LOS ANGELES — L.A. is in town.
When UCLA returned from its trip to Mexico, it drew 7,144 fans to Pauley Pavilion as the red-hot Bruins were challenged in their home opener. When the sophomore class made their home debut Tuesday, 8,091 thronged to see the Bruins have a decisive victory over North Florida.
UCLA used a scintillating 11-0 run in the first quarter to set the tone and then never looked back, erasing any doubt on its home court by riding freshman guards Aaron Holiday and Kris Wilkes for a 98-63 win.
Holiday scored a game-high 23 points and added five assists, but it was Wilkes, the Bruins’ All-America forward, who was the inspiration for the overwhelming crowd. Wilkes did not take a shot in the first quarter and scored only five points on 2-of-4 shooting, but the 16th-ranked Bruins worked in a highlight reel sequence midway through the second quarter to create some separation.
Kyle Anderson came off the bench and put UCLA up 33-16 with a dunk and then danced and dunked again, eliciting the crowd’s roar. Shabazz Muhammad played three minutes off the bench, converting a three-point play and grabbing two rebounds, and TJ Leaf came off the bench and put UCLA up 40-18 with two free throws.
Early in the second quarter, Wilkes took over the spotlight, scooting into the lane to score on a layup and drive to the basket for a backdoor dunk on an inbounds pass. He later found a cutting Layne Miley for a dunk. The crowd then went wild as Leaf sped off the bench and dribbled to the baseline, shooting over a 6-foot-8 center to complete the three-point play.
In the opening minutes of the third quarter, Anderson drew a charge on North Florida’s Isaiah Vinson, sophomore LiAngelo Ball hit a 3-pointer and Holiday hit a 3-pointer, extending UCLA’s lead to 67-31.
The NCAA has given Ball and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill two more games to be reinstated before deciding what they can and cannot do in their program, and the NCAA football committee has ordered former UCLA head coach Jim Mora to serve a three-game suspension in 2017-18.
UCLA next plays vs. Santa Clara on Friday.