The Bruins took yet another big first-half lead Wednesday.
But this time, they never took their foot off the gas – especially Prince Ali.
The redshirt junior guard went right at 7-foot center Dawson Carper with 11 seconds left in UCLA men’s basketball’s (5-2) eventual 80-61 victory over Hawai’i (4-4). Ali rose up over the defender, striking a pose to score his 22nd and 23rd points of the game – a career-high – on a powerful slam.
After the play, Ali said he made sure to exchange a look with his former teammate Lonzo Ball, who was sitting on the baseline.
“That’s my guy, so I had to do that in front of him,” Ali said.
Ball nodded back.
But the Lakers point guard isn’t the only one who took notice of Ali’s career night.
“It was good to see (Ali) come out tonight,” said coach Steve Alford. “I thought (Ali) had a really good game offensively and I thought … he did really good on (the defensive) end as well.”
Ali started 8-of-8 from the field – including four 3-pointers to give UCLA an early 14-3 lead – and did not miss a shot until the 12:47 mark of the second half.
Two of Ali’s points came on an alley-oop from sophomore guard Jaylen Hands – the Bruins’ second fastbreak lob of the game and Hands’ eighth assist on the night.
And while Hands’ four points didn’t match Ali’s perfect start, he was able to pick up seven assists in the first half.
“I thought (Hands) ran his team, he ran the show, he did a lot of good things,” Alford said. “If he makes his shots tonight like he normally does, you’re looking at probably a double-double out of him. But how he moves the ball becomes contagious with the other guys, and I thought he did that really well tonight.”
Hands wrapped up the game with a career-high 11 assists.
“I was really focused on just trying to attack, make plays for myself or others and tonight,” Hands said. “People were making shots, so it made me look good.”
Freshman center Moses Brown followed up two single-digit scoring performances in Las Vegas with 11 points and seven rebounds – the highest scoring mark he has hit since Nov. 16 against Saint Francis.
Joining Brown in the starting frontcourt for the first time this season was redshirt freshman Cody Riley. The power forward played 23 minutes in his fourth game back from a jaw injury, and Wilkes said he was glad to have his teammate back on the court.
“(Riley) is a big body, he’s a workhorse, he’s a hard person to guard,” Wilkes said. “For him to come out there and do what he does … just coming out, just giving us a force like that, it helps us out.”
Riley scored eight points and reeled in seven rebounds – with all his points coming in the second half. Wilkes also dropped eight in the final frame to bring his total to 16 points, good for second-most on the team.
The Rainbow Warriors were able to cut the deficit to 16 points with 5:30 left on the clock – the closest they would get in the period – while the Bruins led by as many as 27.
UCLA will get back on the court Sunday against undefeated Loyola Marymount.