LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seldom-used forward Brendan Lane finished a breakaway dunk in the waning moments on Thursday night, bringing the UCLA crowd to its feet. It was just one small play in an already decided game, but it provided a moment of pleasure amid a few days of negativity.
Lazeric Jones scored 18 points, Tyler Lamb added 16 and UCLA routed Washington State 78-46.
The triumph came a day after the release of Sports Illustrated report that painted a picture of disarray, detailing a lack of discipline and declining moral at the once-storied program.
“I think our team probably rallied a little bit more because we are under a lot of media attention because of the article,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “So I was pleased the way the guys did that.”
David Wear scored all 13 of his points after halftime and Jerime Anderson added nine assists for the Bruins (17-13, 10-7 Pac-12), who shot 58.2 percent and made 11 of 16 3-pointers.
The Sports Illustrated expose cited dozens of anonymous sources describing the last four years as being marred by infighting, alcohol and drug use by players, and a lack of discipline by Howland, with an influx of immature recruits as the culprits.
Although team members were made aware of the article before it was published, the Bruins say it didn’t affect their preparation.
“We knew about a week prior that it was coming out and there was going to be a big deal about it,” Wear said. “But honestly, among the players we all just stood together as a team, as a family. There was no real reaction to it, nobody really talked about it. We read about it but we just moved on. We said ‘whatever happened, happened.’”
The Bruins played inspired, particularly on the defensive end, scoring 22 points off turnovers and holding the Cougars to 38.1 percent shooting.
“I was really pleased with how our team performed tonight,” Howland said. “We did a good job on both ends of the floor.”
Brock Motum scored 18 as the only player in double-figures for Washington State (14-15, 6-11).
“I thought we were ready to take a step forward, but tonight we just went backward,” Motum said. “I thought we were getting better but we came out with no intensity. We played bad ‘D.’”
Washington State scored the game’s first five points, but the lead would be short-lived. UCLA strung together 11 straight points, with Jones hitting a pair of jumpers and a 3-pointer during the stretch.
The Bruins maintained the pressure, later rapidly scoring seven points, capped by Jones stealing the ball and going the length of the court for a dunk that resulted in a 26-10 lead.
Norman Powell had a layup and Travis Wear nailed a short jumper with seconds left in the half to give UCLA a 38-19 lead at the break. Jones had 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting at the midway point.
The lead grew to 30 points shortly after halftime. Jones made a nifty drive and scoop for a layup, and David Wear finished a layup off a lob pass from Anderson to make it 55-25.
“They used (the article) as motivation,” Motum said. “They just wanted to prove everybody wrong.”
Lamb hit 4 of 6 3-pointers and Jones and Powell each made a pair from distance.
The Bruins didn’t attempt their first free-throw until the 17:14 mark of the second half when Travis Wear was fouled driving to the hoop.
UCLA improved to 54-2 all-time at home against Washington State and Thursday’s win marked its seventh straight in the series.
While Howland stressed that there were parts of the article that were incorrect, he is ready to put the negativity behind him.
“It’s time for us now to move forward and focus at the season at hand and the great kids we have in the program,” he said.