– UCLA handled Prairie View A&M with ease in Saturday’s 95-71 win, running out a 20-point lead late in the first half and stretching it to as much as 34 in the second. The main story of the night, though, was Travis Wear’s return to the starting lineup.
Following his appendectomy in late October, the senior forward has looked rusty early on, going without a field goal in his past two games. Originally penciled in as a starter alongside twin brother David before the season, he told Alford he was fine with a reserve role.
His first game in the starting five was also his best of the season: 10 points, three rebounds, an assist and two blocks in 22 minutes. Those aren’t otherworldly numbers, but at least gives UCLA a firmer offensive option in what has been a very lackluster frontcourt.
Sophomore center Tony Parker played 18 minutes off the bench, notching four points, four rebounds and three fouls. Alford downplayed the importance of who actually starts a game, but the Wears (who combined for 42 minutes) look like they’ll stay first-string for at least the near future.
– It comes as little surprise now that UCLA still has weaknesses on defense and on the boards. The Bruins coasted in the second half, allowing the Panthers to shoot 53.6 percent after the break. They also gave up 13 offensive rebounds, and narrowly held on to a 31-30 margin on the glass.
“It’s a consistency,” Alford said. “It’s a habit, and we’ve not developed that yet. We’ve had some lopsided wins, but we’ve not created the habit defensively. For championship teams, it’s got to be habit-forming. We’re not there yet.”
– Point guard Kyle Anderson has improved his shooting significantly since last season, when he hit just eight 3-pointers all season. After an 0-of-4 start through his first three games as a sophomore, he has hit 9-of-11. His percentage beyond the arc is now 60 percent, up from 21.1 a year ago.
– Anderson grew up just 20 minutes away from Madison Square Garden, where he said he’s watched “way too many” Knicks games. UCLA’s Dec. 19 game against No. 8 Duke gives him a chance to return there, this time playing in front of his family.
“You don’t really know what the atmosphere is like until you get there,” he said. “It’s Madison Square Garden, the greatest arena in the world.”
– Backup point guard Bryce Alford has a 3-pointer in every game this season except the opener against Drexel. He hit two Saturday night on his way to 10 points, and was one of five Bruins to score in double digits.
Jordan Adams led the team with 18 points, and also chipped in four rebounds, three assists and five steals.