UCLA grinds out victory in Salt Lake City
UCLA nearly gave up an 11-point halftime lead and hung on for a 57-53 win at Utah in the Bruins’ first true road game of the season.
Ben Howland’s young Bruins have been searching for a killer instinct all season. They certainly didn’t find it when they traveled to Utah on Thursday night.
With the ball in the hands on their most trusted ball handler with less than 30 seconds remaining and just a two-point lead, the Bruins were in search of some relief.
Larry Drew II was picked up on a switch and blew right past his defender to get to the basket for a layup with nine seconds left to seal the deal for the Bruins. The four-point win extended UCLA’s winning streak to eight games.
Drew II’s layup provided the Bruins some breathing room at a time when they were desperately in need of a basket. It was their only points final four minutes.
The Bruins (13-3, 3-0 Pac-12) led by as many as 13 in the first half but were outplayed by the Utes (8-7, 0-3 Pac-12). UCLA couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting just 39 percent in the second half (9-of-23 shots).
“We started rushing a little bit on offense,” Travis Wear told FOX Sports Radio. “We didn’t really try to control the clock. We didn’t really have good clock management in the second half and that allowed them to come back. We’re fortunate we got the ‘W’ tonight.”
The Utes took advantage, outscoring the Bruins 30-23 in the second half, and had opportunities to take the lead down the stretch.
Glen Dean missed two 3-pointers with less than two minutes remaining which would’ve given Utah the lead. The last came with 46 seconds left and the Bruins up 55-53.
That set the table for Drew II’s clincher.
Drew II was one of three Bruins, along with Jordan Adams and Wear, to finish with a team-high 12 points.
For the third consecutive game to open conference play, the Bruins held an opponent under 40 percent shooting. Utah shot 39 percent in the game.
Despite their poor shooting second half, the Bruins managed to finish the game shooting 40 percent from the field.
It was a rough shooting night for Adams and Shabazz Muhammad. The Bruins leading scorers combined to go 8-of-26 from the field.
Muhammad went 3-for-13 and finished with just six points. It’s the first time in his short career he failed to reach double figures, shooting a career low 23 percent.
It makes the win even more valuable for the Bruins considering they were able to come away victorious in their first true road game despite their top two scores having off nights.
“This was good for us to get on the road and have a grind-it-out type of game,” Wear old FOX Sports Radio. “(To) be up and then have a team comeback, we remained calm. We kept our composure and we came out with the win. That’s good.
“Now we head to Colorado (for a Saturday game). Hopefully we can do it again.”