In the opening games of UCLA men’s basketball’s 2013-2014 campaign, talent wasn’t the issue. It was bodies.
Redshirt senior forward Travis Wear didn’t play his first game until Morehead State rolled into town last Friday, and freshman forward Wanaah Bail missed the team’s first five games while recovering from knee surgery. The result was a heavy burden on starters like redshirt senior forward David Wear, sophomore guard Jordan Adams and sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson, who got very little rest during the team’s 5-0 start.
The No. 19 Bruins (7-0) earned a share of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational Title in defeating Nevada 105-84 on Thursday and Northwestern 95-79 on Friday.
What made the wins more impressive, however, is that they came with the Bruins rotating nine scholarship players, a luxury they haven’t had for two seasons. Even the workhorse Anderson only played 32 minutes on Friday, partly due to foul trouble for sophomore forward/center Tony Parker and partly due to Anderson playing his best basketball of the young season.
Anderson shot 6-of-9 from the floor against the Wildcats, including 2-of-3 from three-point range to record his 16 points. He also finished just one assist and one rebound shy of his second career triple-double, which would have been just the fourth in school history. The performance was very similar to his 17-point performance the night before against Nevada, in which the 6-foot-9 guard/forward shot a perfect 3-of-3 from deep, hauled in 10 rebounds and added five assists. The back-to-back multi-faceted games earned Anderson tournament MVP honors.
Joining him on the All-Tournament team were Adams and freshman guard Zach LaVine, who shot an impressive 8-of-11 beyond the arc in the two neutral-site games.
Led by LaVine, Adams, Anderson and freshman guard Bryce Alford, the Bruins missed just three of their 15 three-point shots Friday and ended the first half with a 76.5 field goal percentage, a season high that fell just short of a school shooting record for a half set in 1990.
The Bruins will put their undefeated record and new lineup to the test on Tuesday night when they face UC Santa Barbara in a non-conference matchup at Pauley Pavilion. They will then head to Columbia, Mo. on Saturday for their first true road test of the season against Missouri.
Compiled by Andrew Erickson, Bruin Sports senior staff.