dec 17, 2016 | mike cranston | Ap-THE L.A. daily newS | ARTICLE LINK
LAS VEGAS >> Aaron Holiday showed Saturday he can provide surging UCLA with a needed boost off the bench.
Holiday and Bryce Alford each scored 20 points and No. 2 UCLA overcame a rough shooting game from freshman point guard Lonzo Ball to beat Ohio State 86-73 and remain unbeaten.
Isaac Hamilton scored 17 points and T.J. Leaf added 13, including a steal and layup that sparked the decisive run for the Bruins (12-0). They continued their best start since being 14-0 in 2006-07.
“I just try to get my mind right on the bench until my name is called” Holiday, a sophomore guard, said. “Honestly, I can see different things the defense aren’t doing so I can go out there and help that way.”
After a sloppy, 12-turnover first half, UCLA led 44-40 when Leaf stole Micah Potter’s pass under Ohio State’s basket and scored over Potter. It started a 7-0 run that concluded with Leaf’s 3-pointer with 16:53 left.
Alford’s 3-pointer with 1:49 left put the Bruins up 81-71 and stopped Ohio State (8-3) from mounting a late comeback in the first game of the CBS Sports Classic.
“We’ve usually got five guys out there who can pass, shoot and dribble it,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “That’s uncommon. And with the character of these guys, it’s the making of a special team.”
Marc Loving scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half, Jae’Sean Tate added 15 and Keith Bates-Diop scored 13 for the Buckeyes, who lost for the third time in five games.
Ohio State shot 48.4 percent from the field, but committed 15 turnovers.
“When you’re playing a team like UCLA, the one thing you can’t do is give the basketball back,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “Percentages say, they’re eventually going to score.”
It was UCLA’s first game in Las Vegas since bowing out of last season’s Pac-12 Tournament with a blowout loss to rival USC in the first round. It closed a 15-17 season and led Alford to issue an apology.
Holiday insisted he “didn’t think about the last time” he was in town, but UCLA is a far superior team.
The addition of a couple of star freshmen had transformed the Bruins in their return. While Ball (eight points, 3-of-8 shooting) was quiet, Leaf provided the athleticism and versatility missing from last season and Holiday picked up the scoring slack in the backcourt.
“Our bench has probably done more in 12 games than 32 games last year,” Steve Alford said. “That’s huge.”
Holiday had four rebounds and made 8 of 10 free throws.
While Ball shot poorly, he had nine rebounds and nine assists while flirting with his first triple-double for the second straight game. His dunk of an alley-oop pass with just under 2 minutes left made it 83-71.
Bruins center Thomas Welsh (bruised knee) warmed up, but didn’t play. The Bruins still held a 41-31 rebounding advantage. Alford said Welsh could return next week.