Dec. 30, 2010
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Washington State is on winter break but that doesn't mean the learning has stopped.
The Cougars took an eight-point halftime lead on Wednesday night, but UCLA surged back in the second half to win 80-71 in the Pac-10 opener for both schools.
Reeves Nelson and Malcolm Lee led the Bruins (9-4) with 21 points each, but it was a second-half rally by UCLA that made the difference.
"We need to learn how to close games out," Washington State forward Abe Lodwick said after the Cougars fell to 10-3.
Despite leading 37-29 at the break, Washington State head coach Ken Bone sensed something was wrong. He was right.
"We came out just really, really flat in the second half," Bone said. "There was a time at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half where it didn't seem like we had the energy. That's unfortunate."
The Bruins didn't have that problem.
Tyler Honeycutt, back after sitting out one game with a sprained shoulder, led the Bruins on a 20-6 run to start the second half.
Honeycutt scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, while Nelson -- who also contributed 11 rebounds -- scored 13 of his 21 points after intermission.
"We showed character," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "To win the second half by 17 after we struggled in the first half is a big win for us."
The Bruins also ramped things up on defense, collapsing on Thompson whenever he took the ball to the rim. Thompson finished with a game-high 26 points but came away feeling as if he could have done more.
"I think I need to stop and pull up more," he said. "They were collapsing on the basket when they found out I was going to the rim. I think I just need to work on the mid-range game and I'll be good."
Aden finished with 19 points, but the Cougars were unable to match the 52 percent shooting percentage that they had in the opening 20 minutes. Washington State connected on just 11 of its 29 field-goal attempts -- 38 percent -- in the second half.
"We've got to set better screens and that's on me, Brock (Motum), DeAngelo (Casto), Patrick (Simon), Charlie (Enquist), all of us," Lodwick said. "We've got to get those guys (Thompson and Aden) open. That's our bread and butter. At the same time, when those guys get shut down, we've got to be a team that can adapt."