It took until the later stages of the second half, but No. 18 UCLA remained undefeated following a 89-76 win tover UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday night at Pauley Pavilion.
The game was much closer than the final score, as one of the contenders in the Big West gave the Bruins a fight throughout. The Gauchos put a beatdown on UNLV earlier this year, in a 21-point win inside the Thomas & Mack Center. But UCLA made defensive adjustments in the second half to avoid becoming another upset victim.
The Bruins and Gauchos entered the half, knotted at 40, thanks in large part to the 9-of-12 shooting from behind the arc for UC Santa Barbara. The threes continued to fall in the second half, but not at the same rate. Kyle Boswell had five of the Gauchos’ 13 triples, but didn’t hit any from deep for the final 13 minutes.
UCLA began to create separation by buckling down on the defensive end of the floor, forcing turnovers (16), and making it difficult for the Gauchos to find the same quality looks they got in the first half.
The Bruins and Gauchos were tied at 65 with more than eight minutes to go, but UCLA ended the night on a 24-11 run. Jordan Adams had 22 points. Kyle Anderson went for 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Zach LaVine added 15, whose first half shooting kept UCLA in the game.
Despite UC Santa Barbara’s hot shooting in the first half, the Bruins have too much talent on that roster to let that lead get out of hand. That’s why the Gauchos shot 75 percent from deep in the first half and still entered the break tied. The Bruins are 8-0, not against the toughest competition mind you, so they can get away with a slow defensive start like that. But as the month of December progresses, UCLA can’t afford these lapses.
The Bruins play their first road game Saturday against Missouri, but the big game this month is Dec. 19 against the potent Duke Blue Devils offense.