PULLMAN – The current UCLA basketball team is a mere shadow of the great Bruins teams of the past, but folks in Pullman might have a hard time believing that.
The Bruins, posting their 17th consecutive win at Washington State, shot a season-high 65.9 percent from the field in a 71-51 cakewalk Thursday night at Friel Court.
Five Bruins scored in double figures, topped by senior guard Michael Roll with 15.
Roll and freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt both converted all five of their field-goal attempts in the first half, including a combined five 3-pointers (three by Roll).
“Roll and Tyler were fantastic,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
The ever-demanding Howland had plenty of praise for plenty of other Bruins on a night when Cougars coach Ken Bone and his players bemoaned WSU’s lack of energy and closed the locker room door for a-half hour after the loss. The Cougars have lost three in a row and six of seven.
“We just went through the motions,” forward Nikola Koprivica said.
“It comes down to heart and passion,” post DeAngelo Casto said.
A 14-0 run near the end of the first half helped UCLA (12-13, 7-6 Pacific-10 Conference) take a 40-26 halftime lead. Casto’s layup with 2 seconds left ended a WSU scoring drought of almost 71/2 minutes before 6,566 mostly silent and occasionally booing spectators.
“Our zone (defense) was really active today,” Howland said. “We did a good job of matching up with (Klay) Thompson in particular.”
Thompson, who started the night ranked second in the Pac-10 with a scoring average of 21.4 points a game, scored eight on 2-of-9 shooting. He also had a game-high six turnovers.
Freshman point guard Reggie Moore led WSU (15-11, 5-9) with 11 points.
Honeycutt, who was averaging 6.3 points, had seven barely 8 minutes into the game. Honeycutt finished 5-for-5 from the field (Roll was 6-for-7) and matched his season high of 14 points.
“He’s been working so hard on his shot,” Howland said. “He has really put the time in.
“I had to get on him because he sneaks into Pauley (Pavilion) at 11 o’clock at night after intramurals are over, and he’ll shoot there till 1 in the morning.”
UCLA senior forward Nikola Dragovic, a native of Belgrade, Serbia, along with Koprivica, scored 14 points. Teammate Reeves Nelson, a freshman starting for injured senior forward James Keefe, scored four points before leaving the game with a cut over his right eye after he fell to the court after a one-handed dunk 4:23 before halftime.
“All I know is my head hit the floor first, and that’s never good,” Nelson said with a smile.
X-rays for a concussion were negative on Nelson, and he and Howland said Nelson could have played in the second half. Nelson, his eye a black and purple mess after taking 14 or 15 stitches (depending on the source), said he’s not too concerned about losing out on a potential modeling career.
“I think it disappeared a long time ago,” Nelson joked.
Nelson’s comment could soon apply to WSU’s postseason chances.