LAS VEGAS— Aaron Holiday fell down after a foul with 1:56 left to go in the game. He laid on the ground for a few seconds, even rolling around a little before getting up.
That was the only break he got all game long.
The senior guard played all 40 minutes – as coach Steve Alford promised he would – in No. 4-seed UCLA’s 88-77 victory over No. 5-seeded Stanford in the Bruins’ first game at the Pac-12 tournament.
“(My body’s feeling) a little tired, obviously, playing that many minutes,” Holiday said. “But I’ve been here before, so it’s no big deal.”
Holiday led the way for the Bruins once again, totaling a game-high 34 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. He showed no signs of fatigue beginning the game with 13 points in the first 12 minutes and driving to the basket for a two-handed dunk in the game’s final minutes.
“I just tried to see the way they were playing me,” Holiday said. “(The) paint was open a lot, so I just tried to get in there and make plays. So if I can get in there, jump stop and find somebody and just shoot, it’s going to do well for our team.”
UCLA outpaced Stanford in the first half, jumping out to a 30-17 lead with 7:54 left in the opening period. The Cardinal closed the margin with a 15-2 run to tie the game at 32, although Stanford never held a lead in the contest.
Thomas Welsh was second on the team with 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting, knocking down four of his six 3s.
Alford said before the game that Jaylen Hands would be available, although he would have to wait and see to what extent due to the freshman guard’s ankle injury. Hands ended up playing 10 minutes – well short of his season-average of 26 – and scoring 2 points.
Hands did not have any limitations, Alford said, but he wasn’t able to participate in the team’s contact-oriented practices early in the week. Because the team dialed back the contact at practices later in the week, Hands hadn’t played hard since before his injury.
Alec Wulff saw three minutes of action in Thursday’s game. The senior guard also played six minutes in the Bruins’ recent matchup against USC despite the fact that he has not been a fixture of Alford’s eight-man rotation throughout the season.
The Pac-12 tournament schedule will force UCLA to play games on back-to-back days for the first time this season.
Holiday and the Bruins UCLA will take on No. 1-seed Arizona in a semifinal matchup Friday at 6 p.m. The Wildcats earned that spot by toppling the No. 8-seed Colorado Buffaloes 83-67 earlier Thursday.
“Ice my knees, just get rest. That’s all I can really do,” Holiday said. “Sleep well.”