The final score was 76-62, but UCLA’s win over Washington State felt far more out of reach than the final tally. It was likely the Bruins’ easiest win since beating Long Beach State 89-70 on Dec. 18. Washington State came out firing and made five straight 3-pointers to open the game, but over nine minutes without a field goal at Pauley Pavilion. In that span, the home team opened up a opened up a 15-point lead that never fell into single digits.
UCLA shot at least 60 percent from the field for the first time since Feb. 18, 2010 — another win over Washington State — and above 50 percent for the first time at home this season against a conference opponent.
Despite that embarrassing loss to USC last week, the team still sits just one game out of first place in the Pac-12.
— Facing a team that tried to slow the pace of the game, UCLA ended up with its highest assist total since defeating Fresno State in December. The Bruins notched 22 assists on 31 field goals, generating much better looks at the basket than the forced shots that went up against Washington on Thursday night.
“I’m not sure,” said freshman Kyle Anderson, when asked why the team couldn’t move the ball as well recently. “We just came out with the mindset of being unselfish and moving the ball around. It made it easy for us.”
— The Bruins clamped down inside, although the caveat is that they did so without facing a dominant interior presence. Washington State didn’t make a field goal inside the arc until nearly 17 minutes had elapsed, and rarely even created a clean look in the paint. UCLA forced two shot-clock violations in the first half, and finished the game with a 20-9 edge in points off turnovers.
“Their defense was very good,” said WSU head coach Ken Bone. “They obviously started well on the inside. … You’ve got to be able to score in the paint too and I think their athleticism and quickness and their length — it bothered us.”
— UCLA’s rebounding was still lackluster, especially given how few opportunities Washington State had for defensive rebounds. The Cougars held a 31-22 edge on the boards. For the fifth time in six games, the Bruins trailed by at least eight in rebounding margin. WSU grabbed 15 on offense, getting second chances on almost half of their 32 field-goal attempts.
“We started to wear down a little bit,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “I bet they had the ball 23-plus minutes tonight. That’s part of the strategy, when you’re down, to make (the opponent) play ‘D’ for long periods of time. Our block-outs got shaky in the second half.
Added Anderson: “We’ve just got to work at it. Everyone has to buy in, all five guys. Making contact with the other team, holding the block-out and running to the ball.”
— Shabazz Muhammad was asked how he felt having to deal with frequent, media-fueled controversies — from wearing a Gucci backpack to not celebrating enough after Larry Drew’s game-winner against Washington.
“That’s one thing you’ve got to take being a top-recruited player,” he said. “All of us, if we’re doing something wrong, it’s going to be blown out of proportion.”
— Ben Howland said forward Travis Wear played with strep throat. The junior made all five of his field-goal attempts for 11 points.