The last time the UCLA Bruins played in Pullman, Washington, Lonzo Ball was manning the point for the Bruins. That game happened on February 1, 2017, and the Bruins won 95-79. The Bruins came into this game with only one road win so far.
The Washington State Cougars (8-13, 1-7) only have the lowly California Bears below them in the Pac-12 standings and this had all the makings of the type of game the Bruins could easily handle before they venture to Seattle on Saturday.
The start of the game wasn’t a solid one for the Bruins. Moses Brown won the tip, but tipped it to the Cougars’ CJ Elleby for a fast break dunk. It wasn’t exactly a great start. A short time later, Brown elbowed Jeff Pollard on a rebound attempt and was called for a flagrant one foul for it.
UCLA also wasn’t valuing the basketball early, specifically Jaylen Hands, as he had two quick turnovers. In one of the quickest hooks for a Bruin starter all year long, Murry Bartow gave Hands a seat on the bench at the 17:39 mark of the first half.
UCLA weathered the poor start and got their first lead of the night on an offensive rebound by Brown for a nice put-back to give the Bruins a 11-10 lead early in the first half.
The lead was short-lived as the Cougars used solid shooting from the outside to take a 21-16 lead heading into the second media timeout.
After that timeout, a 6-0 run by the Bruins put them back in front, 22-21, and forced Ernie Kent to call a timeout.
UCLA continued their solid play out of the timeout, as the Bruins effectively ran their offense, dominated the Cougars on the glass, and the Bruins were up 34-27 after a Prince Ali jumper.
The Cougars then extended some pressure on the Bruins’ half-court offense and, suddenly, UCLA’s offense looked ineffective in dealing with the WSU pressure.
The Bruins were able to regain their momentum and rode 7 of 12 shooting from behind the arc and, believe it or not, 5 of 6 from the free throw line to go into the half up 44-37. This was the first time this year that the Bruins had a lead on the road at the half.
The UCLA bench was huge in the first half. The bench accounted for 16 first half points. David Singleton continued to light it up from behind the arc as he hit both of his three-point attempts.
The second half began with a 7-2 run by Washington State to pull the Cougs within two at 46-44. The Cougars would not get any closer than that through the rest of the game as the Bruins responded by hitting their next six shots, two of which were shots from behind the arc, to open a 60-49 lead.
The Bruin run continued as Hands set up Brown on a beautiful lob to extend the UCLA lead to 62-49, which forced the Cougars to call another timeout at the 13:11 mark of the second half.
After this timeout, the Bruins continued to pretty much dominate the Cougars on both ends of the court. At the 7:58 mark, UCLA was shooting a staggering 80% from the field in the half. It was no wonder the percentage was so high since the Bruins had scored 20 points in the paint up to that point. All of this meant that UCLA was up 76-55 and they never looked back.
The Bruins cruised to a 87-67 victory. Ali, Brown and Wilkes all had 16 points while Hands and Riley were also in double figures with 10 points each. Brown added seven rebounds while Hands chipped in six assists.
UCLA dominated in the paint and doubled the Cougars in points in the paint, 40-20. This domination also allowed the Bruins to hit 59% from the field and 9 of 19 from behind the arc. The miracle of the night was the fact that UCLA hit 18 of 24 at the line. I guess they should continue to practice at Gonzaga.
The Bruins did what they should have done, which is beat a really bad Washington State team. However, as UCLA fans know all too well, just because the Bruins could have or should have done something does not mean it always happens. Well, tonight, it did happen and the Bruins played a pretty solid basketball game tonight, especially on the offensive end of the court.
We’ll see if that Bruin effort travels, as they now head to Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle on Saturday to take on the Washington Huskies. The game is scheduled to start at 1 pm PT.
UCLA Player Grades
Moses Brown: B+
I loved his activity level on both sides. Brown was the reason the Bruins dominated in the paint. His free throws and stamina are still areas of focus.
Jaylen Hands: B-
It started off shaky for Hands as he was pulled really early in the game after a few turnovers. Overall, he didn’t force a lot of shots and had a pretty solid effort leading the Bruins tonight.
Prince Ali: A-
A very solid game from Ali. It was the type of game we want from him every game, but the type of game we don’t see enough.
Kris Wilkes: B-
Wilkes had just five first half points which seems to continue a pattern this year of slow starts for him. However, he did finish strong in the second half.
Jalen Hill : C
His touch pass to Brown for a dunk was beautiful. It was his only assist, but it was still beautiful.
Chris Smith: F
Smith is slowly turning into the lost man on this team. It will be real interesting to see how this year ends for him.
Cody Riley: B+
I think every UCLA fan sees so much potential in this young guy. I love how active he is.
David Singleton: B
Singleton was huge in the first half, but he wasn’t much of a factor in the second half. His outside shooting can be a huge weapon for the Bruins.
Jules Bernard: B-
I know. I know. He kind of plays out of a control sometimes...OK, a lot of the time, but I am a fan of his energy and effort each time he comes in the game. Tonight was no different for him.
Alex Olesinski: B-
I said in the last grades that I handed out that he is starting to get minutes in the place of some other Bruins. I would bet that this continues.