Try as it might to disrupt Moses Brown, Saint Francis learned some unfortunate truths about UCLA’s 7-foot-2 freshman center.
He’ll find a way to score even if you take away lobs and entry passes. He’ll block shots that come anywhere near his arms that seem to reach all the way to Bel-Air. He’ll grab rebounds like he owns the deed to the ball.
Brown unleashed his many talents Friday night at Pauley Pavilion, nearly logging a triple-double during the No. 20 Bruins’ 95-58 victory over the Red Flash.
Brown’s 23 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks made him the first UCLA freshman to record a double-double in his first three games, something he did by halftime.
“Mo’s a special player,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “He runs, he catches everything, he’s got great hands, he’s got quick feet. He’s a gifted individual.”
Brown received a thunderous ovation when he checked out for the final time with 5:46 left, high-fiving everyone on the bench. The Bruins (3-0) could enjoy the final minutes of a blowout they had earned by outscoring the Red Flash, 59-29, in the second half.
“It’s a lot of fun when you have a player like that,” said UCLA freshman guard Jules Bernard, who had 18 points and eight rebounds. “You have to use him as much as possible.”
It also helped that UCLA’s Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands pulled a reappearing act.
After going scoreless in the first half, Wilkes had a dunk in transition, a layup and two three-pointers to give him 10 points in a little more than three minutes to start the second half.
It was part of the Bruins’ 26-6 run that helped them take control thanks to better ball movement. Wilkes finished with 14 points.
Hands had dunks on back-to-back plays and generated one of the biggest roars of the night when he threw an alley-oop pass to Brown for a dunk.
Many of the Bruins’ passes seemed to find Brown in the second half after he scored all 10 of his points before halftime on tip-ins and other putbacks.
UCLA looked like it was headed for a taut game in the first half when Wilkes missed all six of his shots and Hands missed all five of his. Saint Francis also kept Brown from getting easy looks around the basket.
The Red Flash (1-2) bolted to an 11-2 lead and withstood several UCLA runs largely by virtue of outworking the Bruins, snagging four more rebounds than their counterparts in the first half despite a staggering height disadvantage. UCLA was sloppy and disjointed on offense, including a fastbreak opportunity that went awry when Wilkes chased the ball down in the corner and flung it back toward midcourt. The ball was grabbed by the Red Flash, who ended up with a layup.
Brown didn’t score his first basket until midway through the first half, when he got a tip-in. Second-chance points would become a theme for the big man.
“I tried to do a couple of post moves and I was getting doubled a lot and [Alford] sat me down because I wasn’t really mentally there, I wasn’t giving a lot of energy,” said Brown, who might have become the fifth player in UCLA history to notch a triple-double had he played more than 29 minutes. “So I got back in the game and I just had to get it the best way I know how, off the backboard.”
Brown was also stout defensively, making three blocks in a 21-second span. He helped the Bruins finish with 13 blocks, exceeding their total of nine from the first two games.
“I wish I had him longer than what I’m going to have him,” Alford said of Brown, alluding to his likely spending only one season in college, “because he’s special.”
Monday vs. Presbyterian, 8 p.m., Pauley Pavilion, Pac-12 Networks — The Blue Hose (3-1) are about to hit the name-brand portion of their schedule after having played opponents that included Welch and Boyce. Presbyterian faces Marquette on Saturday before taking on the Bruins two days later.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch