ANAHEIM, Calif. — Someone finally figured out how to frustrate, and subsequently defeat, the No. 16 BYU Cougars.
The UCLA Bruins, with size and strength, forced BYU into 19 turnovers while allowing the Cougars to score only five baskets from an assist in knocking off BYU 86-79 Saturday afternoon at the John R. Wooden Classic.
"Five assists and 19 turnovers. We've had a lot of games this year where it's been exactly the opposite," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "The game was more like UCLA wanted to play than the way we did."
As Rose said, those lack of efficiency numbers were the direct result of how UCLA defended the Cougars — who still shot 53 percent from the floor but took 10 fewer shots, hit only 4 of 17 from 3-point range and gave up 16 offensive rebounds. The Cougars (10-1) also sent UCLA (6-4) to the line 36 times, including 19 times in the opening half.
"Give a lot of credit to UCLA," Rose said. "They were physical, strong, played well and shot the ball well. We really didn't have an answer for their size ... I thought defensively they did a really good job of making it hard for our half court options, for the sets that we run. Most of the baskets we scored tonight the guys had to make plays ... that's probably as physical as we've been guarded with size all year."
The Cougars' foul and turnover problems hurt BYU most during a first-half dry spell in which UCLA outscored the Cougars 23-5 and had BYU in catch-up mode the rest of the way.
"We really executed at both ends of the floor," UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
The Cougars started just like they did a week ago against Arizona, taking a quick 5-0 lead. And after Jimmer Fredette hit a layup and a long 3-pointer, and Jackson Emery followed with a breakaway layup the Cougars had stretched their margin to 16-6.
But after Howland called timeout, the Bruins owned the next 10 minutes and totally turned the game around. The Bruins first threw an 8-0 run at BYU. Then, after a Noah Hartsock layup, scored another 10 straight. With six minutes left in the half the Bruins led 29-21.
"Our front line had 55 points and 20 rebounds," Howland said. "When we get that kind of productivity out of our front line, it really helps."
Briefly, BYU's switch to a zone confused UCLA and the Cougars cut the lead to 33-30 on Brock Zylstra's 2-and-1. The Bruins, however, figured things out quickly and stretched the margin back out 39-30 on back-to-back threes by Lazeric Jones and Malcom Lee.
Fredette, with a couple of late baskets, had the Cougars trailing only 43-37 at halftime. However, even though Fredette had 17 points at the break, no other Cougar had more than four. Also, even though Fredette had a big scoring half, the Bruins still limited the Cougar star's effectiveness by forcing him into four turnovers without an assist.
Other key numbers at the half were UCLA's 14 points from the free throw line to BYU's six, and the Cougars' 12 turnovers.
"They just didn't allow us to do what we like to do offensively," Rose said of the Bruins' defense.
Bruins' forward Reeves Nelson, who had 12 points at halftime and finished with 23, extended UCLA's lead to 53-41 with a put-back dunk, a running bank shot and sweet feed to Brendan Lane for easy layup.
By getting Brandon Davies and Emery more in the act offensively, however, the Cougars slowly scratched back. Davies scored 16 of his 18 points after the break and Emery scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half. And with an 11-0 run, in which Emery hit five free throws and Davies scored two baskets, BYU had closed to within two at 61-59 with 10 minutes remaining.
"I thought Brandon played really well attacking in the second half," Rose said.
The Cougars, however, came up empty on their next three possessions. A critical play came when Fredette was whistled for a charge, his fourth foul, on a feed to Davies for a dunk.
"I think it was a big turnaround ... I had to come out with four fouls and it would have been a two-point game again," Fredette said.
A follow-up tip by UCLA's 6-foot-10 305-pound freshman center Joshua Smith, a back-breaking three by Jones and two free throws by Smith had UCLA back ahead by eight and the Cougars back on their heels.
"UCLA had an answer for every run we made," Rose said.
The Cougars did cut UCLA's lead to 82-77 with 1:29 left on a twisting bank shot by Fredette, who finished with a game-high 25. But a monster dunk by Nelson over Davies, who fouled out on the highlight-reel play, ended any hope of a BYU comeback.
"It's never fun to lose, but the biggest thing is you have to learn from your losses," Emery said. "Losses expose things you need to get better on. So we're going to get better and learn from this because we're going to meet other big and physical teams down the road."
Rose was just as optimistic following the loss.
"I thought we played really hard and competed to the end. We just needed to make a few more plays," he said.