Aaron Holiday on midseason watch list for Wooden Award

UCLA Bruins guard Aaron Holiday #3 gets around Central Arkansas Bears guard Thatch Unruh #25 in the first half. UCLA played Central Arkansas in a mens basketball game at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, CA 11/15/2017 (Photo by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Guard Aaron Holiday was named to the midseason top-25 watch list for the John R. Wooden Award on Thursday.

The junior leads UCLA (12-4, 3-1 Pac-12) in scoring with 19.4 points, which ranks fifth in the Pac-12, and is the conference’s second-leading assist man with 5.3 per game. He is one of six players in the country with at least 19 points and 5 assists per game.

He became the 55th player in UCLA history to reach the 1,000-point mark for his career this season during a 33-point performance against Washington State on Dec. 29.

Holiday is one of four Pac-12 players to make the cut for the top-25 list, joining Arizona’s Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton and Arizona State’s Tra Holder.

Aaron Holiday’s career high leads UCLA to Pac-12-opening win

UCLA’s Aaron Holiday (3) drives to the basket against Washington State during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Aaron Holiday scored a career-high 33 points with 11 rebounds, four assists and no turnovers to lead UCLA to a 96-82 victory over Washington State in Pauley Pavilion on Friday.

With 23 points in the first half, Holiday joined UCLA’s 1,000-point club before the break and was joined in the second half by Thomas Welsh. The senior center had 12 points and 14 rebounds with three assists. They are the 55th and 56th players in UCLA history, respectively, to record 1,000 career points.

“It was a pretty special night out of both of them,” head coach Steve Alford said. “That’s what you have to have. We had some guys that were a little antsy. … It was their first conference game, at home to open the conference season.”

UCLA’s three freshmen, Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes and Chris Smith, scored 26 of their combined 37 points in the second half. Hands led the young trio with 19 points, four assists and only one turnover as the Bruins (10-3, 1-0 Pac-12) tied a season-low for turnovers with seven.

A 3-pointer from Carter Skaggs midway through the second half pulled Washington State (8-5, 0-1 Pac-12) within two after the Cougars had trailed by as many as 11 earlier in the half. The Bruins responded with a 13-2 run quell any comeback efforts.

More from UCLA’s first Pac-12 win of the season (from staff reporter Tarek Fattal).

Notebook: UCLA is still trying to reschedule its nonconference game with Montana


Aaron Holiday named Pac-12 player of the week

UCLA guard Aaron Holiday (3) shoots over Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22) in the first half of an NCAA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld)

Junior guard Aaron Holiday was named Pac-12 men’s basketball player of the week on Tuesday after he scored 20 points and tallied eight assists in UCLA’s 73-75 upset over then-No. 7 Kentucky on Saturday.

It’s his first weekly conference honor of his career. During two games this week, including UCLA’s 85-82 win over South Dakota at home last Tuesday, Holiday averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 assists and 4 rebounds.

The Bruins start Pac-12 play on Friday, hosting Washington State at 8 p.m. PT, and Holiday may pass the 1,000-career points mark as he is currently just 17 points shy. His 17.6 points per game rank 10th in the conference and he is second in the Pac-12 in assists with 5.6.

UCLA knocks off No. 7 Kentucky

The answers to Kris Wilkes‘ recent struggles would be in the film, head coach Steve Alford preached. So the coach and the freshman huddled together aboard an airplane bound for New Orleans searching for ways to shake Wilkes from his funk.

Somewhere, flying 30,000 feet above the United States, they found it.

After scoring in single-digits for three of the past four games, Wilkes tied a career-high with 20 points to help UCLA upset No. 7 Kentucky 83-75 on Saturday.

The victory gave the Bruins (9-3) a much-needed marquee win in their nonconference finale and third win in as many years against the Wildcats.

While Wilkes paced the Bruins in the first half with 13 points, it was senior Aaron Holiday who sealed the victory. With the Bruins clinging to a four-point lead with 33 seconds left, Holiday crossed Kentucky’s Wenyen Gabriel over twice, drove to the basket and laid a left-handed scoop high off the backboard.

Holiday finished with 20 points, three rebounds and eight assists to seven turnovers.

The traditional basketball powerhouses traded long runs: 13 unanswered by Kentucky, a 21-2 surge from the Bruins, then the 13-2 game-tying response from the Wildcats.

Holiday capped a streak of 10 unanswered UCLA points with a pair of free throws that gave the Bruins a 12-point lead with 7:33 to go.

Less than a week after almost giving up a 24-point lead to South Dakota at home, the Bruins threatened to relinquish another double-digit lead in the second half. They committed three straight turnovers. Kentucky scored seven quick points.

But UCLA’s balanced scoring attack that had five double-digit scorers emerged right in time to stave off the comeback. Prince Ali tipped in a basket when the Wildcats cut the deficit to five. Holiday drained a shot when Kentucky got within four. Wilkes knocked down two free throws. Jaylen Hands iced the game with two more shots from the stripe.

Hands had 14 points while Ali added 12. Center Thomas Welsh had 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bruins can now start Pac-12 play with a key NCAA Tournament resume-boosting win in hand. They next host Washington State on Dec. 29 at 8 p.m. PT.