LOS ANGELES — In the midst of Weber State's most one-sided loss of the season, a freshman made an impact against the nation's 22nd-ranked team Sunday.
Richaud Gittens scored a career-high 15 points to lead the Wildcats in scoring during an 83-60 defeat to UCLA in front of 7,013 at Pauley Pavilion.
Gittens made 6 of 12 shots, equaling his best in both categories, while playing 24 minutes, one less than his career high. Against St. Katherine — a college with about 100 students — Gittens scored 13 points in 25 minutes on Tuesday night.
"The more game experience he gets, the more confident he becomes," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said. "Each game, he's becoming a little more comfortable. He's got a bright future and I'm really excited."
When asked about his performance, Gittens deflected attention to his teammates.
"I don't really want to talk about my personal stats," the freshman from Tempe, Ariz. said." But I'm really proud of our team. UCLA is a very physical team. We saw that when we came out here. But we adjusted to it and we were physical back with them. It was really good for us; it helped us a lot."
Gittens believes the Wildcats' play against the Bruins (10-2) reflects growth.
"I've already seen a huge jump from our first game to where we are right now," he said. "We're rebounding better. We're playing team defense. We're playing tougher as a team. We're just doing the little things we need to be doing to make ourselves better."
Rahe agreed: "In some ways, today, I thought we made quite a bit of progress," the coach said. "Our togetherness was good. Our fight was good. Those are the things that we've got to be all about."
"We played against an outstanding team with outstanding talent on their court and coming off a loss. I thought we played really hard. I thought we fought really hard."
Weber State (2-5) even managed to hold a 16-11 lead with 6:17 gone in the game. Davion Berry and Jordan Richardson led the surge with five points apiece. UCLA responded with a 22-5 blitz to build a 33-21 advantage with 6:39 left in the first half.
Gittens made a lay-in with 1:12 before halftime, then drove the right baseline for a reverse slam dunk 33 seconds later to narrow the deficit to 41-34. But the Bruins' Kyle Anderson made a 3-point shot with one second left to expand the lead to 44-34 at halftime.
Jeremy Senglin converted a 3-pointer just 14 seconds into the second half to bring the Wildcats again within seven points. Then UCLA took firm control.
Weber State scored just two points during a 7:43 stretch as the Bruins constructed a 74-44 lead with 9:28 to play to put the game out of reach.
Berry finished with 14 points and Senglin added 12. Anderson amassed a career-best 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Despite UCLA's dominance, Gittens believes the loss will provide useful experience once the Wildcats face opponents in the Big Sky Conference.
"With us going into conference coming back from Christmas break, it's going to help a lot," Gittens said. "We're one step closer to where we want to be."