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January 24, 2014

UCLA powers through Stanford at Pauley

After falling to Utah on the back end of its first conference road trip, UCLA had an opportunity to get back on track on its home court Thursday night as it took on Stanford.

The Cardinal began conference play with a pair of losses, but had boosted their Pac-12 record to 3-2 with three consecutive wins. A road win over UCLA would have given Stanford its longest conference winning streak since the 2007-08 season, when it recorded a winning streak of as many as seven games.

However, the Bruins were determined to begin a winning streak of their own after a disappointing loss on the road.

UCLA's defensive pressure stifled Stanford early on, and the Cardinal committed turnovers on three of their first four possessions. They committed 11 turnovers in the first half alone and would finish the game with 19 turnovers against 14 assists.

Nonetheless, Stanford didn't let UCLA take an early lead. Anthony Brown and Josh Huestis knocked down a trio of threes on the Cardinal's ensuing four possessions to keep the Bruins at bay.

The tightly-contested battle continued for the first 10 minutes of the game. The concluding 10 minutes, however, were claimed by UCLA.

Ignited by tenacious play from sophomore center Tony Parker, the Bruins scored 10 unanswered points to take a 31-23 lead with 5:34 remaining in the first half. UCLA finished the final 9:06 of the first period on a 21-8 run, holding a 42-31 advantage heading into the locker room.

Parker, who averaged 5.6 points per game in conference play entering Thursday's game, led the Bruins with 10 points at the half, and plenty more would come from the burly 6-foot-9 center.

Dominating the paint in the second half, Parker finished the game with a career-high 22 points, six rebounds, and a pair of blocks.

"He played with really good energy and urgency, both defensively and offensively," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "I just thought he was active. He ran the floor; he posted hard; he got to the free-throw line. He just did a lot of good things, and that's good for us to see because we need that low-post presence."

Parker's career performance was enabled by limited minutes from starting forward David Wear, who only played 12 minutes because of an illness, which allowed Parker to play a personal conference-high 28 minutes.

His performance may have also been sparked by a visit earlier in the day to Alford's office, during which Alford chided Parker for donning a red shirt. Alford hoped their meeting fired up the easygoing Parker.

"I'm one of the most well-dressed players coach Alford has ever had," said Parker, who admitted his favorite color is red. "Some of my outfits are before his time. He's coming from Indiana, so the fashion world's a little slow there. I was just wearing a T-shirt and some jeans."

Even with Parker shining, Stanford threatened to snag the lead from UCLA in the second half, but the Bruins snuffed out every Cardinal attempt to pull ahead.

UCLA's lead remained at double digits for the duration of the second half and the Bruins improved to 4-2 in conference play and 15-4 overall with a 91-74 victory.

"When we've suffered a loss, they've been able to bounce back and find a way and figure it out again, and that's not always easy," Alford said.

Although overshadowed by Parker's standout performance, UCLA's top scorer, Jordan Adams, reestablished his shooting accuracy after shooting 31.3 percent from the field in his last four games.

After missing his first three shots, Adams got on the board eight minutes into the game with a layup and then made his subsequent four shots. He finished with 19 points on 6-for-11 from the field.

"Coach made a point of emphasis of me cutting ... to get me open shots, freer opportunities," Adams said. "My teammates did a great job of helping me get easier looks."

Adams was one of five Bruins to finish with double-digit scoring efforts, as Kyle Anderson and Norman Powell tallied 13 points and freshman guard Zach LaVine racked up 10 points.

"We scored 91 points, so it wasn't like we slowed down, per se as far as pace, but we weren't in a hurry," Alford said of UCLA's offense. "Tonight, we took good shots. ... I just thought we got better shots today and the ball moved again."

With its offense back on track, UCLA will take on its next Bay Area opponent, California, on Sunday in Pauley Pavilion.

After a blazing start to the conference season, the Golden Bears are coming off their first Pac-12 loss to USC, which was winless in conference play before defeating Cal, 77-69, at the Galen Center on Wednesday.


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