TAMPA, Fla. “”mdash; Everything’s going right for UCLA in Tampa, and its defense isn’t half bad either.
The No. 7 Bruins (23-10) methodically built a 42-24 lead against No. 10 Michigan State (19-15) and went into the halftime locker room with high-fives and smiles.
On at least two occasions, UCLA emulated the end of its game against Arizona, when an air-balled 3-pointer and a blocked shot fell neatly into the hands of another Bruin. This time it was freshman center Josh Smith and sophomore forward Brendan Lane who were in position for an easy lay-up.
Add to that little luck and a strong defensive effort and UCLA finds itself 20 minutes from a date with Florida on Saturday.
The Bruins held the Spartans to eight-for-26 from the field and forced nine turnovers.
Michigan State’s problems are epitomized in its best player’s stat line. Senior guard Kalin Lucus, who leads his team averaging 17.2 points per game, was zero-for-seven with zero points in the first half. MSU’s other standout guard, Durrell Summers, has 12 of the Spartans’ 24 points.
On the other side, the Bruins have maintained a balanced attack, with eight of their nine scholarship players on the score sheet.
Yet one note of concern for UCLA is early front-court foul trouble. Lane, Smith and redshirt freshman center Anthony Stover all have two fouls.
The Bruins have never lost a game this season in which they held a double-digit lead and are 17-2 when leading by any margin at halftime.
Their 18-point halftime lead is the largest since UCLA’s first game of the year.
In the other game of the session here at the St. Pete Times Forum, No. 2 Florida beat No. 15 UC Santa Barbara to advance to Saturday’s Round of 32 game.