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UCLA Upsets #11 Utah at Pauley 69-59

No crowd? No momentum? No. 11 Utah in town? No problem. The Bruins, and the Utes, are at Pauley. Make it 56 years in a row.

UCLA was the stronger, tougher, and smarter team on the floor tonight
UCLA was the stronger, tougher, and smarter team on the floor tonight
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The U.C.L.A. Bruins are a different team in Pauley. Too bad only half of our conference games are played here.

Never mind Utah's #11 ranking and their complete embarrassment of our team in Salt Lake a few weeks ago, we had 55 years of history on our side.

But there wasn't much of a crowd to witness the event.

Good thing you didn't let those press cameras face the students, right, Dan?

What few people saw was arguably the best performance by U.C.L.A. this year. It did help that the Utes didn't play very well at all, but the Bruins were the more energetic, harder working, and smarter playing team on the court tonight. You can see the stats here.

The Bruins had some big health questions going in with Tony Parker's back and Norman Powell's flu-like illness. Despite that, it was a good first half for the Bruins. After a clunky start that saw Powell's two layups surround a 6 minute scoreless streak, the Bruins got a couple threes from Bryce Alford and a nice 4 points from Thomas Welsh and 3 from Noah Allen to contribute to a 27-24 lead at the under 4 minute timeout.

Utah shot 57% in the first half but the Bruins switched defense frequently and limited second chance opportunities for the Utes. Meanwhile, UCLA committed just one turnover in first 20 minutes while forcing 8 from the Utes and the Bruins took a 33-30 lead into halftime. Powell finished the first half with 12 pts to lead the Bruins. Tony Parker was a game time decision having not played for 8 days and struggled offensively but contributed with 5 rebounds. Bill Walton was spectacular, as usual.

The Bruins started the second half hot scoring the first 12 points while Utah struggled at both ends, leading to a 45-30 lead for the Bruins with 12 and a half minutes left.  The lead stayed between 10 and 15 points for U.C.L.A. until there were about 8 minutes left in the game when the Bruins started getting a bit careless and Utah got a little less sloppy. The Utes cut the lead to 7 with 2 and a half minutes left but couldn't execute well enough to get it any closer. The Bruins didn't do a great job closing this out in the final minutes, but it was enough. Walton was not satisfied, but he was happy.

Powell fought off illness to lead the team with 23 points, Alford had 13 points and 7 assists, and Parker and Kevon Looney each had 6 rebounds. The Bruins are now 4-4 in conference and will face Colorado on Saturday.  Another performance like tonight and the Bruins should get back to .500 for the season.

There's no place like home.