LAS VEGAS – Once No. 2 UCLA tightened up its dribbles, stopped throwing errant passes and started moving around, the offense started humming again.
The Bruins turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, but quickly cleaned it up after halftime. With just three more turnovers in the second half, UCLA (12-0) kept Ohio State (8-3) at arms-length en route to a 86-73 win to stay perfect on the season.
“In the first half, we were standing around too much, coach told us at halftime,” said freshman guard Lonzo Ball. “We came back out there with some movement, picked up the pace and things fell into place.”
The four-guard rotation of Ball, sophomore Aaron Holiday, senior Bryce Alford and senior Isaac Hamilton combined for 65 points. For the second straight game, Ball crept near triple-double territory with eight points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
With freshman forward/center Ike Anigbogu in foul trouble late in the second half, coach Steve Alford turned to his trusted four-guard lineup to close out the game.
“We got four elite guards and you have to prepare at a high level for all four of those guards,” Alford said. “Very very smart, outstanding ball handlers, outstanding decision makers. All four of them are tough – not afraid to make a play, take a shot. All four of them can make shots, all four of them make free throws so when you got a lead, that’s what you want to have.”
Holiday and Bryce Alford tied for game-high honors with 20 points a piece while freshman forward TJ Leaf finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds.
Often considered the sixth-starter of the team, Holiday usually brings with him a pace and hustle that has come to define this UCLA team as the first player off the bench.
Against the Buckeyes, he finished with five steals and 10 free throw attempts in just 25 minutes.
“It’s better to get the ball moving and just be quicker out there,” Holiday said. “Most guys can’t really guard us.”
After taking just a 3-point lead into halftime, the Bruins outpaced the Buckeyes in the second half 46 to 36 despite shooting just 45.7 percent from the field and 23.5 percent from the 3s.
Of course, not turning the ball over 12 times in 20 minutes helped. In fact, UCLA turned the tables around and forced 10 Ohio State turnovers in the second half.