Looking to win their fourth straight game Monday night, UCLA showed many things while still trying to find chemistry with a young and inexperienced roster.
The 17th-ranked Bruins displayed a bevy of potential, leading by 24 with 15:53 remaining against Presbyterian College, but fans in Pauley Pavilion grew tense when The Blue Hose cut their deficit to three points with 7:40 to go.
Luckily enough, UCLA (4-0) responded with a 12-2 run to close the game and the Bruins hung on to pull out an 80-65 win over the Blue Hose (3-3). Jaylen Hands had 19 points and six turnovers, while redshirt freshman Jalen Hill had a career night on the glass, grabbing 20 boards.
“I thought that was as careless as we’ve been since we started the season,” Alford added on the Bruins turning the ball over 10 times in the first half and 11 in the second. “Our turnovers were extremely careless and that hurt our defense.”
“For me, it was a lack of focus,” Hands said. “I’m big on film so just being able to have this game on film, watch it, get better from it, it’s better if it happens in a game that we win instead of a game that we lose, so I really want to focus on that.”
Kris Wilkes, who is the team’s leading scorer, finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Chris Smith and Moses Brown added 10 points each.
UCLA was fortunate to have built such a significant lead in the first half, only because Presbyterian used two separate 11-0 runs to claw back in the game, each including a trio of made 3-pointers.
“It was a little bit coach getting in our (butts) and a little bit of our pride,” sophomore Kris Wilkes said on his team being outplayed in the second half. “We just gotta learn to play through the whole 40 minutes. I think we’ve been playing a lot of great 20-minute ball, but just playing a whole game throughout needs to go up a little more.”
The Blue Hose made 13 of 45 shots from three-point distance, compared to UCLA making 8 of 24 shots on 33 percent shooting
However, the Bruins dominated the rebound margin 54-32, largely due in part to [Jalen] Hill’s effort, which then led to UCLA outscoring the Blue Hose (40-4) in the paint.
“Proud of J-Hill,” Alford said on Hill’s career game. “Thought he had a tremendous night. Not only did he get 20 rebounds but had three assists, no turnovers, got a blocked shot, got a steal, made 5 of 6 free throws. Loved his activity. That’s the motor we’ve got to have from J. He was a huge bright spot tonight.”
Even with the 80-65 win, the Bruins know they must correct their early mistakes and tone down the turnovers to be successful against top ranked teams.
Up next, No.17 UCLA will get their first true test, playing No.11 Michigan State on Thursday in Las Vegas and potentially seventh-ranked North Carolina or Texas on Friday in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.