|Bryce Alford scored 20 points for UCLA on Monday (photo by Scott Clarke).|
LAHAINA, Hawaii - Bryce Alford and Thomas Welsh each totaled 20 points to lead UCLA past UNLV, 77-75, in the Bruins’ opening game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational on Monday night.
Welsh made 9 of 12 shots from the field and grabbed a team-leading eight rebounds.
In a game that featured five lead changes, Isaac Hamilton helped UCLA (3-1) secure the lead for good with a 3-point field goal that gave the Bruins a 67-65 cushion with 3:23 to play.
After consecutive missed 3-pointers from UNLV (3-1), Aaron Holiday nailed a pair of free throws with 1:30 to play and another two free throws at the 0:57 mark, putting UCLA ahead of the Runnin’ Rebels, 71-65.
Holiday finished with 18 points, making 4 of 8 shots from the field and all eight free throw attempts.
”I’m really proud of my basketball team,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. “I just felt they fought. This was a really good, big, athletic team that we were playing in UNLV, and I thought both teams came in playing pretty good basketball. I’m proud of my guys because we took a pretty good punch to start the game.”
The Bruins overcame an early 16-7 deficit, using a 14-4 scoring run over a 6:24 span to lead, 21-20. From there, UCLA pushed its first-half lead to as many as nine points and secured a 41-35 cushion.
In the second half, UNLV closed the gap with less than 10 minutes to play and secured a 62-58 lead on Patrick McCaw’s 3-pointer with 8:29 to play.
Alford made two free throws with 7:43 remaining, shrinking UNLV’s advantage to 62-60 before Tony Parker’s tied the contest, 62-62, at the 7:12 mark.
The Runnin’ Rebels took a 65-64 advantage with 6:02 to play, and neither team scored over the game’s next 2:25. UCLA broke the scoreless span with Hamilton’s 3-pointer at the 3:23 mark.
The Bruins will return to action against No. 5 Kansas on Tuesday in a semifinal matchup of the Maui Invitational. UCLA will play the final game of the day, with game time slated for 7 p.m. PT (5 p.m. HT). UCLA’s game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Game Notes: UCLA shot 45 percent from the field and nailed 23 of 24 free throws (95.8 percent) … the Bruins improved their record against UNLV to 5-0 in the all-time series … neither team had played each other since Dec. 1998 … UCLA last faced Kansas in the 2011 Maui Invitational, with Kansas earning a 75-56 win (Nov. 22, 2011) … Thomas Welsh netted at least 20 points for the second time in his career (he had a career-high 22 points on Nov. 15, 2015 against Cal Poly) … Bryce Alford scored at least 20 points for the 12th time in his career … UCLA secured the victory on head coach Steve Alford’s birthday.