Leaf scores 32, No. 11 UCLA beats Washington State 95-79
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) – UCLA has often won behind a barrage of 3-pointers this season. When the long shots weren’t falling against Washington State, the 11th-ranked Bruins turned to their frontline of TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh to carry them to a 95-79 victory Wednesday night.
Leaf, a freshman forward, scored a season-high 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as UCLA stopped a two-game slide. Welsh, a junior center, added 17 points for UCLA (20-3, 7-3 Pac-12), and Lonzo Ball had 14.
“It shows how many options we have on the court,” Leaf said after the Bruins went just 3 of 16 from 3-point range.
They were 38 of 50 on the rest of their field goal attempts.
“We’re versatile,” Ball said. “We can do anything on the court we need to do.”
Ike Iroegbu scored 20 points for Washington State (11-11, 4-6), which was coming off a win at Arizona State. Conor Clifford added 16 points and Josh Hawkinson had 15.
The game was close for the first 30 minutes before a rash of turnovers by Washington State allowed the Bruins to pull away.
“I thought we were a fatigued basketball team, particularly mentally,” Cougars coach Ernie Kent said.
Kent noted the Bruins had a week off coming into the game.
“It’s hard to beat a team of that caliber, who’s been sitting with a week off, who’s fresh and so skilled,” Kent said.
In the first half, Washington State led 19-17 when the Bruins went on a 16-4 run to take a 10-point lead. That held up as UCLA led 44-34 at halftime behind 16 points and nine rebounds from Leaf.
Washington State sank three quick 3-pointers to open the second half, cutting UCLA’s lead to 46-43.
The teams traded baskets, with Leaf making four key buckets that kept the Bruins ahead when the Cougars threatened to tie the game.
Welsh sank two baskets during an 8-2 run that gave UCLA a 66-57 lead midway through the second half, and the Bruins pulled away after that.
“It’s big to win a game on the road without making a lot of 3s,” said Welsh, who shot 8 of 10.
Leaf made 14 of 18 shots, and UCLA shot 57.6 percent for the game.
“He was extra aggressive,” Welsh said. “There are so many ways he can hurt you.”
Bruins coach Steve Alford pointed to 25 deflections by his team, and the fact that the offense was back in the 90-point range after scoring below that in two losses.
“There were not a lot of free throws or 3-pointers and we still scored in the 90s,” Alford said.
UCLA holds a 105-17 lead in the all-time series.
UCLA: The Bruins have six players scoring in double figures, and average 92 points per game. But they were coming off losses to No. 5 Arizona and at Southern California. They reached the 20-win mark for the 42nd time in the past 51 seasons. “I’m proud of my team,” Alford said.
Washington State: The Cougars won their previous three home games against UCLA after losing 19 straight at home to the Bruins. Washington State already has surpassed last season’s totals of nine wins and one in league play.
Ball’s father, LaVar, played one season at Washington State, averaging 2.2 points per game in 1987-88.
UCLA plays at Washington on Saturday.
Washington State hosts Southern California on Saturday.