LOS ANGELES - Norman Powell scored a career-high 28 points to help UCLA defeat Washington State, 72-67, in a Pac-12 game in Pauley Pavilion on Sunday night.
Powell finished the night as one of four UCLA players scoring double figures. Tony Parker had a double-double with 15 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds. Bryce Alford scored 13 points and Kevon Looney totaled 12.
Josh Hawkinson finished with his Pac-12-leading 17th double-double of the season, logging 21 points and 14 rebounds for Washington State (12-16, 6-10 Pac-12). DaVonte Lacy totaled 19 points for the Cougars.
UCLA (18-12, 10-7 Pac-12) trailed by as many as six points early in the second half. Washington State was ahead at halftime, 34-32, and pushed its advantage to 38-32 with 18:47 to play in regulation.
The Bruins closed the gap to one point, 41-40, on a layup from Powell with 14:58. UCLA took the lead for good in the second half at the 9:41 mark on a layup from Isaac Hamilton. Powell followed with a free throw shot with 9:23 remaining before finishing with a thunderous slam dunk at the 9:02 mark to put the Bruins ahead, 51-47.
“I was really proud of our guys in the second half to do what they needed to do,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. “It was a gut-check game for them. All the pressure was on us – not a whole lot of pressure was on Washington State.”
The visiting Cougars never trailed by more than six points in the game’s final five minutes and closed UCLA’s advantage to three points (66-63) after Hawkinson made a pair of free throws with 39 seconds to play.
Parker followed with a free throw with 33 seconds to play and Powell hit back-to-back free throws with 31 seconds left to help UCLA secure a 69-63 cushion. Powell’s free throw shot with 20 seconds to play helped the Bruins’ senior guard score his career-best 28th point.
“We knew that Washington State is a good team,” Powell said. “They were playing good on this road trip. We took them too lightly, and young teams tend to do that. But, we eventually started hitting the glass and focusing more on defense. Coach [Alford] talks about how big March basketball is, and some of the freshmen were anxious to play.”
UCLA’s win over the Cougars on Sunday helped the Bruins maintain pace for one of the top four slots in the Pac-12’s regular-season standings. The conference’s top four teams earn a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, and the Bruins can lock up the No. 4 slot with a win on Wednesday against USC.
UCLA’s game against crosstown rival USC on Wednesday in Pauley Pavilion will be nationally televised on ESPN2. Game time is 6 p.m. (PT). The Bruins will honor four senior student-athletes (Norman Powell, Kory Alford, David Brown and Nick Kazemi) in a special “Senior Night” ceremony prior to tipoff.