ANAHEIM, Calif. – John Wooden is gone, although his memory remains strong for the UCLA Bruins.
Having already dedicated their season to the legendary coach, they wanted to win their game at the Wooden Classic in his honor. The doubleheader named for him was the last time he saw the Bruins in person a year ago, when they lost to Mississippi State by 19 points. Wooden died in June at 99.
"We played for Coach today," coach Ben Howland said. "We wanted him to be proud of this team and I know he is."
Reeves Nelson scored a career-high 23 points and UCLA defeated No. 16 BYU 86-79 on Saturday, handing the Cougars their first loss.
The Bruins' jerseys have a patch with Wooden's famous "Pyramid of Success" on them.
"It's like every game he's with us," said Smith, a freshman who never got to meet Wooden.
The Bruins (6-4) earned their first quality win of the season after road losses to ranked teams Villanova and Kansas. Tyler Honeycutt added 17 points and Joshua Smith had 15 points and eight rebounds despite both being in foul trouble in the team's third straight win.
"We had come close a few times against other good teams," Nelson said. "It feels good to show when we're at our best we can beat any team."
Jimmer Fredette led the Cougars (10-1) with 25 points while in foul trouble and committed seven of their 19 turnovers. Brandon Davies added 18.
"It's tough to handle. You don't want to lose ever," Fredette said.
UCLA ended a five-game skid against ranked teams with its first win since beating Washington in 2009. The Bruins improved to 10-4 in the doubleheader that attracted 12,499 to Honda Center.
The Bruins opened the second half on an 18-11 run that produced their largest lead, 61-48, capped by Honeycutt's 3-pointer.
Shortly before, Smith picked up his fourth foul, allowing the Cougars to take away UCLA's inside game and the Bruins began missing from the perimeter.
"I was on a good streak in games where I wasn't getting in foul trouble," he said. "I came to the bench and I wasn't too happy."
The Cougars scored 11 straight points to get to 61-59.
UCLA answered with six straight points of its own, with foul-plagued Lazeric Jones and Smith combining for all of them to keep the Bruins ahead 67-59. Fredette sat down with his fourth foul after missing two straight baskets.
"UCLA was physical and strong," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "We really didn't have an answer for their size. That's as physical as we've been guarded with size all year."
The teams traded baskets down the stretch, with Davies scoring eight straight points for the Cougars. Smith went back to work inside, alternately scoring or drawing a foul.
The Cougars got no closer than five, on Fredette's final basket with 1:29 left.
"They like to pressure the whole game," he said of the Bruins. "They just made shots and plays."
BYU raced out to a 16-6 lead to start the game, with Fredette scoring eight points. The Bruins clamped down on him while using a 23-5 run to take a 29-21 lead. Nelson and Honeycutt had six points each in the spurt while BYU sputtered on turnovers.
The Cougers ran off six straight points to close within two before UCLA closed the half on a 14-10 run, including consecutive 3-pointers by Jones and Jerime Anderson, to lead 43-37. Fredette scored BYU's final six points of the half.