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Bryce Alford, No. 4 UCLA Bruins hold off California Golden Bears

By The Sports Xchange 

No. 4 UCLA matched last season's win total of 15 with its 81-71 victory over California on Thursday night in Los Angeles. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
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No. 4 UCLA matched last season's win total of 15 with its 81-71 victory over California on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
The Bruins finished 15-17 last season, a tumultuous one in which coach Steve Alford wrote a letter of apology to UCLA fans. They are 15-1 overall now after beating the Golden Bears in front of 13,659 fans at Pauley Pavilion.
"We're just having a blast," said UCLA senior guard Bryce Alford, the coach's son. "Our young guys have made it fun, and the older guys are feeding off that."
Bryce Alford got UCLA off to a hot start Thursday as the Bruins held off a furious late rally by the Golden Bears to pull out the win, improving to 2-1 in the Pac-12.
Alford scored 16 of his 24 points in the first half, making 5 of 7 attempts from 3-point range, to lead the Bruins to a 44-24 halftime advantage.
UCLA, which shot 51.5 percent from the field in the first half, had runs of 11-0 and 9-0 to build what looked to be an insurmountable lead.
"We didn't play with any toughness and effort on both sides of the ball in the first half, simple as that," said Cal coach Cuonzo Martin, whose team is 10-5 overall and 1-2 in the Pac-12. "If you didn't have toughness and effort in the second half, I wasn't playing you unless I had to."
UCLA led by as many as 24 points in the second half but Cal made 9 of 10 field goals in a late stretch to cut the lead to 76-71 with 43 seconds. A 3 by Grant Mullins with 43 seconds left capped a 20-5 stretch.
Two free throws each by Lonzo Ball and Aaron Holiday in the last 22 seconds sealed the win.
Three other Bruins scored in double figures including Ball (14 points, five rebounds and seven assists) and T.J. Leaf (18 points and 11 rebounds). Thomas Welsh added 10 points and six rebounds.
The Golden Bears were led by Ivan Rabb's 17 points and 20 rebounds. Mullins, a graduate transfer from Columbia, added 19 points with Donte Coleman contributing 15 -- all in second half -- and Charlie Moore with 13.
"There's always lessons to learn," Steve Alford said of his team almost blowing a big lead. "The world has not come to an end after (we) went from a 20-point lead to a 10-point lead. Our guys have done a lot of great things.
"You have to give credit to Cal's defense, but we took our foot off the gas pedal and it showed in the second half. You have to get back to cutting, to screening, moving the ball in and out. We got lazy out there."
The Bruins had only six assists with six turnovers and shot only 34.5 percent from the field in the second half. They made only 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
California made 39.1 percent of its shot in the game and committed 13 turnovers -- including four each by Rabb and Moore -- with only seven assists. UCLA conversely produced 18 assists on its 27 field goals made.
Rabb's 20 rebounds led a 48-37 rebounding edge by the Golden Bears, which translated into a 20-9 advantage in second-chance points.
"We did a much better job of attacking the rim, mostly because of how Donte came on strong," Martin said. "He became our only perimeter guy who could get to the rim and finish things."
-- California entered the game as the top team in the nation in defensive rebound percentage (82 percent).
-- Entering Thursday, UCLA senior G Bryce Alford ranked 14th nationally among active players in career points (1,609). He is the only player in the top 15 who plays in a Power 5 conference. Alford ranks 18th on UCLA's career scoring list.
-- Since the start of last season, Cal is 3-6 against ranked opponents. The average margin of defeat before the loss to UCLA was only 3.8 points. No loss to a ranked opponent came by more than six points.
-- UCLA G Lonzo Ball totaled 121 assists in 15 games as a freshman, just 58 behind the school's single-season freshman assists record that was established by Pooh Richardson (179) in 1985-86.

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