UCLA's front line got its hands on the ball in the second half, helping the Bruins pull away to a victory in the first women's basketball game at new Pauley Pavilion.
Markel Walker scored 15 points and Alyssia Brewer added 12 points in a 66-52 win over San Diego State on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams. Freshman Kari Korver had 11 points off the bench, including three 3-pointers for the Bruins (1-0), who lead the series between the schools 22-6.
Walker had seven points and Brewer was scoreless in the first half when UCLA shot 27 percent from the floor. Their resurgence in the final 20 minutes helped the Bruins shoot 50 percent.
"We're so much better when the front line touches the ball," second-year Bruins coach Cori Close said. "It gives us glimpses of what we can become."
Erimma Amarikwa scored 14 points and Chelsea Hopkins added 10 for the Aztecs (0-1).
A night after the 13th-ranked men's team played the first game in the renovated arena, the women's team took its turn. Former UCLA stars Denise Curry and Ann Meyers Drysdale were on hand as part of a celebration marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX, along with former coach Billie Moore, who led UCLA's women to the AIAW national championship in 1978.
Nan Wooden, the daughter of the late John Wooden, was on the Bruins' bench for the game. Former Olympic decathlon champion Rafer Johnson was in the crowd of 2,035.
"Being back in our own big home was exciting," said Walker, who scored the game's first seven points. "We fed off of that."
Korver scored five of the Bruins' first nine points in the second half to stretch their four-point halftime lead to 10 points.
"If I hit my first shot, I usually feel pretty good," said Korver, whose confidence was boosted when she connected early.
The Aztecs put together one big run, outscoring UCLA 14-6 to close to 39-37. Deajanae Scurry and Hopkins had four points each in the spurt.
But UCLA's veterans took over, keying a 19-4 run that put the game out of reach and extended UCLA's lead to 58-41. Kacy Swain scored five points, and Atonye Nyingifa, Jasmine Dixon and Walker had four points each.
The Bruins' bench outscored the Aztec reserves, 25-13, led by Korver.
"It needs to be a strong suit," Close said. "We know we have people ready to step in."
The Aztecs were held to 28 percent shooting for the game and were outrebounded 47-42, including a 27-21 deficit on the defensive glass.
"You can be down five, but it feels like 50," San Diego State coach Beth Burns said. "I didn't feel like we had an offensive flow all night. They did a good job of getting us into a sluggish tempo."