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UCLA basketball: Bruins hold 29-26 halftime lead in Steve Lavin's return

February 5, 2011 | 11:12 am

Ucla4_510 He's baaaack!

Steve Lavin returned to Pauley Pavilion on Saturday morning, and the former UCLA coach appeared to have his St. John's team poised for a romp before the slow-starting Bruins stormed back to take a 29-26 halftime lead.

Freshman center Joshua Smith scored 12 points on four dunks, a layup and a pair of free throws for UCLA, which closed the half on an 18-7 run after trailing by as many as nine points in the early going. Freshman guard Tyler Lamb added a pair of three-pointers off the bench for the Bruins, who held an 18-9 rebounding edge but committed nine turnovers to three for the Red Storm.

Dwight Hardy had 16 points, making seven of nine shots, but no other player had more than four points for St. John's, which held leads of 13-4 and 19-11 before the Bruins rallied.

Lavin spent several minutes before the game exchanging hugs and handshakes with old friends, including Tyus Edney, the hero of UCLA's national title run in 1995 who is now director of basketball operations for the Bruins.

A Bruins yell leader poked fun at Lavin before tip-off, taking a courtside microphone and shouting, "Let's remind Steve Lavin exactly what it feels like to lose at Pauley Pavilion."

--Ben Bolch

Photo: UCLA guard Tyler Lamb forces St. John's guard Dwight Hardy to stop his drive in the first half Saturday at Pauley Pavilion. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times