No. 2 UCLA uses second half push to pull away from Ohio State

Stephen Sylvanie - USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 UCLA uses second half push to pull away from Ohio State

LAS VEGAS (AP) Aaron Holiday and Bryce Alford each scored 20 points and No. 2 UCLA overcame a rough shooting game from star freshman Lonzo Ball to beat Ohio State 86-73 on Saturday 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.

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.

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.

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 Southern California in the first round. It closed a 15-17 season and led coach Steve Alford to issue an apology.

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.

BIG PICTURE

UCLA: Ball’s arrival meant Holiday, last season’s starting point guard, was demoted. But the sophomore showed he can still make an impact. He had four rebounds and made 8 of 10 free throws. UCLA weathered a lackluster first half by upping the tempo in the second half behind Holiday.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes played a solid first half and did a good defensive job on Ball, but couldn’t stay with the speedy Bruins after halftime. Still, it was an inspired performance that should help their confidence following a shocking home loss to Florida Atlantic earlier this month.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Bruins should hold onto their highest ranking since 2007. Ohio State hasn’t been in the Top 25 since 2014-15.

BALL’S IMPACT

While Ball shot poorly, he had nine rebounds and nine assists. His dunk of an alley-oop pass with just under 2 minutes left made it 83-71.

UP NEXT

UCLA hosts Western Michigan on Wednesday in its final non-conference game. The Pac-12 opener is a week later at No. 22 Oregon. The Bruins will return to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament in March.

Ohio State has home games Tuesday (Youngstown State) and Thursday (UNC Asheville) before opening Big Ten play Jan. 1 at Illinois.

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