BOULDER, Colo. — It’s hard to measure maturity in a team, but a good barometer for it is how players handle road games.
If Jordan Adams’ behavior was any indication, the Bruins relished their chance to deliver a road upset on Saturday. Adams was blowing kisses to the crowd, yelling, pointing to the court like he owned it and taunting the Colorado bench throughout UCLA’s 78-75 win.
It didn’t matter that most Bruins were sucking for air at an altitude that wears on the body, which kept leading scorer Travis Wear both-hands-on-both-knees tired, or that UCLA had to switch play-calling to hand signals as the Buffaloes fans got louder.
For all the talk about UCLA’s lack of road experience, the young Bruins unexpectedly delivered on this trip and left Boulder Saturday with something that hadn’t been accomplished in the short history of the Pac-12: a road sweep of Utah and Colorado, the clearest sign yet that this team’s success is legitimate.
“We’re doing a lot of growing up,” Kyle Anderson said. “The freshmen are playing well, the older guys are helping us out with things we might not know and it’s all coming together.”
After a tough conference road opener in Salt Lake City, where UCLA’s three freshman starters struggled down the stretch, both the young and the old made the plays to survive against Colorado.
The visiting locker room here gives a stern reminder that the Coors Events Center sits at 5,345 feet above sea level, an altitude at which “strenuous exercise should be avoided” and “dizziness should be treated.”
It was advice the Bruins did not heed.
Wear put in a team-leading and career-high 23 points, fighting through the fatigue of the elements. Adams managed to score 18 points and made a number of clutch plays, including free throws to seal the win.
“My team, they feed off my energy,” Adams said. “I get pumped up for no reason. They get pumped, too.”
That display of energy is one of many stark differences in this season’s Bruins, now 14-3 and 4-0 in Pac-12 play, compared to last season’s squad that went 19-14 and never really found its rhythm.
The Bruins could be counted on for almost as much finger-pointing as actual points last season. With everyone assuming more accountability, there’s less pouting and more boasting from guys like Adams, a freshman whose confidence doesn’t correspond to the number of games he’s played.
“I feel like I’m surrounded by a bunch of peers my own age,” said Wear, now playing like the elder statesman of the Bruins that he is. “These guys are mature beyond their years with all the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) they’ve played and all the national notoriety they have. They know what’s expected.”
That’s why this Bruins team has bounced back from losses like last year’s team could not. Their winning streak is now at nine, the last win marking Colorado’s first loss this season on its home floor, the biggest win yet for these baby Bruins.
“It’s maturing,” Adams said. “Early in the year we were immature, taking crazy shots, had egos. We surpassed that.
“We lost to Cal Poly and San Diego State, and we didn’t like the losing feel.”
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