UCLA looks as if it can play with anybody ... in the Big West Conference.
The Bruins have dispatched nearly half of the conference's lineup after a 74-67 victory over UC Davis on Monday night at Pauley Pavilion gave them a fourth triumph over a team from the Big West.
It's progress, actually. UCLA was 0-2 against Big West teams last season.
Of course, success against a collection of teams with little name recognition won't do much for the Bruins when they play undefeated Brigham Young on Saturday or when Washington State arrives at Pauley Pavilion in two weeks for the start of Pacific 10 Conference play.
UCLA (5-4) has a lengthy list of improvements to make as its schedule takes a more difficult turn. The Bruins were sloppy with the ball at times against UC Davis, struggled to deal with the Aggies' ability to space the court on offense and made only five of 12 free throws in the second half.
But for now, a somewhat ragged victory over a team that has beaten only two NCAA Division I opponents this season will have to do.
"It's been awhile since we were on a winning streak," freshman center Joshua Smith said. "It feels good to be on the other side of .500."
Smith provided some interior brawn with eight points and 10 rebounds and junior guard Malcolm Lee had 15 points to lead four Bruins in double figures scoring. UCLA's front line proved to be more than the Aggies could handle, with Smith, Reeves Nelson (13 points) and Tyler Honeycutt (10 points) accounting for 30 of the Bruins' 44 rebounds -- 15 more than UC Davis had.
Lee located his outside touch one game after making only two of eight shots against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, making six of nine against the Aggies (4-6).
"It was all in my head," said Lee, who made three of four three-point shots. "Sometimes if I start missing I start thinking [too much], and I have to learn to block that out."
The Bruins suffered several breakdowns against UC Davis' Princeton-style offense, often failing to find guard Josh Ritchart on the perimeter as he made five of six three-point shots on the way to a career-high 23 points.
But UCLA had more than enough to overcome a singular performance.
Honeycutt also had 12 rebounds to complete a double-double and tied a career high with five blocked shots, though he made only four of 16 shots. Jerime Anderson had five points and five assists with only one turnover in 16 minutes, giving the junior guard 11 assists and only one turnover in his last two games.
Tyler Lamb and Anthony Stover each played two days after suffering gastrointestinal distress from some bad chicken chili cheese fries, and each freshman had his moments. Lamb made a baseline floater and then a three-point basket, and Stover blocked a shot and made a tip-in.
Lamb finished with five points in eight minutes and Stover had two points, two rebounds and a block in six minutes.
"It was really big on their part to suck it up and play a little bit under the weather for our team," Howland said.
vs. Brigham Young, Saturday at Honda Center, 2:30 p.m., FS West
Beating the No. 16 Cougars (10-0) in the Wooden Classic would give the Bruins a much-needed marquee nonconference victory as they close in on the start of Pacific 10 Conference play. Senior guard Jimmer Fredette averages a team-high 23.7 points for Brigham Young, which is coming off an 87-65 victory over Arizona.