordan Adams played big, as if he was a foot taller than his listed height of 6 feet 5. And he played quick, as if he was a foot smaller.

It was Adams who jump-started a UCLA comeback in the first half, it was Adams who hit a layup to cap a mad scramble that helped his team to an unexpected halftime lead, and it was Adams whose energy pushed UCLA to a 91-78 win over Fresno State on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion.

Adams was one of a trio of UCLA freshman who scored in double figures. He had 25 points and 15 of those came in the first half when UCLA was trying to hang on.

Shabazz Muhammad finished with a career-high 27 points, 20 in the second half when the Bruins were pulling away. And a third freshman, guard Kyle Anderson, had 20 points and 17 rebounds, both career highs.

In all, the three freshmen combined for 72 points and 31 rebounds for the Bruins (9-3), who shook off a sluggish start and finished the first half with a 12-3 run to take a tenuous 39-36 lead into the locker room.

“I thought this team was exactly what we expected,” UCLA Coach Ben Howland said of Fresno State. “They were very patient and our guys hung in there tough.

“I’m just glad our young guys are getting this experience. We do have to get better defensively but this has been one of our best teams in taking care of the basketball.”

UCLA had only 10 turnovers and out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 42-26.

Fresno State (5-7) missed its first five shots in the game but the Bruins couldn’t immediately take advantage. At one point the Bulldogs had a nine-point lead, 25-16, and a loud but lonely-sounding UCLA fan screamed “Go Bruins,” in a voice more angry than pleading.

Adams certainly listened. He hit a layup 44 seconds before halftime to cap that end-of-the half scramble and finished the first 20 minutes with 15 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists. Anderson had nine first-half points and eight rebounds.

That UCLA had a halftime lead was surprising, after Fresno State’s Kevin Olekaibe made a wide-open three-point shot to give the Bulldogs the 25-16 lead.

UCLA’s comeback began immediately, though. It was jump-started by Adams’ three-point play (layup and free throw), which caused Adams to pound his chest and seemed to energize the entire team.

The Bruins shot 36 of 62 from the field (58.1%) in the game.

Anderson’s three-pointer with 17:36 left in the game gave the Bruins a 46-38 lead, their biggest of the game.

Point guard Larry Drew II had his first points of the game with a layup that gave UCLA its first double-digit lead, 54-44, and an Adams three-pointer made it 57-46.

When Muhammad, swished a three-pointer with 11:58 left, the Bruins led 62-49 and it almost felt as if a blowout was in the making.