UCLA left its selfishness and turnover-prone ways behind and started the new year seemingly not caring about who scored how many points.
The Bruins opened defense of their Pacific-10 Conference championship with an 84-56 victory over Washington State on Thursday night, led by Charles O’Bannon’s 15 points.
“This is a step in the right direction,” guard Kris Johnson said. “We’re not where we need to be, but it feels good to get a win, an easy win.”
The Bruins (6-3), winners of the Pac-10 title the last two years with identical 16-2 records, breezed to their easiest victory yet in a season that has been problematic from the start.
J.R. Henderson, Kris Johnson and Jelani McCoy scored 14, 13 and 12 points, respectively, in their return to the starting lineup after being benched for the first 11 minutes of last week’s win against Morgan State. The trio had turned up late for that day’s shootaround.
“This was a great selfless kind of game. All of our players lost themselves in the game,” interim Bruins coach Steve Lavin said.
UCLA held its turnovers to a season-low 16 with improved passing, and didn’t give in to its highflying style of dunking until midway through the second half. The Bruins found success with their zone and pressing defenses.
Shooting guard Toby Bailey handled point guard chores at the start, as senior Cameron Dollar was kept on the bench. Bailey had six assists and two turnovers, while scoring just seven points. Dollar came in later, and finished with six points and five assists.
The Cougars (8-4) have never beaten UCLA in Los Angeles, including an 0-32 mark in Pauley Pavilion. They didn’t threaten this time, with leading scorer Isaac Fontaine in foul trouble.
Carlos Daniel led Washington State with 13 points, and Fontaine finished with 12 - nine below his average.
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