LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kris Wilkes scored 20 points, including five straight in overtime, and No. 23 UCLA rallied past stubborn Central Arkansas 106-101 on Wednesday night, hours after three of the Bruins’ freshmen confessed to shoplifting in China and were indefinitely suspended.
Wilkes, a freshman, had 12 rebounds in salvaging the home opener for the Bruins (2-0), who edged Georgia Tech by three points to open the season last week during the China trip that turned into an international scandal.
Aaron Holiday led UCLA with 24 points and Thomas Welsh added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bears (1-2) led 90-86 to start overtime on a 3-pointer and free throw by Jordan Howard. He led them with 35 points, including eight 3-pointers.
Thatch Unruh, who finished with 20 points before fouling out with 10 seconds left in overtime, hit a 3-pointer that drew the Bears to 97-95, but the Bruins were able to avoid the upset.
Howard’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 3 seconds remaining in regulation gave the Bears an 86-85 lead.
Howard’s shot was the Bears’ third straight 3-pointer in the final 41 seconds. They appeared on their way to closing out the upset before Mathieu Kamba fouled Jaylen Hands in the lane. Hands missed the first three throw, drawing groans from the crowd, and made the second to force overtime tied at 86-all.
The Bruins endured an unusual game day, which began with a news conference in which LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley admitted they had shoplifted from three high-end stores and apologized while reading prepared statements. Coach Steve Alford said the trio is indefinitely suspended, and they won’t be allowed to suit up for home games or travel.
The game was part of the opening round of the Hall of Fame Classic. Championship rounds are next week in Kansas City, Mo.
UCLA cruised to a 34-17 lead to open the game, including 14 straight points.
But the Bears answered with a 28-13 run to end the half trailing 47-45. They hit five 3-pointers in that span, including two each by Howard and Unruh.
Central Arkansas lost to No. 25 Baylor by 41 points in its opening game of the season. The Bears aren’t shying away from Pac-12 opponents, either. After UCLA comes California on Dec. 6 and Oregon on Dec. 20.
The suspended freshmen leave UCLA with an eight-man rotation. That’s what the Bruins used last season when they went 31-5 and lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Central Arkansas hosts Alcorn State on Sunday.
UCLA plays its second game as part of the Hall of Fame Classic, hosting South Carolina State on Friday.
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