UCLA 68, Vermont 67
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Michael Fey scored a career-high 20 points and UCLA rallied to beat Vermont 68-67 Saturday, making Ben Howland a winner in his debut as Bruins coach.
Howland came from Pittsburgh to replace Steve Lavin, who was fired in March after seven seasons and four appearances in the Final 16 of the NCAA tournament.
The way the Bruins played in the first half, however, made it seem as though Lavin never left. They fell behind by 11 points, tossed up airballs, and their defense allowed Taylor Coppenrath to score 20 of Vermont’s 34 points.
There was booing as the Bruins left the floor, similar to the fan reaction last season when UCLA finished 10-19. A year ago, the Bruins lost their opener to San Diego in overtime, signaling the start of what was to become their worst season in 52 years.
It nearly happened again until Ryan Hollins made one of free throws with 4.8 seconds left to give UCLA the victory. Vermont guard T.J. Sorrentine dribbled down court, but couldn’t get a shot off before time ran out.
The Bruins spent the first 10 minutes of the second half erasing their 11-point deficit with an 11-0 run. Janou Rubin had five points and Fey four in the spurt that gave the Bruins their first lead of the half, 43-41.
But Vermont (0-3) never went away. After being double-teamed early in the half, Coppenrath broke loose and repeatedly hit big baskets that kept it a four-point game or less over the final 11 minutes.
Tied at 64, North Carolina transfer Brian Morrison hit a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left for UCLA. Coppenrath answered with a 3-pointer to tie it at 67.
UCLA’s Cedric Bozeman dribbled down the clock until he dished to Hollins, who missed but got fouled. Hollins made the first free throw, but had the crowd groaning when he missed the second.
Coppenrath, last year’s player of the year in the America East Conference, finished with 38 points, tying his career high.
Dijon Thompson added 18 points for the Bruins.
UCLA freshman Trevor Ariza was set to start at forward, but he’ll miss at least two weeks because of a collapsed lung. Josiah Johnson started in his place.