Saturday, October 21

UCLA men’s basketball cuts off Washington State scorer Klay Thompson

UCLA tops off a winning weekend at home after Klay Thompson unable to infiltrate Bruin defense

Nikola Dragovic scored nine of his 18 points from beyond the arc in UCLA's 74-62 win over Washington State.

Nikola Dragovic scored nine of his 18 points from beyond the arc in UCLA's 74-62 win over Washington State. Nathan Kwok

A weekend that began with a buzzer-beater ended with another. Not that the second one mattered.

The latter, nailed by Washington State’s Klay Thompson as time expired Saturday, only made the game’s final score more respectable, shrinking UCLA’s margin of victory to 12 points.

With Bruin players walking toward the sideline for the customary postgame handshake, Thompson stopped at the left baseline in front of his team’s bench and hit a jumper from about five feet. The ball swished through the net while the red light flashed on the backboard, indicating the game’s conclusion.

Then Thompson hung his head and dragged his feet all the way to the back of the Cougars’ handshake line.

It was that kind of day for Thompson, son of former Los Angeles Lakers forward Mychal Thompson. Klay Thompson came into the game as the nation’s third-leading scorer with an average of nearly 23 points.

“We know he’s a great shooter,” freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt said. “Especially in our zone, anytime we saw him running anywhere, we yelled out where he was and closed him out for the shot.”

Thompson shot an uncharacteristic 5-for-17, including 2-for-9 from 3-point range. He finished with 13 points.

He had a first half to forget, missing six of his eight shots and even failing to draw iron on one attempt. UCLA’s student section didn’t let him forget it for the rest of the afternoon.

This was the same player who scored 43 points in a game earlier this season.

Thompson was unable to do what Washington’s Quincy Pondexter, USC’s Dwight Lewis and Stanford’s Jeremy Green had done before him ““ infiltrate the Bruins’ 2-3 zone defense.

Pondexter scored 23 points Thursday while Lewis and Green torched UCLA for 24 and 30, respectively, on consecutive weekends.

“That’s really saying something about our defense and how much we were aware of him,” coach Ben Howland said. “He’s a future NBA player, so that was big for us.”

UCLA held Thompson to just five points in last year’s Pac-10 tournament quarterfinals. He had scored 15 the last time he visited Pauley Pavilion.

“Klay (Thompson) had trouble hitting from three,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “He’s a better shooter than 3-for-9. When that happens, other guys have to step up and make shots. It’s just not about one player.”

Cougar guard Reggie Moore was the only one who stepped up in Thompson’s place. Moore scored a game-high 24 points and made six 3-pointers.

The rest of the Cougars, including Thompson, were 12-for-42 from the field (29 percent).

UCLA held Washington State to just 35.6 percent shooting ““ the Bruins’ season-best.

“We’re making others take difficult shots,” sophomore guard Malcolm Lee said. “They’re getting out of their comfort level. The zone made a big contribution to our two wins this weekend. Hey, we’ve got to keep playing it.”

Howland admitted that he should have gone to the zone awhile ago.

“It was actually very poor coaching on my part for not recognizing it earlier,” Howland said. “It’s not something we want to do, but it’s something we need to do for us to be competitive and win games.”

Playing the zone didn’t necessarily mean easing up on Thompson.

“We wanted to be all over him,” Howland said. “We didn’t want him to drive, we didn’t want him to shoot. We wanted him to get rid of the ball.”

And that scheme worked. That is, until the game’s final shot.

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