UCLA showing stability, beats Cal for second straight win
After getting ''punched in the face'' by Kentucky and Utah during a five-game losing streak, coach Steve Alford's UCLA team has steadied itself with back-to-back Pac-12 Conference wins.
All five starters scored in double figures, led by freshman forward Kevon Looney with 15 points, as UCLA cruised to a 73-54 victory over Cal Sunday night.
The win was UCLA's second straight to snap a five-game losing streak that included embarrassing blowout losses to Kentucky and Utah -- ''easily the best teams we've played,'' according to Alford, who offered the pugilistic metaphor for the way his Bruins fell behind quickly and deeply in those games. The Bruins raised their record to 10-7 overall, 2-2 in Pac-12 play.
Cal lost for the fifth time in its past six games, falling to 11-6 overall, 1-3 in Pac-12 action.
UCLA guard Norman Powell hit his first five shots, helping to fuel a 10-2 run by the Bruins midway through the first half that turned a back-and-forth game in their favor permanently. The Bruins never trailed after a three-pointer by Isaac Hamilton made it 13-11 and started the surge six minutes into the game.
Perhaps more importantly, Powell keyed the Bruins' defensive effort against Cal guard Tyrone Wallace. The Bears' leading scorer came into the game averaging 19.1 points per game but was held to just four points against UCLA.
''He was the one who guarded Wallace all game,'' Alford said. ''It's a team effort but he was mostly responsible for holding Wallace down.
''That will probably be the low game for Wallace all year. I thought that was a tremendous key to our defense.''
With Powell making it difficult for Wallace, Cal's junior guard hit just two of his nine shots, missed both three-point attempts and turned the ball over three times.
''I know that he likes to go right off of pick-and-rolls and curls so I just made sure I stayed in front of him,'' Powell said. ''I know that he likes to drive to the basket and shoot a lot of up-and-under shots. The key was to cut him off, take away any easy drives and stay in front of him.''
Cal guard Jordan Mathews picked up the slack with 23 points, but he was the only Bear to reach double figures.
''They did a great job getting all the 50-50 balls, the rebounds and tips,'' Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said of UCLA, which won the rebounding battle, 40-34, and had a big advantage in turnovers, 16-6.
The post game of Looney and junior center Tony Parker was key to the streak-snapping win Thursday. The duo combined for 49 points and 31 rebounds in that double-overtime victory over Stanford.
Against Cal, the duo was slow to establish an offensive game, combining to make just three of 10 shots in the first half. But they made an impact defensively. Parker, in particular, was instrumental in holding Cal senior forward David Kravish to 4-of-13 shooting in the game. The 6-foot-10 Kravish did lead everyone with 14 rebounds. But he missed six of his first eight shots and finished with nine points.
Looney and Parker got things going in the second half on the offensive end and the Bruins all but put the game away by outscoring Cal 16-3 in the first 7 1/2 minutes after intermission. Looney had 10 of his 15 points in the second half and Parker 10 of his 13.
''We draw a lot of attention down there,'' Parker said. ''We can score a lot more ways. We can get our guards better looks. I think that's what happened in the second half.''
Powell suffered a bruised hip during the Bruins' double-overtime victory over Stanford and was playing at less than full strength Sunday.
''Whatever percentage he tells you he is, I hope it stays that way,'' Alford joked of Powell, who had 14 points in the victory.
Powell didn't offer a percentage but teammate Tony Parker said he looked fine to him.
''He's always ready to play. I've never seen Norm not ready to play,'' Parker said. ''You're always going to get athletic Norm, running around with his bow legs.''
Mathews was 6 of 9 in 3-point shooting Sunday. That was a career-high in 3-point shots made and gives him a conference-high 17 three-pointers in his first four Pac-12 games this season and multiple three-pointers made in each of his past six games overall.
In conference play, Mathews has shot 56.7 percent from three-point range (17 of 30) after hitting only 38.2 percent in his first 13 games this season.
''I told Jordan to just focus on catching and shooting in rhythm,'' Martin said. ''He's been more relaxed and that's helped him be more aggressive and strong with the ball. He's a three-point threat when his shoulders are square and he's ready to catch and shoot. He did a great job for us with that tonight.''
Cal: With 14 rebounds Sunday, senior David Kravish became the fourth player in Pac-12 history to have at least 1,000 career points, 800 rebounds and 200 blocks. The previous three players to record that stat pack in their careers were Taj Gibson of USC (2007-09), Anthony Cook of Arizona (1986-89) and Channing Frye of Arizona (2002-05). ... Cal went winless on its two-game visit to Los Angeles, losing at USC on Wednesday and UCLA on Sunday.
UCLA: Kevon Looney came into Sunday's game as one of only 15 players in the country averaging a double-double and the only freshman. Looney finished with 15 points and seven rebounds against Cal on Sunday.