This post was updated Jan. 3 at 11:38 p.m.
In Murray Bartow’s first game as head coach on the Bruin bench, a lot changed.
For starters, they won.
“It’s been a really hard two weeks,” Bartow said. “But I think the last three days, the guys have done a really good job of trying to get their spirits back up.”
UCLA men’s basketball (8-6, 1-0 Pac-12) snapped its four-game losing streak with a 92-70 victory over Stanford (7-6, 0-1) on Thursday night in the first game of the Pac-12 play. The Bruins had their highest scoring output since Nov. 16 against Saint Francis and their best defensive game since their victory over Notre Dame on Dec. 8.
“We really keyed in on playing with pride, playing for the four letters in front of us,” said sophomore guard Jaylen Hands. “We went out there and mirrored what we did in practice – just played hard, with energy and for each other.”
UCLA led for the entire second half, and trailed for less than two minutes on the night.
Freshman center Moses Brown scored a team-high 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds – his first double-double since Dec. 2 versus Loyola Marymount and his most points since the matchup with Saint Francis.
Brown, who was 8-of-9 from the field despite spraining his ankle in practice Wednesday, said that the new energy under Bartow helped the Bruins break out of their funk.
“I love Bartow’s energy,” Brown said. “Now that he’s the head coach, all of (the energy) has started to manifest. … I really like the way he’s gone about this little transition we’re going through.”
Bartow used a new starting lineup, with sophomore guard Chris Smith getting the start over redshirt freshman forwards Cody Riley and Jalen Hill. Redshirt junior forward Alex Olesinski made his return from a broken foot, and walk-on freshman guard Russell Stong made his season debut.
“I think (Smith) did a really good job of running, outletting on breaks, being active, being long,” Hands said. “It’s like having four guards out there and everyone’s a threat to drive or shoot.”
Hill was scoreless in 19 minutes, reeling in seven rebounds, while Riley scored six points in eight minutes.
The Bruins also ran a 2-3 zone and a full-court press for the majority of the game, turning 14 Cardinal turnovers into 21 points.
“We’ve really wanted to push the tempo of this game so we wanted to press more, trap a little bit more, try to run a little bit more after a made shot,” Bartow said. “I thought, defensively, a little up and down, but for the most part, pretty good.”
Sophomore guard Kris Wilkes was in foul trouble early, playing only five minutes and scoring two points in the first half. The wing bounced back to score 12 points in the second half, tied with redshirt junior guard Prince Ali for the team lead.
Although Hands scored just five points in the second half, the sophomore finished the night with 15 points, six assists and four rebounds. Hands leads the conference with 6.9 assists per game.
Two of Hands’ assists were to Brown on alley-oops, and Brown said that the Bruins’ ball movement is what helped the Bruins break out.
“We ran a lot of sets that can take advantage of their defense, and we moved the ball around,” Brown said. “It made it just way easier to get open shots, not only for me but for my teammates.”
Along with Hands, Brown and Wilkes, both Ali and freshman guard David Singleton cracked double digits as well. Ali scored 14 points and Singleton scored a season-high 13.
UCLA will have a chance to pick up a second straight win when it welcomes California to Pauley Pavilion on Saturday.