This post was updated Jan. 5 at 5:39 p.m.
The Bruins are playing inspired basketball again.
UCLA men’s basketball (9-6, 2-0 Pac-12) took down California (5-9, 0-2 Pac-12) 98-83 on Saturday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion and secured its second straight victory under interim head coach Murry Bartow.
Before Bartow took over for the fired Steve Alford, the Bruins had lost four straight nonconference matchups including a pair of home losses to Belmont and Liberty. UCLA, however, appears as though it has righted the ship.
“The guys are excited right now and they’re playing well,” Bartow said. “It’s just two games, but it’s a good start.”
The Bruins scored a season-high 98 points and shot 53 percent from the field. They also had six different players finish the night in double-figures. Sophomore guard Kris Wilkes led the team in scoring with 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting.
Freshman center Moses Brown scored 16 points and hauled in nine rebounds after posting a 17-point, 10-rebound performance on Thursday. Brown said the teamwide success on the stat sheet Saturday afternoon is an indicator of the chemistry that has formed among the players.
“We’re just a big family,” Brown said. “We want the best for each other and a stat line like this is just a result of us coming together as a team.”
Sophomore guard Chris Smith – who made his second straight start – recorded 15 points, five rebounds and three steals. Freshman guards David Singleton and Jules Bernard provided a spark off the bench as well, scoring a combined 26 points on 7-of-11 shooting from deep.
Bernard said the team’s transition over the past week has sparked a new level of confidence in the players.
“We’re optimistic,” Bernard said. “We have two games going in the right direction and we see what we’re capable of. And when you give great players confidence, you never know what they could do.”
UCLA took the lead from Cal with 5:52 remaining in the first half after redshirt junior guard Prince Ali converted on a four-point play opportunity. The Bruins extended their lead to as much as 15 points in the second half, but struggled to put the Golden Bears away for good.
UCLA committed 22 turnovers in the contest, a trend that has plagued the team in recent weeks. Cal turned those mistakes into 19 points, but were unable to climb back into the game despite cutting the lead to single digits multiple times down the stretch.
The Bears had four players score in double figures, including Darius McNeill, who led all scorers with 23 points.
The Bruins will next head out on the road to face Oregon on Thursday, and will also visit Oregon State and USC before returning to Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 24.