UCLA beats New Mexico State 100-68
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The points just kept on coming for UCLA, adding up to triple digits, and coach Ben Howland didn’t mind because the Bruins’ defense drove their offense.
Malcolm Lee led five players in double figures with a career-high 20 points and UCLA defeated New Mexico State 100-68 on Tuesday night to end a five-game losing streak.
Reeves Nelson added 16 points, Michael Roll and Tyler Honeycutt had 14 each and Jerime Anderson scored 13 for the Bruins (3-6), who came within a defeat of equaling the worst losing skid of Howland’s seven seasons in Westwood.
Nelson, Honeycutt and Anderson all had career highs.
“We just needed time to jell and this was a big first step,” said Nelson, who ended up with a black eye and a cut on his cheek after being elbowed. “I keep looking like a boxer more and more.”
The Bruins were the aggressors from the start, scoring 100 points for just the second time in Howland’s defensive-minded tenure. They beat Wyoming 113-62 last season. They had seven steals, including three by Lee, that led to easy baskets.
“It was a better effort to start the game,” Howland said. “When you lose five games in a row, just to get in the win column again is good for team morale. We needed it bad.”
Jahmar Young led the Aggies (3-6) with 13 points and Gordo Castillo and Jonathan Gibson added 11 each in the first meeting between the schools since 2005-06.
“UCLA played like Ben wanted them to play. They were tough defensively,” said New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies, a UCLA graduate. “We just couldn’t get into a flow. I knew this was going to be a type of game in which they were going to grind it out.”
The victory didn’t come without a loss for UCLA, though.
Starting forward James Keefe left at the 12:33 mark of the first half with an injured left shoulder, the same one he had surgery on in 2007 to repair a torn labrum. He didn’t return and was evaluated at a hospital after his shoulder popped out. He was scoreless with two rebounds when he got hurt.
“We’ll see if there’s swelling,” Howland said. “I don’t know how it happened.”
The Bruins were coming off an 18-point loss to Mississippi State in the John R. Wooden Classic last weekend in which they lost their fifth in a row in front of the school’s legendary former coach.
If he was watching at home Tuesday night, Wooden surely had to like what he saw this time.
The Bruins played better defensively, made free throws and hit from long range, things that had been lacking in most of their first eight games.
“It’s been real tough,” Honeycutt said. “Coach said some people are starting to doubt us, so it’s us against the world.”
They stretched a 21-point halftime lead to 33 points with a 15-3 run to open the second half. Lee and Anderson scored five points each while holding the Aggies to one field goal in the first 5 minutes.
From there, the Bruins scored on nearly every trip down the court. The Aggies hit six of 11 3-pointers in the half, but never threatened.
“We wanted to keep pushing it down their throat,” Honeycutt said.
After turning the ball over twice to start the game, the Bruins settled down and ran off to a 20-8 lead. Lee and Roll hit consecutive 3-pointers in the spurt before Hamidu Rahman’s bank shot gave the Aggies their first field goal in a span of 5:10.
UCLA shot 61 percent from the field in the half, helped by Lee, who was 5 of 6 and made all four of his free throws.
“It was real fun, getting on the open floor and making that extra pass,” he said.
Nikola Dragovic’s 3-pointer launched the Bruins on a 21-6 spree, highlighted by five points each from Dragovic and Roll and four by Lee.
Castillo hit consecutive 3-pointers and added another basket to cut the Aggies’ deficit to 47-26 at halftime.