With the victory, UCLA (13-0) closes out its non-conference schedule undefeated for the first time since 1994-95. The Broncos (3-8) have now faced the current No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation, having also played Villanova back on Nov. 17 (an 11-point WMU loss).
Western Michigan point guard Thomas Wilder entered . . .
WMU didn't back down against the Bruins, starting the game off with a 7-1 lead. The Broncos maintained a 21-17 advantage eight minutes into the contest and trailed by just one, 28-27, with 4:30 left in the first stanza. UCLA, however, showed why it is one of the top-ranked offensive teams in the country, rattling off 17 points to hold a 45-33 lead at halftime.
"They are so talented," WMU head coach Steve Hawkins said. "We had good three-to-five minute stretches. They are a 10-0 run team just waiting to happen."
UCLA only out-scored Western Michigan by two in the second half and the Broncos pulled to within six, 61-55, with 11:17 left to play. The 14-point final difference was one of the Bruins' smaller margins of victory this season.
The Bruins entered the contest ranked first in field goal percentage (55.4) and assists per game (23.8), and second in points per game (96.9), 3-point percentage (43.9) and assists-to-turnover rate (1.95). UCLA also has five games with 100-plus points and eight wins by 20 or more points.
"I felt like we played hard," Hawkins said. "We basically played the same way we did against Washington. We tried to slow the game down, but we started having turnovers, and we took some shots early in the shot clock. Those two things really turned the game around."
"We played with a lot of confidence; we were not scared at all," Wilder said. "I just felt as a team we were not nervous playing here in Pauley Pavilion."
Senior Tucker Haymond and freshman Reggie Jones also turned in solid performances for the Broncos. Haymond had 16 points, three rebounds and two steals. Jones finished with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Aaron Holiday totaled 16 points and seven assists off the bench for UCLA. TJ Leaf had 14 points and eight rebounds.
WMU shot 44.9 percent from the field and went 5-for-13 from behind the arc. UCLA was 50 percent from the field and 6-for-22 from long distance. The Bruins shot 10-for-16 from the free-throw line. WMU had just three free-throw attempts the entire game.
Western Michigan returns home from its week-long west coast trip which began in Washington tomorrow. The Broncos are off for a week before hosting Alabama A&M on Dec. 29 at 7 p.m.
NOTE: At the first media timeout, UCLA recognized WMU assistant coach Larry Farmer. Farmer won three national championships as a player at UCLA and lost just once (89-1) in 90 career games. Farmer later was an assistant coach at UCLA and then the Bruins' head coach from 1981-84.
(Courtesy of WMU Athletics)