LOS ANGELES — Wednesday night provided the Bruins an opportunity to make right a bunch of wrongs that were done in Tempe last month.
The visit to Arizona State was a rather unpleasant one for UCLA. The Bruins were outrebounded by 20 and outscored by nearly as much, left to return home following an 18-point defeat.
On Wednesday night, they faced a similar set of circumstances that were present in their first meeting with Arizona State. For starters, they were without the services of Travis Wear. Last time, it was a concussion. This time around he watched from the UCLA bench with a boot on his right foot.
Speedy point guard Jahii Carson didn’t slow down overnight and 7’2” center Jordan Bachynski was still, well, 7’2.” The obstacles were the same but this time would be different because of the play Ben Howland’s talented freshmen.
Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, and Shabazz Muhammad combined for 64 points in UCLA’s 79-74 overtime win over Arizona State (20-9, 9-7 Pac-12) at new Pauley Pavilion.
“I think the media got it right,” Howland said. “They are the No. 1 recruiting class in the country and they played like it today.”
Despite their scoring exploits, the Bruins head coach was much more pleased with their work on the glass. Anderson had a team-high 15 rebounds to go along with a career-high 21 points. Adams and Muhammad had six and seven rebounds respectively, which is both above their season averages.
“We came in with the mindset of just being tough and try to out battle them on the boards,” Adams said.
The game, in general, was tough. There were eight ties and 18 lead changes.
The paint became hallowed ground with numerous attempts challenged as balls flew and bodies fell to the ground on both ends in the second half as each team tried to protect its basket as much as possible.
The Bruins (21-7, 11-4 Pac-12) had eight blocks in the game, which is one less than their season high against Prairie View and Cal State Northridge in December.
When the game got tough, the Bruins showed toughness. They displayed a grit they likely wouldn’t have had if this game was played earlier in the season. On Wednesday night, they showed their growth.
“Being so deep in the season, I think we were more ready for this,” Anderson said. “We knew we were going to get their best. They’re playing for postseason basketball. “We just had to come out there and match their intensity.”
The intensity and effort displayed by the Bruins on Wednesday was prevalent, particularly on the boards and guarding Bachynski.
The Bruins were outrebounded, barely, 46-43, far from the 20-rebound margin they were on the wrong side of in Tempe. Bachynski was very quiet compared to the last time he saw the Bruins. He finished the night with just 10 points and seven rebounds.
“I’m going to actually give credit to us this time,” Anderson said. “I think we defended him really well. We knew what we wanted to do. We knew what we wanted to take away.” The work put forth by the Bruins on Wednesday calls for a day off, partly out of necessity. The Bruins won’t do anything on Thursday as Wear tries to get healthy and Muhammad nurses a sprained left ankle suffered in the overtime win Wednesday night.