UCLA 62, Pepperdine 39
Now that’s what we expected from the UCLA Bruins: a clean, defense-driven win over a lesser mid-major opponent.
After dropping four of their first five, two of which came at home against LMU and Middle Tennessee State, UCLA got a much-needed win at the Sports Arena over Pepperdine.
UCLA played the type of smothering help defense we’ve come to expect from Ben Howland’s teams, holding Pepperdine to 31.3 percent shooting for the game and only 11 first-half points.
For the first time this season, the Bruins played with the kind of effort and pride you’d expect them to bring to every game. The positive mentality this team will need to succeed in the Pac-12 was evident against the Waves. The Wear twins in particular played with energy and intelligence on both ends of the floor, rebounding from sub-par performances in Maui.
Most importantly, Pepperdine wasn’t allowed to drain open threes or drive uncontested to the cup as other teams have routinely done on this UCLA team in 2011. The Bruin guards stepped up defensively across the board, staying in front of their men and out of foul trouble.
As Howland preaches, defense keyed the Bruin offense, with turnovers and one-shot possessions by the Waves igniting UCLA’s transition game.
Pepperdine was clearly fatigued after its overtime win over Texas San-Antonio two days earlier, so take UCLA’s dominance with a grain of salt. The Waves have proven they can play far better, having already beaten Pac-12 opposition in Arizona State in Tempe earlier this year.
Nevertheless, it was a welcome win for a Bruin squad in need of something positive. As a team, I give them a solid B for their improved defensive effort and ability to make open jump shots. Read on for my individual player grades.