LOS ANGELES (AP)—With Pac-10 play looming early in the new year, UCLA is already thinking ahead.
Kevin Love made all of his shots in a 16-point performance and the eighth-ranked Bruins rolled past Western Illinois 77-52 on Tuesday night.
The freshman was 5-of-5 from the field and the free throw line, hit his only 3-pointer and grabbed seven rebounds. He didn’t realize he was perfect in a game that was so easy, the Bruins found it hard to concentrate on their opponent.
“Sometimes you do lose a little bit of focus,” Love said. “It just happens, whether you realize it or not.”
Darren Collison added 12 points and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 10 for the Bruins (10-1), who won their third straight since their only loss, Dec. 2 to Texas.
“We played a great game,” said Love, who was swamped by autograph seekers afterward. “Darren and Russell (Westbrook) found me inside a bunch of times.”
David Jackson and Jerryck Owens-Murrey both scored 10 points for the Leathernecks (3-7), who have dropped five of six. They were playing for the first time in 10 days.
“We got knocked around early and were missing too many shots,” Western Illinois coach Derek Thomas said. “We didn’t come out with the passion and the fire that we needed to.”
Lorenzo Mata-Real was the only UCLA player who didn’t score in the first half, when the Bruins shot 62 percent from the field and made their first eight free throws.
“We got off to a good start,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We’re right on the brink of getting into Pac-10 play. Our season is all going to rest on how we do in Pac-10. It’s going to be a heck of a race.”
Mata-Real bruised his left shoulder sometime in the first half and iced it after the game.
“Hopefully, it’s nothing more serious,” Howland said.
Just as they did in a 40-point victory over Idaho State last weekend, the Bruins built a huge lead from the start and cruised. Collison, Josh Shipp, Michael Roll and Love all hit 3-pointers in a game-opening 28-7 spurt.
“In practice, we didn’t focus too much on Western Illinois, no offense,” Collison said, “but we focused on what we can do. We got to work on playing solid defense, work on our conditioning.”
Proof that most everything went UCLA’s way, another of Shipp’s 3-pointers rolled around the rim before dropping in for a 37-13 lead. By halftime, the Bruins were ahead 42-19, helped by their own solid shooting and the Leathernecks’ 12 turnovers that led to 14 points.
“They played very physical defense and did a lot to alter shots,” Thomas said about the Bruins. “On defense, we tried to crowd the ball and pack the paint, but they hit a lot of shots early that really hurt us.”
The second half was more of the same, minus the huge scoring runs the Bruins racked up early on. They missed several open shots while ahead 62-35, and were 0-of-8 from 3-point range in the half. They finished the game shooting 53 percent and owning a 36-18 edge in the paint.
The Leathernecks shot 37 percent and committed 20 turnovers.
The only category UCLA didn’t dominate was the boards as both teams grabbed 30 rebounds, only the second time this season the Bruins haven’t outrebounded an opponent.
This win was easier than the only other time the schools played. Three years ago, UCLA won 75-60 in Howland’s second season, but the Leathernecks were down just six at halftime and trailed by four several times in the second half.
Jackson was a freshman who scored 12 points in that game, the first start of his career.