While they fell into foul trouble early, the Bruins’ defense kept them in the driver’s seat.
UCLA men’s basketball (8-6, 1-0 Pac-12) leads Washington State (9-5, 0-1) 33-24 at halftime in Pullman. Neither scored for the first 2:48 of the game, and redshirt senior guard Prince Ali broke the early scoring drought with a pull-up jumper from midrange.
The Bruins coughed up six turnovers in the first eight minutes, but they only turned the ball over twice from there on out. But while the ball security improved, UCLA still ended the half stuck in foul trouble.
With eight fouls in the first 10 minutes, coach Mick Cronin was forced to rotate his guys early and often. Five Bruins ended the half with at least two fouls, and redshirt sophomore forward Jalen Hill committed three in nine minutes of action.
The forced rotations allowed 11 Bruins to play at least five minutes in the half. Junior guard Chris Smith led the team in scoring with 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting and a 4-of-5 mark from the free throw line, while Ali pitched in seven points of his own.
The Cougars had very few answers for the Bruins defense, as a 1-of-16 shooting stretch put Washington State in a hole during the last 10 minutes of the half. UCLA held the hosts to just 5-of-24 shooting from the field and just 2-of-14 from inside the arc.
With 6:20 left in the half, the Bruins found their shot, going on a 15-to-5 run before heading to the locker room with the nine-point lead.