The Los Angeles Sports Arena was deflated Friday night.
Cheers of “L-M-U” rained down from the nosebleed section as the Den stood silently. Joe Bruin tried to rally the fans as LMU ran out the clock, but the students that made the trip to see No. 17 UCLA’s first regular season game left disappointed.
Frustration was apparent on the floor as well for most of the game, as a scrappy LMU team defended the interior and made 10 three-pointers on the night to upset UCLA 69-58.
The Bruins went to redshirt sophomores Travis and David Wear early and often to start the game, a strategy that yielded mostly positive results. David scored the team’s first two baskets and both brothers showed their range from the left side of the floor as well, scoring a combined 20 out of 33 UCLA points in the first half.
“I thought our energy was pretty good out of the gate,” David Wear said. “We lacked defensive concentration at times, forgetting assignments. We took some ill-advised shots.”
Sophomore Joshua Smith sat for most of the half after picking up two quick fouls early on. Smith came in off the bench at the game’s first dead ball but was unable to stay on the floor for more than six minutes.
He was well-defended by LMU, who fronted him and prevented the entry pass, allowing him only two scores all game.
“Josh never really got in sync. They did a good job sloughing off of him and it really caused problems with their help defense,” coach Ben Howland said.
Senior point guard Lazeric Jones was 0-7 in the first half and finished the game 1-11. It fell to the Wear twins to pick up the slack offensively, which they were able to do in the first half more successfully than the second.
“Lazeric was pressing a lot tonight. He was trying too hard, trying to do too much. He missed a couple good shots but he took a couple bad shots as well,” Howland said. The Bruins were down 34-33 at the half.
LMU scored two straight baskets coming out of the half and were generally deadly from beyond the arc ““ finishing 10-15 on three-point attempts ““ but Joshua Smith scored his first points of the game on UCLA’s second offensive possession and sent a blocked shot toward the rafters shortly afterward to energize the crowd.
While UCLA showed signs of life on offense, they couldn’t manage to stop LMU on the other end of the floor. Jones’ offensive struggles continued in the second half, and he scored his first basket on his 10th attempt ““ a difficult layup ““ after almost losing the ball.
The team looked unsure of themselves on offense, as junior forward Nelson and Smith appeared visibly frustrated by LMU’s interior defense.
“We just need to play smarter and be more patient, just work the ball around a little bit. We could set screens better, that opens up the entry pass a little more. We’ll be working on that,” David Wear said.
Nelson got going late, scoring three straight baskets for the Bruins to cut the deficit to five with seven minutes remaining.
It wasn’t enough however, and the Bruins were consistently unable to get defensive stops at key junctures in the game. Whenever UCLA came close, LMU would respond with a basket to silence the crowd.
LMU’s sophomore point guard Anthony Ireland and redshirt junior forward Ashley Hamilton scored a combined 44 points to lead LMU to their first win over UCLA since the 1941-1942 season. Travis Wear said the team was more surprised than angry about the game’s result.
“We realize that everyone on our schedule has the ability to beat us, and we have the ability to beat everyone on our schedule too,” Wear said.