This post was updated Dec. 8 at 10:12 p.m.
The Bruins jumped out to an early lead and never surrendered it.
UCLA men’s basketball (7-3) picked up an 81-62 victory over Denver (4-6) at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, the Bruins’ second straight win since returning from Hawaii.
UCLA began the contest with an 11-0 run, but watched its lead fall to as little as one point with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half. The Bruins allowed the Pioneers to get back into the game from behind the 3-point line, giving up six Denver 3-pointers on 10 attempts in the opening 20 minutes.
Coach Mick Cronin said that while UCLA’s inability to play effective on-ball defense leading to open perimeter shots didn’t end up costing the team a win, he knows that his players will have to do better in that area moving forward.
“You got to contain the dribble this day and age, the way the game is playing, because that kick-out-3, guys at all levels – high school kids, this day and age – that’s an easy shot to make,” Cronin said. “It starts with guarding the ball.”
However, UCLA settled down in the final three minutes of the half, extending a five-point lead into a 43-32 halftime advantage. The Bruins then began the second half with a 17-9 run to put the game out of reach.
Redshirt sophomore forward Cody Riley led the way for UCLA on offense, scoring a career-high 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting while hauling in 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes of action. Riley said his teammates helped fuel his career night by getting him involved early and often.
“They found me when I had my man sealed and found me in the right spots,” Riley said. “Got me going early and it was good for our team.”
Cronin said he wasn’t surprised by Riley’s breakout performance, either. Cronin coached against Riley last season with Cincinnati and said that he highlighted the big man when setting up his defensive game plan.
“If you don’t double him, I mean, he can score,” Cronin said. “I knew when (Cincinnati) played (UCLA) last year. I sent three guys at him a year ago when I was coaching against him. He’ll score if you don’t go at him, if you give him space and time.”
Freshman guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. and redshirt senior guard Prince Ali each scored in double figures as well, with 16 and 11 points, respectively. Jaquez Jr. has now scored 16 or more points in three of the last four games.
Sophomore guard Jules Bernard – who scored nine points in the game – said the Bruins’ ability to get scoring contributions from guys up and down the roster will be key moving forward.
“When one person who normally scores doesn’t score as much as he normally does, you have other players to pick it up and I think that’s one of our strengths – our depth,” Bernard said. “If we continue to utilize that strength and other players are playing to their capabilities then we can do some good things.”
Sophomore guard David Singleton missed Sunday’s contest with an injury to his left foot and ankle. Cronin said Singleton suffered the injury at practice Friday and that his status is considered day-to-day.
UCLA will return to action Saturday against Notre Dame.