UCLA basketball fans might have checked their tickets to make sure they had come to the right place.
The Bruins scored 54 points by halftime. They pushed the pace, their coach loudly imploring his players to move quickly up the floor. They were never in danger of losing.
A 95-59 exhibition victory over Westmont on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion won't exactly send shivers through the rest of the Pacific 10 Conference. But it certainly qualified as an upgrade over the display the Bruins put on this time last season, when they suffered a near-collapse against Concordia.
It also represented a stylistic makeover for a team known for a deliberate offense.
"Everybody's running and it's pass, pass, pass," UCLA sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt said. "We say we want to be like the Denver Nuggets or the Phoenix Suns but with more defense."
It wasn't a total run-and-gun attack. The Bruins ran off turnovers and missed shots, Coach Ben Howland coaxing them up the floor, but there were also times point guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson set up a more deliberate search for the best shot.
Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson was a favorite target of his teammates on the break, repeatedly taking passes for dunks and layups. He finished with a game-high 20 points on nine-for-13 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.
Freshman center Joshua Smith also proved to be a force inside before suffering a sprained right thumb midway through the first half. Smith had nine points and four rebounds in eight minutes before sitting out the remainder of the game. He will have an X-ray on Friday.
Westmont slowed UCLA in the second half with some zone defense, though the Bruins still would have easily reached triple digits had they not missed 18 of 21 three-point attempts for the game.
"It's not really a concern," said Honeycutt, who made only one of four three-point attempts. "A lot of it is fatigue and not having legs."
Jones, a junior college transfer imported to Westwood after Anderson's struggles last season, got the start and showed flashes of promise. He had nine points, three assists and two turnovers in 20 minutes, pretty much a push with Anderson's seven points, two assists and two turnovers in 17 minutes.
Junior guard Malcolm Lee might have had the best all-around stat line with 12 points, seven assists, five steals and no turnovers.
"All the minutes he got at the point last year are serving him well," Howland said.
One seat among the sparse crowd was intentionally left vacant and will remain that way for the rest of the season. A bouquet of yellow roses was placed in Section 103B, Row 2, Seat 1 — the spot behind the UCLA bench that legendary Coach John Wooden often occupied before he died in June at 99.
Calling UCLA "a close second," highly rated point guard Quinn Cook said he had committed to Duke because of his relationship with Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the proximity of its campus to his Maryland home.
"If UCLA was closer, it might have been a different story," Cook, a senior at Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy, said in a telephone interview.