LOS ANGELES (AP)—A couple of college basketball’s storied programs met in a game that two years ago would have ensured a sold-out arena and plenty of big buzz.
Instead, it was a tale of the nation’s top-ranked team beating up on a downtrodden program cleaned out by the lure of the NBA draft.
Markief Morris scored a career-high 19 points and No. 1 Kansas pulled away in the second half to defeat UCLA 73-61 on Sunday, sending the Bruins to their fourth consecutive loss.
“They’ve had a lot of defections to the NBA and it’s hard to keep reloading,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after his first visit to Pauley Pavilion. “We’re going to look back on this game in February and be very proud because they’re going to get better and better.”
Xavier Henry added 16 points and Sherron Collins had 14 for the Jayhawks (7-0), who led the entire game despite shooting a season-worst 44 percent from the field but allowed UCLA to get within four points early in the second half.
“We knew they were going to give us a good game in their house,” Henry said. “Usually they’re a really good team but this year is a rebuilding year. They’ll get better.”
Michael Roll scored 16 points and Nikola Dragovic added 14 for the Bruins (2-5), who haven’t lost four in a row since 2003-04, coach Ben Howland’s first season in Westwood.
The Bruins are off to their worst start since 2002-03, Steve Lavin’s last season as coach that also began with a 2-5 record.
“The whole team showed a lot of fight,” Howland said. “If we keep doing that, we’ll end up winning more of these games.”
The defeat capped a rocky week for the struggling Bruins, who lost forward Drew Gordon when he quit the team. The sophomore averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds.
“We played really hard. We’re fighting as a unit now,” Roll said. “We had it down to four and they made a quick push to get it back up. Their bigs are very talented and they spread us out and beat us up down low.”
Kansas notched its 1,977th victory, third-best in NCAA Division I history. The Bruins’ 1,648 wins are ninth-best.
The last time the schools met was in the 2007 NCAA tournament’s West Region, when UCLA won by 13 points and went on to the second of three consecutive Final Four appearances.
But that run of success has taken its toll this season on the Bruins, who lost several key players early to the NBA draft leaving them with a slew of inexperienced underclassmen. Tyler Honeycutt made his college debut after missing UCLA’s first six games with a stress reaction in his right tibia. He finished with three points and six rebounds.
Kansas led by 13 points in the first half, when the Bruins committed 11 turnovers and shot 33 percent, missing several open shots.
Collins’ jumper gave Kansas its largest lead of the half, 29-16. From there, the Bruins ended the half on a 12-6 run to close to 35-28. Dragovic and Roll had five points each in the spurt.
UCLA outscored Kansas 6-3 to start the second half and get to 38-34. Reeves Nelson, starting in place of Gordon, dunked to get the Bruins within seven with 14:40 remaining. He was poked in the right eye and had to leave the game for a few minutes before returning wearing protective goggles.
“He’ll end up in the ER tonight as his eye was swollen shut,” Howland said. “He’s had a tough week, but he showed a lot of character to get back in the game.”
The Bruins closed within seven once more on a 3-pointer by Dragovic at 12:03 before Kansas soon restored its double-digit lead. Henry’s fourth 3-pointer of the game extended the Jayhawks’ lead to 69-54 in the final minutes.
Kansas’ Marcus Morris, who averages 11, finished with four points after being held scoreless in the first half. Cole Aldrich had 12 rebounds as Kansas controlled the boards, 43-36.
The game was part of the Big 12-Pac-10 Hardwood Series.