Hoyas Cannot Complete Comeback and Fall to UCLA in Men's Basketball
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- UCLA still hasn't played 40 consistent minutes. It didn't hurt the Bruins (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) in December.
They withstood a big rally in the final 1 1/2 minutes and beat Georgetown (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) 98-91 Saturday to complete the month with a 7-0 record despite the absence of freshman point guard Cedric Bozeman because of knee surgery.
After letting a 22-point lead dwindle to single-digits for the second consecutive game, the Bruins remained puzzled at their inability to put opponents away.
"When we build big leads, we seem to go off on our own island," said Matt Barnes, who was one of five Bruins in double figures with 19 points. "It's something we have to work on."
UCLA's 9-2 record is its best start since the 1998 and '99 teams had the same mark under coach Steve Lavin.
"To be 7-0 in December is an impressive feat," he said. "The team is still a work in progress, but there are some bright spots."
Billy Knight led the Bruins with 20 points. T.J. Cummings and Dan Gadzuric had 18 each, and Jason Kapono added 16 as the Bruins shot 52 percent.
Playing in front of 10,423 vocal fans -- the largest crowd at Pauley Pavilion in 2001 -- and against a ranked opponent for only the second time this season, the Bruins were in control much of the game.
They displayed the kind of hustle and persistent aggression that was lacking in losses to Ball State and Pepperdine, along with poor efforts in wins against UC Riverside, UC Irvine and Columbia.
"That's our trademark, to get up for Georgetown and not for Pepperdine and Ball State," said Kapono, who had seven of UCLA's 20 turnovers while playing point guard in place of Bozeman.
This time, UCLA maintained a double-digit edge most of the first half and deep into the second half until the Hoyas (9-3) made it close by scoring 22 points in the final 1:41.
Kevin Braswell finished with 22 points, and freshman Tony Bethel had a career-high 17 as they combined to score all of Georgetown's points in the longest 1 1/2 minutes of UCLA's season. Braswell and Bethel each had three 3-pointers in the late spurt.
"Our guys really showed a lot of heart coming all the way back and cutting it to four when everyone thought we were down and out," Braswell said. "When UCLA got ahead by 22, it was tough for us to get our confidence back."
Georgetown's Mike Sweetney had 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds before fouling out, while Gerald Riley scored 18.
The Bruins raced out to a 29-8 lead to start the game.
"We came out not playing hard. I don't know why," Sweetney said. "We saw that we were down (at halftime), and we wanted to just fight back. Our hearts and our pride were hurt."
Sweetney left with 5:13 remaining and the Hoyas trailing by 14. They scored six points in a row to get to 77-69 with 4:01 left.
Gadzuric responded by making three of four free throws, Knight hit two, and Barnes scored his first basket of the second half to give UCLA an 84-69 lead with 1:41 remaining.
That's when Bethel and Braswell took over, but UCLA hit 10 of 16 free throws to hold on.
"We were fortunate to make enough baskets to pull out a win," Lavin said.
The Bruins had a 22-point lead at one juncture, but three consecutive misses by UCLA helped the Hoyas trigger a 22-8 run and pull to 71-63 with 7:40 remaining.
With Sweetney in foul trouble, Braswell scored seven points, and Riley added six as Georgetown cut its deficit to single digits for the first time since 5:59 of the first half.
The Bruins used a 24-4 run to take a double-digit lead 3 1/2 minutes into the game. Barnes hit consecutive 3s and Gadzuric had eight points in the spurt that ended with UCLA ahead 29-8.
The Hoyas committed 16 of their 20 turnovers in the half, while the Bruins shot 58. The Bruins made six consecutive free throws as part of a 24-12 spurt that boosted their lead to 55-35 at halftime.