UCLA won for the first time against a Division I team away from Southern California, defeating Washington State, 63-60, Saturday at Beasley Coliseum.
It was the 19th consecutive victory for UCLA (13-10, 6-5 Pac-12) at Washington State and the first loss at Beasley Coliseum this season for the Cougars (12-11, 4-7).
OVERVIEW: Neither team could pull away for most of the game, but UCLA finally opened a 58-51 lead with 3:11 to play by going on an 8-0 run and then hung on down the stretch.
The Bruins had a 61-54 lead with 21 seconds to play, but Washington State's Reggie Moore made two 3-point shots in the final 13 seconds and the Bruins made only 5-of-9 free throws over that stretch, but David Wear and Lazeric Jones each made 1-of-2 in the waning seconds to seal the victory for UCLA.
TURNING POINT: UCLA switched to a zone defense with about 15 minutes to play and pretty much took over the game after that. Washington State led, 40-38 at the time of the switch and extended it to 45-39 shortly thereafter, but struggled against the zone the rest of the way.
The Bruins held Washington State to only four field goals over the final 11:30 -- including the two desperation 3-pointers by Moore at the end of the game. Washington State shot 45.5 percent in the first half, but were 10-of-33 (30 percent) in the second half when UCLA played mostly zone.
UCLA STAR OF THE GAME: Joshua Smith turned in a second consecutive solid performance with 19 points and five rebounds as he dominated the middle whenever he was on the floor.
Smith played only 22 minutes and fouled out with 1:42 to play, but made 8-of-9 shots and 3-of-4 free throws. He also added two blocked shots and a steal as he became a physical presence on both ends of the floor.
David Wear, Jones and Tyler Lamb deserve mention for turning up their games in the second half. That trio combined to shoot 4-for-15 in the first half, but were 7-for-11 in the second half. Jones and Wear finished with 15 points each and Lamb, who had seven points, had two key blocked shots and a steal in the final five minutes of the game.
STAT OF THE GAME: Washington State leading scorer Brock Motum was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half and early in the second, but seemed to be most affected by UCLA's switch to a zone.
Motum finished with 25 points, but scored only six in the second half -- two coming when he was credited with a basket after Lamb accidentally tipped a ball in for the Cougars. Motum made 9-of-15 shots for the game, but was 2-of-7 against the zone and did not score in the final 14 minutes of the game.
WHAT IT MEANS: UCLA's road woes have finally come to an end.
The Bruins had only one road victory this season -- against struggling USC -- and their only victory away from Southern California had come against Division II Chaminade at the Maui Invitational on Nov. 21.
Washington State was 8-0 at Beasley Coliseum this season and had an 11-game winning streak there. Earlier this season, the Cougars defeated Stanford and conference-leader California there, so it's not an easy feat to win in Pullman.
It's also a good sign for UCLA that they were able to close out the game on the road after blowing double-digit, second-half leads in their last two road losses at Washington and Oregon.
As far as the conference standings go, UCLA is currently in a tie for sixth place with Stanford and three games out of first with seven games to go. Chances of winning the Pac-12 title are slim with six teams standing between UCLA and the top spot so the Bruins will be looking to climb into the top four over the last month of the regular season in order to receive a coveted bye in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament.