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UCLA basketball: Bruins crush UC Irvine, 89-60

December 20, 2011 |  9:26 pm

Ucla1From beneath a self-inflicted avalanche of embarrassment, UCLA has risen.

Above .500, that is.

The Bruins improved to 6-5 with a 89-60 win against UC Irvine on Tuesday at the Sports Arena, marking the first time this season UCLA’s win column had more notches than the loss column.

UCLA has won four straight ... but all against relatively creampuff competition: Pennsylvania, Eastern Washington, UC Davis and Irvine, which fell to 2-9 and has lost three straight.

In fact, the Bruins’ last two wins are especially unimpressive, considering Davis and Irvine, who both hail from the Big West Conference, have one combined win against a Division I team.

Still any win looks good for UCLA after it suffered double-digit losses in four of its first five games, including to Middle Tennessee State and Loyola Marymount, to shed its No. 17 Associated Press preseason ranking.

And the Bruins could certainly use the momentum as they have just one final non-conference tune-up – against Richmond on Friday -- before Pac-12 play begins next week.

UCLA was the media’s preseason pick to win the Pac-12, an estimation that looked way off weeks ago but could be closer to reality as the league appears wide open (read: awful) and UCLA looks much improved.

One such aspect is the Bruins’ guard play, which was overshadowed in the preseason by their allegedly-dominant frontline but has emerged in the last two blowout wins.

Behind its three-guard lineup of Tyler Lamb, Norman Powell and Lazeric Jones, UCLA crushed the Anteaters. Lamb and Powell each set career-high scoring marks, with Lamb pouring in 17, Powell 19.

Jones, who had led UCLA in scoring in four of its last six games, added 11  points and six assists

Behind that trio, UCLA led as much as 17 in the first half. That lead stretched to 20 with Powell’s two-handed dunk off a Lamb alley-oop pass with 16 minutes, 4 seconds left in the second half.

After that, Irvine, which was led in scoring by Chris McNealy’s 11 points, caved, giving UCLA whatever it wanted.

Seldom-played UCLA walk-on Tyler Trapani, the great-grandson of John Wooden, played for his second straight game, as did several other UCLA bench-warmers. 

In all, five UCLA players scored in double figures. Center Joshua Smith had his second straight strong showing, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in a season-high tying 22 minutes.

Travis Wear returned from a two-game absence because of a skin infection on his left foot to score six points and grab six rebounds. His brother, David, added 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds. 

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-- Baxter Holmes

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