UCLA solves road woes — for now
LOS ANGELES — It took three months into the season, but UCLA finally experienced a first on Saturday — an enjoyable return home.
“It was nice,” said Bruins sophomore forward David Wear of the team’s return from the Pacific Northwest.
It was a road win. With a 63-60 win at Washington State, the Bruins claimed their first road game against a Division I opponent outside of Southern California — their only road wins of the season came against Division II Chaminade in the Maui Invitational in November and against crosstown rival USC in mid-January.
“Especially coming off of a tough loss Thursday night (71-69 at Washington), it was real important for us to come out of that road trip with a win,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
Saturday’s victory over the Cougars pushed the Bruins record to 13-10 overall and 6-5 in the Pac-12.
“Our spirits are up,” Wear said. “We realize that we finally got an out of state road win. And just to be able to leave on that note and know that we split (the road trip) and to be able to bounce back after that tough loss (at Washington) was good for us.”
The Bruins haven’t had such luck on previous road trips. With the exception of the 16-point loss at Cal, the Bruins have suffered some heartbreaking defeats. Their four conference road losses are by a combined 13 points.
Saturday at Washington State was different.
“We have played some close games, no question,” Howland said. “(It was) nice to win one. I thought our guys made some big plays down the stretch and we got some good stops.”
It’s not just the Bruins who are struggling on the road. It’s a conference-wide epidemic. Just three teams — Arizona (4-1), Oregon (4-2) and Washington (3-1) — have a winning record in conference road games.
Eight teams, including UCLA, are below .500 in conference road games, while Cal is 2-2. Although it seems to be an incredibly rough season for travelers, Howland doesn’t exactly see it that way.
“I think it’s always been hard to play on the road (in the conference),” Howland said. “I don’t know that it’s any harder (this season). It’s always been tough in my opinion.”
Adding to what makes it so tough is the added level of fatigue experienced away from home.
“Fatigue is a huge factor within every game, especially on the road trips when you have to play one game on Thursday and turn around and play a brand new team on Saturday at their house,” sophomore center Anthony Stover said. “It’s a very hard. Even in the Washington State game, I felt my legs giving out from time to time. It’s tiring.
“I feel like at home you still have your team and you have your crowd and they pump you up. Away you’re against the world, so you feel fatigue a little bit more.”
Over the next three games, the Bruins will be able to feed off of the home crowd before hitting the road for three more, including a non-conference affair at St. John’s.
UCLA will host Stanford on Thursday at 8 p.m. PT on Prime Ticket.
NOTE: Sophomore forward Travis Wear (left high ankle sprain) will be a game-time decision, after being limited in practice on Tuesday.