UCLA routs Washington St. in first game since SI report

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Maybe UCLA’s players don’t read the news. Or maybe they motivated to play well for their coach. Either way, it worked.

UCLA, playing its first game since an unflattering article about coach Ben Howland and his program emerged this week, had no trouble against Washington State Thursday night. And that might be an understatement.

The 78-46 win marked the Bruins’ second-largest margin of victory this season. They drained 10 of 14 3-pointers and made a season-best 61.2 percent of their shots. The defense was just as good. They forced 22 turnovers and held the Cougars to 38.1 percent shooting.

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Not bad for a team (17-13, 9-8 in Pac-12) that’d been on-and-off lately. They’d lost three of their last five and stumbled right out of the NCAA tournament picture. But with league-leading Washington coming to L.A. on Saturday, the Bruins can play spoiler to the Huskies’ NCAA tourney hopes and bolster work toward a strong finish next week in the Pac-12 tourney.

And if they win three straight and pull off the automatic bid? Well, then we’ll know exactly what the Bruins think of the story.

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