California beats UCLA 72-58 to keep Pac-10 lead
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) – After getting blown out early, California found a way to solve UCLA and retain at least a share of first place in the Pac-10 standings.
Theo Robertson and Patrick Christopher scored 20 points each and Cal overcame a 14-point deficit to earn a 72-58 victory Saturday.
The Golden Bears (15-8, 7-4 Pac-10) came into the game in a four-way tie for first with Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA. The Arizona schools played later Saturday.
“We wanted to feel good coming off this road trip,” Robertson said. “We stayed in there and kept fighting. You don’t want to fall a game behind.”
Jerome Randle added 14 points for the senior-dominated Bears, who ended their two-game skid and split the season series with UCLA after losing by one point in overtime last month.
“We hadn’t been doing a good job of closing games,” Christopher said. “Tonight we separated ourselves early enough.”
The Bruins (11-12, 6-5) were led by Michael Roll with 22 points, their only player in double figures. They had won six straight against Cal and came out highly motivated to lead the Pac-10 title hunt after holding off Stanford 70-59 two days earlier.
UCLA raced to a 22-8 lead in the first half, including 10 by Roll. The Bruins were aggressive on defense, tearing the ball out of the hands of Cal players or tipping it away and converting on the other end.
“I don’t think we were playing with a sense of urgency and they took advantage of that,” Christopher said. “They were getting out on the break and their zone was giving us trouble.”
But halfway through, the Bears took over. They outscored UCLA 29-8, hitting five 3-pointers, and rediscovered their defense to end the half ahead 37-30. Robertson had nine points, including six in a row, while Randle and Christopher added six each.
“Once our level of intensity picked up and we were getting into the ball, the game completely changed,” Christopher said.
Cal kept up the pace to open the second half, using balanced scoring to extend its lead to 46-34 and quiet the fans inside Pauley Pavilion.
“When they started heating us up with their pressure, we didn’t do a good job of handling their defense. We took some quick, bad shots,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We had a great start but let it slip away by not being stronger. It’s a mental thing.”
The Bruins regrouped briefly and went on an 11-2 run to close to 48-45. Reeves Nelson had four points and Malcolm Lee three, although he missed the second of two free throws that would’ve made it a two-point game midway through the half.
That’s as close as the Bruins would get. Cal closed the game on a 24-13 run, with UCLA missing 7 of 10 free throws down the stretch.
“I don’t think our intensity was as high,” Roll said. “They started making shots and hit timely baskets. We knew they were going to fight. They just outmanned us.”