No. 2 UCLA improves to 13-0 heading into Pac-12 opener
LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA knows all its games won't be lopsided. But as long as the wins keep coming, that's what matters most.
The second-ranked Bruins had a tougher time than they might have expected with Western Michigan, but found a way to remain unbeaten Wednesday night with an 82-68 victory at Pauley Pavilion.
''That's been the biggest thing for our team, just finding a way,'' guard Bryce Alford said. ''We didn't shoot well early, but found a way to win.''
The victory completed a perfect ''preseason'' for the Bruins (13-0). The last time they went unbeaten before conference play was also the last time they won the NCAA title (1994-95).
Alford led the Bruins with 22 points, while reserve Aaron Holiday added 16 points and seven assists. TJ Leaf had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Western Michigan (3-8) was led by Thomas Wilder's 22 points. Tucker Haymond scored 16 and Reggie Jones had 12.
The Broncos jumped out to a 7-1 lead. And even after UCLA regrouped to lead by 12 at the break, Western Michigan scored the first eight points of the second half.
''We played with a lot of confidence,'' said Wilder, who went over 1,000 career points. ''We were not scared at all. As a team we were not nervous playing here at Pauley Pavilion.''
The Bruins entered as one of the nation's best 3-point shooting teams (43.9 percent), but were only 6 of 22 from the 3-point line against the Broncos and turned the ball over 15 times.
''And we still won by 14 points,'' coach Steve Alford said. ''That's a good sign.''
UCLA's defense tightened when it had to, forcing 18 Western Michigan turnovers and coming up with nine blocked shots.
The Bruins also finished with 22 assists.
''I felt they really grinded it out,'' Steve Alford said. ''It's not always going to be 25-point games. I thought we did some real good things.''
The Broncos made only five 3-pointers and had just nine assists.
''They are so talented,'' Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins said. ''They are a 10-run team just waiting to happen.''
Western Michigan: The Broncos are still searching for their first win on the road, having started 0-4 away from home. They are 3-4 at Western Michigan.
UCLA: The Bruins entered 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).
The Bruins figure to remain at No. 2 through the holidays. Three other ranked teams await them in Pac-12 Conference play (No. 18 Arizona, No. 20 Oregon, No. 23 USC).
WELCH STILL OUT
UCLA starting center Thomas Welch (11.6 points, 9.6 rebounds per game) missed his fourth consecutive game with a bruised right knee. The Bruins expect to have him back for their next game in the conference opener against Oregon.
Larry Farmer, a former UCLA player, assistant coach and head coach, returned to Pauley Pavilion as an assistant coach for Western Michigan. It was his first time back since a memorial service for John Wooden in 2010.
PLAYING THEM TOUGH
Western Michigan has given solid efforts against the top two teams in the country. In addition to losing to UCLA by 14, they also lost to No. 1 Villanova by 11.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Broncos were still within eight (69-61) when Holiday burst down the middle and slammed down a monstrous dunk. ''I'm always in attack mode,'' Holiday said. ''I made a move and then just went to finish.''
Western Michigan is off for a week before returning home to host winless Alabama A&M on Dec. 29.
UCLA opens its Pac-12 Conference schedule next Wednesday at No. 20 Oregon.
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