Travis and David Wear, fifth-year seniors, identical 6-foot-10 twins from Huntington Beach who started their college basketball careers at North Carolina under Roy Williams, transferred to UCLA under Ben Howland and are now playing for Steve Alford, are used to playing together.
The Wears began the game against Prairie View A&M on Saturday standing next to each other, giving each other a pat on the back. Within the first four minutes, Travis hit a jumper from the baseline and David made a three-pointer to give the Bruins a seven-point lead, plays that weren't huge deals in the big picture of the 95-71 win for UCLA (9-1).
But being together again to start a game, that was sweetness rediscovered.
On Oct. 28, Travis had his appendix removed. He missed only three games but for David, basketball seemed off-kilter during that time.
“We've always played off each other,” David said. “When Travis was gone it was a little difficult adjusting. It was real fun to see both our names in the starting lineup tonight.”
After combining for zero points and three shots two games ago, the Wears totaled 19 points (10 for Travis) and six rebounds against the Panthers (2-8).
Jordan Adams led the Bruins with 18 points. Norman Powell and Kyle Anderson each had 13, Zach LaVine 10.
The Wears' play wasn't highlight-reel stuff, not like a couple of dunks from the sky by freshman LaVine, but the twins were steady, solid, set the picks that were asked for, made the passes that were expected, played 42 minutes between them, took up space and didn't give much away.
“It took me awhile to recover and find my groove a little bit,” said Travis, who came off the bench in his first six games after his recovery.
“I think I was able to get into the flow. The game came to me easier tonight than previous games and I hope that can continue. David and I played a lot of minutes together tonight and it felt good, felt fluid.”
Alford said he appreciated that Travis was unselfish enough to come off the bench after returning from his surgery.
“He was going to be in the starting lineup on opening day; he deserved that, he earned that,” Alford said. “And I appreciate his unselfishness because we were on a roll when he came back. I even called him in and asked him because I don't like to take someone out of the starting lineup because of illness or injury but Travis said, ‘No, Coach. Keep doing what you're doing.'”
But the roll ended. The Bruins lost at Missouri on Dec. 7 and that made it easier for Alford to put Travis back in the starting lineup and bring sophomore Tony Parker off the bench.
“Now we have Zach, Bryce [Alford] and Tony who can come in and give us a whole new set of energy,” Steve Alford said.
If Saturday's game was ever in doubt, the wondering went away during a 24-9 UCLA run over 7:20 in the first half that was finished off with a massive dunk by LaVine that gave the Bruins a 41-20 lead that grew to 50-24 by halftime.
In the second half, Alford's only complaint was a let-up on defense. “Our defense in the second half got lazy,” he said. “If we want to be a championship team, we have to focus on defense and rebounding, and we want to be a championship team.”