LOS ANGELES - Klay Thompson has experienced a lot of memorable days on the basketball court.
Saturday was not one of those days.
The nation’s sixth-leading scorer struggled all afternoon, and most of his teammates followed suit in a 74-62 loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
Thompson took 17 shots and missed 12, including 2-of-9 accuracy from 3-point range, and scored 13 points – 10 below his average. Thompson was constantly serenaded with chants of “Air ball!” after he missed everything with his first shot of the second half, and UCLA’s student section cheered loudly when Thompson re-entered the game with 4 minutes, 48 seconds to play.
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Thompson quickly responded with a steal and dunk that narrowed UCLA’s lead to seven points. The Cougars trailed by seven one more time after a Reggie Moore 3-pointer with 1:55 remaining, but the Bruins rattled off the next seven points to drop the Cougars to a mind-boggling 2-51 all-time at UCLA.
WSU coach Ken Bone surveyed the damage and stressed, “It’s not all on Klay.”
Bone said the Bruins executed far better than WSU at both ends of the court. That helps explain how the Bruins shot 59 percent from the field – including a sizzling 74 percent (14 for 19) in the second half – and held the Cougars to 36 percent.
“I give them (the Bruins) a lot of credit, but Klay had a lot of looks he usually makes,” Moore said. “It wasn’t their zone that was messing him up; he was (often) wide open.
“He’ll make those shots. I’m not worried.”
Moore poured in 24 points to lead Washington State (14-6 overall, 4-4 Pacific-10 Conference) in scoring for the fifth time in seven games. The freshman point guard went 9 for 17 from the field and doubled his previous best for 3-pointers made by making 6 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“He did a nice job,” Bone said. “His scoring helped us stay in the game.”
The Bruins (9-10, 4-3), far less athletic than the great UCLA teams of the past, have abandoned their beloved man-to-man defense in favor of a 2-3 zone most of the time.
“I thought the performance by UCLA was impressive,” Bone said. “They did a good job in their zone defense. They got the ball inside. They were very effective down low.”
Said UCLA coach Ben Howland, “We’ll still play some man-to-man. We’ve got to keep working at it; we can get a lot better with this zone.”
When asked the last time a team of his has played so much zone, Howland quickly replied: “Never.”
Freshman Reeves Nelson came off the bench to score a season-high 19 points for the Bruins. Fellow forward Nikola Dragovic added 18 points before 8,349 spectators and a national television audience.
“We beat a very good team today,” Howland said.
WSU’s starting forwards, DeAngelo Casto and Abe Lodwick, combined for seven points - all by Casto. Nikola Koprivica, who backs up Lodwick but usually plays more than Lodwick, scored 11 points in 32 minutes.
The game was tightly contested until UCLA ran off 11 unanswered points midway through the second half. The score would have been more lopsided if not for UCLA’s ineffective free-throw shooting late in the game.
“We did a very good job of being patient on offense, for the second game in a row,” said Howland, whose team beat Washington with a last-second shot Thursday.
Bone said his team lacked patience on offense and was just plain lousy on defense.
“We made it difficult for ourselves, but also, UCLA made it difficult for us,” Bone said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.