UCLA big man Tony Parker (23) blocks USC guard Jio Fontan's shot with… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
UCLA's Tony Parker slipped away without comment after a 75-59 victory over USC on Sunday. He was not made available to the media after the game, but his play, for once, could speak for itself.
What the Bruins can be and what the Bruins are was clear from Parker's play.
The 6-foot-9, 275-pound enigma from Georgia, had eight points, three rebounds, a block and a steal in 13 more-bang-for-your-buck minutes during the first half. UCLA bolted to a 47-26 halftime lead.
Parker was limited to four scoreless minutes in the second half. The Bruins limped home with a key victory that left them a half-game out of first in the Pac-12 Conference.
"Tony's a banger … when he wants to be," point guard Larry Drew II said. "When he has his head in the right place, he can be unstoppable. I tell him that every day."
The Bruins were already off to a fast start at Galen Center on Sunday. But their personality underwent a mood swing when Parker entered the game. He immediately scored on a power move for a 19-6 UCLA lead.
Parker made four of seven shots.
It made playing without 6-foot-10 Travis Wear — sidelined because of a sprained right foot — a lot less painful.
"It's good to see somebody who has been so patient for so long have a great game," guard Kyle Anderson said. "I always tell him he has to be ready. Today he was ready."
The Bruins' future may hinge on how ready Parker remains.
In home games, the Bruins face a rugged Arizona State team Wednesday and 12th-ranked Arizona on Saturday. Travis Wear is iffy at best for Arizona State.
UCLA then closes with a two-game swing through Washington before the Pac-12 tournament.
"The Wears are 6-10, but they are more face-up guys," Drew said. "You need a guy sitting on the block, banging with other players. That's what Tony brings. It's definitely important this last stretch and in the conference tournament."
David Wear, starting in place of his brother, had 10 points and 11 rebounds, but he could see a difference when Parker spread his wings.
"He is more of a true post presence, with his size and strength around the basket," Wear said.
While the rest of UCLA's No. 2-ranked freshman class — Anderson, Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad — has played extensively, Parker had logged 23 minutes in the previous five games.
Parker didn't leave the bench the final 15 minutes Sunday. Coach Ben Howland said, "He got tired and they were making a run. I hate to throw a guy who's a freshman in there in that kind of melee."
Howland heaped praise on Parker, saying, "He hasn't got to play as much as he would like, but he has stayed positive even though everybody was asking, 'How does it feel not playing as much as you want?' I would tell him, we're going to have a huge game and you're going to be thrust in."