The UCLA Bruins continued their home dominance Sunday night, holding off Cal for a 76-64 win, but it’s not quite as easy it might seem.
The Bruins moved to 13-1 at Pauley Pavilion with the win, easing the pressure off of their tough road schedule. Five of their next seven will be on the road, which is a place the Bruins have not fared well this season.
"It’s something you’ve got to do every year – you’ve got to take care of home court," said UCLA head coach Steve Alford. "The home games are an absolute must because every home game you win you have to get two road games, so you don’t want to lose one or two home games because thats a lot of road games you’ve got to make up."
The near-perfect home record remained intact despite a 17-4 run by the Golden Bears in the second half. David Wear scored a career-high 18 points, Kyle Anderson recorded a huge game with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists and Bryce Alford came through in the clutch with a few key late baskets to finish with 13 points.
Cal was down by as much as 19 in the second half but rallied to cut the deficit to only three points with just over nine minutes left to play. Jabari Bird’s three-point play could have been the dagger, but the Bruins pushed past it.
"We got careless offensively," Alford said. "Our transition defense stepped up and we have to credit that for the win. When Cal got down to only a three-point deficit, we made key plays to get us back into a groove and give us some momentum."
Adjustments were made when they were needed, but now the question is whether or not the team can effectively make those adjustments on the road. UCLA has played only three true road games and won one — an upset of Colorado two weeks ago in Boulder. Poor scheduling on the part of Ben Howland had the Bruins playing weak competition at home and mediocre teams on neutral courts.
The home-and-home series against Missouri was the only reason the Bruins went on the road at all during the non-conference slate of the schedule, leaving the team somewhat unprepared for the grind of the conference season.
"This game was crucial in a lot of ways," Alford said. "Getting to 5-2 was big because now we’ve got to play five of our next seven on the road, and that’s not easy."
It’s something you’ve got to do every year – you’ve got to take care of home court.
-- UCLA coach Steve Alford
UCLA (16–4, 5–2) came into the week in danger of slipping to the middle of the Pac-12 Standings, but two strong performances at Pauley Pavilion has the Bruins tied for second place with the Golden Bears (14-6, 5-2). The Bruins did everything right, out-rebounding the Golden Bears and keying in defensively during the most crucial points of the game.
"Today’s game means a lot," Anderson said. "It helps that the first half of the this season had a lot of home games so now we have games on the road. We have to take advantage of this opportunity."
If the Bruins can go on the road and play the Oregon teams the way they handled the Bay Area teams this weekend, it will be exactly the hurdle they need to leap in order to outgrow their road woes.