LOS ANGELES (AP)—A Hawaii hangover afflicted UCLA for the first 20 minutes against Long Beach State. The cure was a sharp-tongued halftime rebuke by coach Ben Howland.
Josh Shipp scored a career-high 24 points, Arron Afflalo added 20 and UCLA defeated the 49ers 88-58 Tuesday night in its first game as the nation’s No. 1 team since 1995.
“Whatever that means,” Howland said about the ranking. “You’re always going to get the other team’s best shot.”
Fresh off winning the Maui Invitational last week and still drained from traveling all day Friday, the Bruins found themselves in a two-point game late in the first half of their first home game in two weeks.
“We came out as if that team wasn’t going to come after us,” Afflalo said. “There’s been a lot of hoopla about our ranking. At halftime, we said we don’t want to discuss that anymore.”
But it wasn’t long before the Bruins finished off the victory and improved to 5-0 for the first time since the 1995 national championship team started the same way.
Freshman Russell Westbrook added a career-high 11 points and Darren Collison had 10 and a career-high nine of UCLA’s 15 steals.
The Bruins hit 13 3-pointers, led by Shipp’s career-high six and Westbrook’s 3-of-3 from long-range.
Sterling Byrd led Long Beach State (2-3) with 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
“They shot lights out,” Byrd said. “They came out and busted us.”
But not before the 49ers kept it close in the first half by controlling the boards, 25-14, shooting 47 percent from the floor and outscoring UCLA 20-8 in the paint.
UCLA led 41-36 at the break after blowing most of a 14-point lead, built on the strength of eight 3-pointers, including four by Shipp. After he hit back-to-back long-range baskets with five minutes remaining, the 49ers outscored the Bruins 16-7 to end the half.
“I talked to them nicely and asked them to play harder,” a droll Howland said about his halftime rant.
It was the last serious challenge the 49ers would mount.
The Bruins opened the second half by scoring on their first eight possessions in a 15-0 run that gave them a 56-35 lead and the rout was on.
“They’re extremely athletic, they’re very efficient in what they do, they’re playing together and they look like they’re ready to roll,” Long Beach State coach Larry Reynolds said.
Westbrook spelled Collison at point guard for a four-minute stretch and promptly hit three consecutive 3-pointers from the same spot in front of the Bruins’ bench for a 67-45 lead.
“They ran a lot of double screens and they got some pretty big guys running those screens for them,” Reynolds said.
UCLA improved to 11-0 against Long Beach State, which shot 36 percent, lowest by an opponent this season.
UCLA has been No. 1 in 129 polls, a mark unequaled by any other school. The coach responsible for much of that dominance and 10 of the school’s 11 national championships, 96-year-old John Wooden, watched approvingly from his usual seat behind the Bruins’ bench.
Long Beach State guard Kejuan Johnson, who averages 8.0 points and 5.0 rebounds, didn’t play because of a broken nose sustained in practice Nov. 22. He is expected to be out at least four weeks.