PULLMAN – For two hours, Washington State basketball fans booed Joshua Smith constantly.
After the game, it seemed to take Smith another two hours before he finished signing autographs, posing for photos and chatting amiably with many of those same fans.
Smith, whose potential and body are both enormous, followed up on his career-high, 24-point effort Thursday at Washington by pouring in 19 points Saturday afternoon in UCLA’s hard-fought, 63-60 win at Washington State.
“We need to play all our games in Washington,” UCLA coach Ben Howland joked.
Smith, listed at 6-foot-10 and 305 pounds, has the type of size and skill that make him a regular target of verbal abuse from rival fans.
“It’s fun,” the former Kentwood High School star said in his amiable manner. “Every time we go on the road, fans are going to heckle me.
“But I’m a competitor. It happened to me in high school, it happened to me wherever.
“It just motivates me to shut them up.”
Smith, virtually unstoppable down low, was an 8-for-9 shooter from the field in his customary role as a key reserve. He played only 22 minutes before fouling out with 1:42 remaining, but the damage was done.
“He just did a great job of attacking the basket,” teammate David Wear said.
“We tried everything (to stop Smith); he’s pretty effective,” WSU star Brock Motum said.
Motum led all players with 25 points and 11 rebounds, but he was held to six points in the second half after UCLA switched from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone. Wear, who struggled to guard the quicker Motum in the first half, said the zone helped UCLA’s big men deal more effectively with WSU’s quickness and screens.
“Motum is a great player,” Howland said.
WSU (12-11 overall, 4-7 Pacific-12 Conference) nursed small leads most of the first 32 minutes, but the lead changed 15 times before the Bruins went ahead for good with eight minutes to play by starting an 8-0 run.
Abe Lodwick nailed a 3-pointer with 3:30 to go to end WSU’s 51/2-minute scoring drought, but missed a pair of 3s in the final 1:25 that would have sliced UCLA’s lead to one point.
The Bruins’ only seven points in the last five minutes came at the free-throw line. WSU’s Reggie Moore made things interesting by nailing two 3-pointers in the final 12.1 seconds.
WSU coach Ken Bone bemoaned his team’s “very sloppy” play and “too many unforced errors.” UCLA enjoyed an 18-3 advantage in points off turnovers. The Cougars had 15 turnovers – 10 in the first half, though they led 34-29 at the break before 4,204 spectators.
The Cougars had won 11 straight games at Beasley (eight this season) since losing to UCLA last March. WSU has dropped 19 straight home games to UCLA since 1993, counting two games in Spokane.
Wear and Lazeric Jones each scored 15 points for the Bruins (13-10, 6-5). Travis Wear, David’s identical twin, sat out with a high ankle sprain suffered in the UW game.
WSU’s starting guards DaVonte Lacy and Marcus Capers went scoreless, and Lacy sat out the final 3:41 after injuring his left ankle. Moore scored 12 points and Lodwick added 11.
The Cougars visit Oregon State (5-6, 15-8) on Thursday (7 p.m., no TV).