With five minutes to play, the Bruins were running away with a 17-point lead.
The lead was trimmed to five two minutes later.
No. 21 UCLA men’s basketball (2-0) narrowly escaped an upset at the hands of Long Beach State (0-1) on Friday night, winning 91-80. The Bruins turned the ball over before reaching half court on three straight possessions in the final minutes of the game, and coach Steve Alford said there were plenty of people to blame for his team’s inability to break the 49ers’ full-court press.
“It was our vets late in the game who were not taking care of the basketball,” Alford said. “I think they’ve got to look at tape and they’ve got to learn that. And then I think some of it is on me too.”
UCLA racked up turnovers late, but it stole the ball nine times in the first half. The Bruins trailed for nearly 16 minutes in the first frame.
Friday night marked the eighth time in the past three seasons that Alford’s Bruins have allowed a nonconference opponent to break the 80-point threshold.
The 49ers’ leading scorer was guard Deishaun Booker, who scored 31 points on 9-of-14 shooting with five made 3-pointers.
“(Booker) came out lighting us up,” said freshman guard David Singleton. “He’s a good player and that’s a good program. We just have to make adjustments, put more pressure on him and kind of shade him a little bit.”
Sophomore guard Kris Wilkes was tied with freshman center Moses Brown as the Bruins’ leading scorer with a 17-point performance. While Brown shot 83.3 percent from the field, Wilkes shot 36.8 percent, going 1-of-7 from 3.
Brown recorded his second straight double-double after pulling down 10 rebounds. Brown attempted a career-high 11 free throws, and after he went 1-of-4 from the charity stripe in the season opener, he sank seven Friday.
Brown has only missed two shots in his first two appearances combined, and the freshman said he could tell the 49ers had prepared for him.
“I had such an outstanding rebounding game last game, I think they did a little bit of scouting, trying to keep me out of the paint,” Brown said.
Brown led the Bruins with 36 minutes and three blocks.
UCLA’s third-leading scorer – sophomore guard Jaylen Hands – dropped 14 points in just 22 minutes of playing time.
Hands ended the first half with a deep buzzer-beater 3-pointer after running the length of the court in less than seven seconds.
Hands’ shot gave the Bruins a 45-41 lead going into halftime, and their momentum carried over to their defense to start the second period. After hitting a 3-pointer with 2:09 remaining in the first, the 49ers did not make another field goal for the first 3:16 of the second frame.
Long Beach State picked up three flagrant fouls on the night, as well as two technicals. The Bruins picked up a flagrant as well.
Both teams racked up 15 turnovers and 37 rebounds, and Long Beach State outassisted UCLA by one. Behind their six double-figure scorers, the Bruins shot 50 percent.
“Whenever coach calls our names, we’re always ready to be in there,” said sophomore forward Chris Smith. “Get in there and do whatever we have to do to pick it up. This day was defense, intensity and energy.”
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