LOS ANGELES (AP) With freshman Lonzo Ball taking over at both ends of the court, No. 10 UCLA forced a second-half change in tempo that made everything fall into place.
Ball had 22 points and nine assists as the Bruins ran away from Oregon State in the second half in a 78-60 victory Sunday.
“I’m just taking what the game gives me,” said Ball, who found himself on the finishing end of several alley-oop passes. “At the beginning of the season people were playing me to drive and pass. Today, I was just open a lot.”
After scoring a season-low 32 points in the first half, the nation’s top-scoring offense took control with a full-court press in the second half.
“Anytime we’re being aggressive on defense that’s when we’re playing our best,” UCLA guard Bryce Alford said. “Being active against a team like this that likes to control the tempo really helped get us going.”
After a loss to Southern California in January, the Bruins held a players-only meeting that has led to more Bruins increasing their intensity on the defensive end.
“We talked it out, hashed it out,” Alford said. “We said if we want to do what we want to do, reach the goals we want to reach we’ve got to play defense. We know we can play offense but that’s only part of the game.”
Ball made 9 of 12 shots as the Bruins (23-3, 10-3 Pac-12) shot 52 percent while winning their fourth straight after consecutive losses at the end of January.
“He’s impossible to guard,” Oregon State coach Wayne Tinkle said of Ball. “You try to squeeze him in transition with another player, he comes flying by you.
“Lonzo is a great passer. He has unbelievable vision and he can catch fire from beyond 3, but defensively I don’t think he gets credit for the things he creates for their team.”
TJ Leaf added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Bruins, who struggled offensively early as Oregon State played a more controlled style.
“They went to their press, and we didn’t have a problem with it, but we said in our first timeout, `Why do you think they’re doing it?’ To speed us up,” Tinkle said. “I thought we gave into it a little bit.”
Stephen Thompson Jr. scored 18 points and Drew Eubanks added 13 points and seven rebounds for Oregon State (4-22, 0-13 Pac-12), which has lost 13 in a row, and 18 of their last 19.
Coming off an 82-79 victory over No. 5 Oregon on Thursday night when they had to rally from a 19-point deficit, the Bruins found themselves trailing 27-24 more than 17 minutes into this one as the Beavers made six of their first 10 3-point attempts.
The Bruins, however, went on to score the first half’s final eight points for a 32-27 lead.
Up 40-34, the Bruins broke the game open with a 14-3 run, taking a 54-37 lead on Alford’s 3-pointer with 12:50 to play. The Bruins’ biggest lead was 71-48 with 5:43 remaining.
With the victory, the Bruins completed a home-and-home sweep of Oregon State, having beaten the Beavers 76-63 in Corvallis, on Dec. 30. This was UCLA’s first series sweep of OSU since 2012.
The Bruins also avenged an 85-82 upset loss to the Beavers in their last meeting at Pauley Pavilion on March 5, 2016.
Oregon State: The Beavers have not beaten a Top 10 team since Jan. 11, 2015, when they upset then-No. 7 Arizona 58-56. OSU’s last Pac-12 victory was their season-ending win over the Bruins last March.
UCLA: With four games left in their Pac-12 Conference schedule, the Bruins find themselves in third place in the conference standings, behind Arizona (12-1) and Oregon (11-2). The Bruins came into the game leading the nation averaging 92.5 points per game, the third-highest average in school history (the 1971-72 UCLA squad averaged 94.6 points).
Oregon State: The Beavers play host to Colorado on Thursday night. The Buffaloes beat the Beavers 85-78 in Boulder, on Jan. 26.
UCLA: The Bruins play host to Southern California on Saturday night looking to avenge an 84-76 upset loss to the Trojans in their first meeting this season on Jan. 25.