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UCLA basketball: Bruins spoil Steve Lavin's return with 66-59 victory over St. John's

February 5, 2011 | 12:29 pm

Ucla3_300 There was something comfortingly familiar for UCLA fans about Steve Lavin's return to Pauley Pavilion.

His team lost.

The Bruins held off St. John's, 66-59, on Saturday after squandering most of a 10-point lead in the second half. The Red Storm had a chance to tie the score in the final minute but Dwight Hardy's three-pointer was off the mark.

UCLA's Reeves Nelson then made a three-pointer off an inbounds pass as the shot clock expired with 34 seconds left in the game, giving the Bruins (16-7) a six-point edge. Nelson finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds to go with a celebratory body bump with nearly every teammate after the game.

Joshua Smith scored 19 points and Malcolm Lee added 15 for UCLA, which had a huge edge in free throws, making 27 of 41 attempts while St. John's made five of seven.

Hardy single-handedly kept the Red Storm in the game, scoring 32 points and proving slippery even for Lee, the Bruins' lockdown defender.

It was Lavin's first appearance on the sideline at Pauley Pavilion since his final game as Bruins coach during the 2002-03 season.

--Ben Bolch

Photo: Freshman center Joshua Smith puts down a dunk against St. John's Dwayne Polee Jr. during the first half Saturday at Pauley Pavilion. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times