By Jon Gold
After coming out asleep in the first half of its four-point overtime loss to Cal last Sunday, the UCLA men’/s basketball team vowed to set the tone early against Arizona State on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion.
Only the guitar was missing two strings, the strings that were left were made out of glass, and the whole thing was painfully out of tune.
The Bruins shot 1-for-10 to start the game as the Sun Devils got easy bucket after easy bucket, making 7-of-8 shots to take an 11-point lead.
But it was nothing to fret over, as the Bruins atoned for a brutal first 10 minutes with a brilliant run, closing the first half with a 30-8 run before going on to the 71-53 win, their 11th in 13 games.
“This doesn’t feel like an 18-point win,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “I’m really happy we won by 18, but it just didn’t feel like it.”
For 10 minutes, UCLA wasn’t just out of sorts, it was bankrupt.
There might as well have been a brick wall in front of the UCLA rim, built by the Bruins themselves. The Bruins missed more gimmes than a down-on-his-luck golfer. UCLA started 6-of-20 shooting, easy layups looking like half-court heaves.
First the Bruins got frustrated, then they got irritated, then they got downright pissed.
When freshman center Joshua Smith threw down a haymaker dunk as the first-half was about to expire – receiving an emphatic chest-bump from teammate Reeves Nelson as the team walked off the court – the Bruins had made seven-of-eight and capitalized on Sun Devil turnover after Sun Devil turnover.
“Whenever Josh dunks – especially when he’s body to body with a guy – it’s going to get us all hyped up,” Nelson said. “I was glad he fought for position and executed the play. It was good to score into halftime. It gave us a good vibe going into the locker room.”