LOS ANGELES (AP) Tony Parker slept in on a rainy Sunday morning, causing him to show up late to shootaround. His UCLA teammates were nearly as lackadaisical in the first half against Washington State.
Led by Norman Powell and Parker, who lost his starting spot as punishment, the Bruins got their act together in time to grind out a 72-67 victory and take possession of fourth place in the Pac-12.
Powell scored a career-high 28 points and Parker had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
”I had to prove to the coaching staff I took it seriously,” Parker said. ”If I had played bad, oh god. I knew this was a big game. It’s March, we got to start playing hard.”
Bryce Alford added 13 points and Kevon Looney 12 for the Bruins (18-12, 10-7 Pac-12), who moved a half-game ahead of Stanford, which lost earlier Sunday.
The Cougars led most of the first half, getting a 3-pointer from DaVonte Lacy and two by Brett Boese, for their largest lead of seven. The Bruins went on a 9-4 run that closed their deficit to 34-32 at halftime.
”We came out a little comfortable, being a home game and thinking we would automatically win,” Looney said. ”They punched us in the mouth.”
The Bruins want to win their last regular-season game against Southern California to keep one of the top four seeds in the conference tournament and earn a first-round bye. UCLA improved to 15-1 at home, including 8-0 in league games.
”What Tony did off the bench gave us a big lift,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. ”I credit him for how he responded.”
Josh Hawkinson had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Lacy added 19 points for the Cougars (12-16, 6-10). They have lost nine of their last 12 and dropped to 3-10 on the road.
The Cougars trailed 62-59 after Lacy hit a pair of free throws. Powell, who got called for an offensive foul on UCLA’s previous possession, hit a 3-pointer that pushed its lead to 65-59. The Bruins’ lone senior scored seven of their final 10 points to close out the win.
”I was just trying to be aggressive,” Powell said. ”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.”
Hawkinson’s two free throws again got the Cougars within three with 39 seconds left, but the Bruins went 6 of 10 from the line in the closing seconds to hold them off. Lacy’s 3-pointer hit the rim with 3 seconds to go and the Cougars trailing by four. He bent over with his hands on his knees in anguish.
”Any loss hurts,” Lacy said. ”It’s just disappointing that we played well, but not well enough to win.”
UCLA trailed by six early in the second half. Parker entered the game and scored six in a row, highlighted by a one-handed jam that gave the Bruins their first lead since early in the first half. They trailed once more before taking control for good.
”We had so many scoring opportunities that we did not capitalize on,” Cougars coach Ernie Kent said. ”The biggest thing is we left too many plays on the floor.”
If the Bruins can beat their crosstown rival on Wednesday, they’ll end the regular season on a three-game winning streak. That could help bolster their hopes of making the NCAA tournament, which are slim because they lack a signature nonconference win, having lost to every ranked team they played this season.
Washington State: DaVonte Lacy’s three 3-pointers gave him 243 in his career, passing Golden State star Klay Thompson (242) for the school record. … The Cougars, who haven’t won at Pauley Pavilion in six years, fell to 2-55 all-time on the road against the Bruins.
UCLA: Freshman C Thomas Welsh made his third start of the season. He had two points, four rebounds and four blocked shots in 14 minutes. … Members of the 1975 national championship team – coach John Wooden’s record 10th and last title – were honored at halftime, including Marques Johnson and David Meyers.
Norman Powell is UCLA’s leading scorer, and the senior from San Diego has scored in double figures in 25 of 30 games this season. He’s topped 20 points on 13 different occasions.
UCLA coach Steve Alford knows he can count on Powell more this year than last. Powell logged 40 minutes against the Cougars.
”He would tell you last year he was anywhere from a 22- to 26-minute guy. We really couldn’t play him much more than that because he would have lapses,” the coach said. ”Norman has really raised his game and that’s what you want to have out of seniors.”
Washington State: Hosts Utah on Thursday.
UCLA: Hosts Southern California on Wednesday.