December 23, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) UCLA coach Steve Alford is looking forward to a little time off.

''Our guys need a break. The coaches need a break,'' Alford said after the Bruins ended their non-conference schedule with a 70-59 victory over McNeese State on Tuesday night.

''This has been a grind. It's been a hard 13 games. We've really had a demanding schedule, and we've had to deal with some injuries.''

The Bruins held McNeese State to 30 percent shooting as they ran their non-conference record to 9-4. They open their Pac-12 Conference schedule on January 1 against Washington in Seattle.

''Further ahead going into Pac-12 than we were last year,'' Alford said. ''We're deeper . so we have depth going into the Pac-12 which we haven't had the last two years.

''Thirteen games in and a month and a half in, we're ready for the Pac-12 but that doesn't guarantee victories. It's a demanding league, the No. 1 league in the country.''

Isaac Hamilton led the Bruins with 18 points and 11 rebounds, as the Bruins won for the sixth time in seven games.

''He's more relaxed. He's getting much more aggressive,'' Alford said of Hamilton. ''He's very confident right now. He's making shots, handling the ball well.''

Thomas Welsh added 16 points and 14 rebounds, Bryce Alford had 13 points, Aaron Holiday 12, and Tony Parker grabbed 11 rebounds for UCLA.

''I think we took a huge step forward defensively tonight,'' Welsh said. ''That's going to be huge for us in the Pac-12 this season. There are going to be a lot of battles and our defense is going to be key.''

Jamaya Burr scored 15 points and Jarren Greenwood added 12 to lead McNeese State (2-8), which shot 30 percent as the Cougars lost for the fifth time in six games.

''We made our runs tonight, and made some nice plays out of time outs,'' McNeese State coach Dave Simmons said. ''We're getting there. We just have to shoot it better and play up to our opponent's tempo.''

Leading 33-32 early in the second half, the Bruins scored 10 unanswered points, highlighted by Hamilton's fadeaway in the lane to put UCLA ahead 43-32.

The Bruins' only loss since opening the season 3-3 was to then-No. 11 North Carolina 89-76 on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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EIGHT IS ENOUGH

Isaac Hamilton's basket with 16:20 to play gave him eight field goals in the contest, the fifth game in a row Hamilton has eight or more field goals. It's the first time a UCLA player has had eight or more field goals in five consecutive games since 1991 when Tracy Murray strung together six straight games.

3-POINT PROWESS

McNeese State kept it close in the first half thanks to the 3-pointer, sinking 6 of 14 from beyond the arc while making just 4 of 22 from 2-point range. The Cougars tied the score at 30-all with a 3-pointer by Jarren Greenwood on their first shot of the second half.

TIP-INS

McNeese State: The Cowboys, who compete in the Southland Conference, are still looking for their first victory over a Division I opponent this season. Both of their victories have come against NAIA opponents, Dillard and LSU-Alexandria. The Cowboys, who were playing the Bruins for the first time, fell to 1-5 all-time against Pacific-12 Conference teams.

UCLA: The Bruins finished off a non-conference schedule that featured four ranked opponents, and is rated second-toughest among Pacific-12 Conference teams behind Stanford. According to the NCAA's adjusted RPI report released Monday, the Bruins have played the No. 2 best opponent RPI (96), out of 351 Division I squads.

UP NEXT

McNeese State hosts Jarvis Christian on Dec. 29.

UCLA faces Washington on Jan. 1.

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