WESTWOOD—After stumbling for much of the first half, the Bruins completed act two of its regular season finale, defeating Washington State 72-67 at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion.
The Bruins (18-12) appeared distracted for much of Sunday night’s contest, trailing by as many as seven points to the Cougars (12-16). The sense of urgency one would expect of a team with its back against the wall was notably absent for much of the game, an apathetic energy that led to a fiery halftime speech from head coach Steve Alford.
“I think that the team kind of took it lightly,” said senior guard Norman Powell. He added, “Coach really got into us.”
The speech may have saved UCLA’s season. If nothing else, Powell took the Alford’s words to heart.
Powell would go on to catalyze the winning effort, scoring a career-high 28 points and sinking 10 of 17 shots on the evening, uplifting a struggling UCLA squad with a monstrous one-handed slam that brought the Pauley Pavilion crowd to its feet.
The senior also played stingy defense the entire evening, putting forth the type of performance that could earn the attention of at least a few NBA scouts.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Powell. “Coach was wanting me to continue attacking the rim and make plays. The team started to get into the flow on defense. We knew how big this game was.”
Powell, who has gradually assumed more and more responsibility within Alford’s offense, will be expected to spearhead a third consecutive winning effort Wednesday evening, as the rival USC Trojans pay a visit to Westwood aiming to play spoiler to UCLA’s NCAA tournament hopes.