|UCLA forward TJ Leaf goes up for a dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Pullman, Wash., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. UCLA won 95-79. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)|
feb 01, 2017 | nicholas geranios | Ap-THE L.A. daily newS | ARTICLE LINK
PULLMAN, Wash. >> UCLA has often won behind a barrage of 3-pointers this season. When the long shots weren’t falling against Washington State, the 11th-ranked Bruins turned to their frontline of TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh to carry them to a 95-79 victory Wednesday night.
Leaf, a freshman forward, scored a season-high 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as UCLA stopped a two-game slide. Welsh, a junior center, added 17 points for UCLA (20-3, 7-3 Pac-12), and Lonzo Ball had 14.
“It shows how many options we have on the court,” Leaf said after the Bruins went just 3 of 16 from 3-point range.
They were 38 of 50 on the rest of their field goal attempts.
“We’re versatile,” Ball said. “We can do anything on the court we need to do.”
Ike Iroegbu scored 20 points for Washington State (11-11, 4-6), which was coming off a win at Arizona State. Conor Clifford added 16 points and Josh Hawkinson had 15.
The game was close for the first 30 minutes before a rash of turnovers by Washington State allowed the Bruins to pull away.
“I thought we were a fatigued basketball team, particularly mentally,” Cougars coach Ernie Kent said.
Kent noted the Bruins had a week off coming into the game.
“It’s hard to beat a team of that caliber, who’s been sitting with a week off, who’s fresh and so skilled,” Kent said.
In the first half, Washington State led 19-17 when the Bruins went on a 16-4 run to take a 10-point lead. That held up as UCLA led 44-34 at halftime behind 16 points and nine rebounds from Leaf.
Washington State sank three quick 3-pointers to open the second half, cutting UCLA’s lead to 46-43.
The teams traded baskets, with Leaf making four key buckets that kept the Bruins ahead when the Cougars threatened to tie the game.
Welsh sank two baskets during an 8-2 run that gave UCLA a 66-57 lead midway through the second half, and the Bruins pulled away after that.
“It’s big to win a game on the road without making a lot of 3s,” said Welsh, who shot 8 of 10.
Leaf made 14 of 18 shots, and UCLA shot 57.6 percent for the game.
“He was extra aggressive,” Welsh said. “There are so many ways he can hurt you.”
Bruins coach Steve Alford pointed to 25 deflections by his team, and the fact that the offense was back in the 90-point range after scoring below that in two losses.
“There were not a lot of free throws or 3-pointers and we still scored in the 90s,” Alford said.