Monmouth surprises UCLA 84-81 in overtime
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Maybe Steve Alford won’t be so accommodating next time.
The UCLA coach agreed to play Monmouth after the Hawks had already scheduled two other games on their West Coast trip. It got started with a bang after they surprised the Bruins 84-81 in overtime Friday night in the teams’ season opener.
“You never think you’re coming into UCLA where you’re going to win,” Monmouth coach King Rice said. “We take these trips because they are great for our kids. To say they got to come into Pauley Pavilion against UCLA on John Wooden Court, they are going to tell their families that forever. And now we’ve got a win.”
Collin Stewart scored 19 points and made all six of his free throws, including the go-ahead ones with 18 seconds left in overtime. Justin Robinson added 16 points and Micah Seaborn had 14 points for the Hawks, who rallied from 13 points down in the second half to force overtime.
“Every time we went back to the bench, every time we huddled up on the court, it was ‘resilience,’” Robinson said. “The only way we were going to win this game was if we stayed together. If we splintered off, there was no possible shot.”
The Hawks were poised throughout the game, calmly erasing the double-digit deficit midway through the second half. They outscored UCLA 21-7 to take a 61-60 lead, with Stewart scoring eight points, including two 3-pointers, in the spurt.
Bryce Alford scored 22 points and Tony Parker added 19 points and 19 rebounds for the Bruins, who opened their 50th season of basketball at Pauley Pavilion with an embarrassing loss under third-year coach Alford in front of 6,674.
“We have a ton of work to do because we’re not very good,” the elder Alford said.
Monmouth forced UCLA into 23 turnovers, including six each by Parker and freshman Aaron Holiday, the brother of former UCLA star Jrue Holiday.
“Our guard play was atrocious,” the elder Alford said. “You don’t make free throws and you don’t make layups and you don’t guard in the last 10-15 minutes, it makes it hard for you.”
The younger Alford brought the Bruins back with 10 straight points to lead 70-66. But the Hawks outscored UCLA 7-3, with Stewart making two free throws to tie the game 73-all and force overtime.
Alford airballed a 3-point attempt with 29 seconds to go in regulation.
“A loss like this hurts a lot, pretty disgusted in the way we played to say the least,” he said. “We got to step up and bring this team together.”
In overtime, UCLA led 80-75, helped by six straight free throws from Parker and Alford. From there, the Hawks outscored the Bruins 9-2 to close out the upset. Monmouth did it all on free throws, going 9 of 10 from the line over the final 1:49, when Parker fouled out.
“My team is a bunch of fighters,” Robinson said. “That was the whole game plan. Just keep fighting. Just keep fighting.”
The Bruins overcame a ragged start in which they were 4 of 18 with nine turnovers and trailed by six points in the game’s opening 11 minutes. Parker got them going, scoring four straight points in an 8-0 run that gave UCLA a 22-20 lead.
UCLA outscored Monmouth 12-6 to end the first half leading 34-30.
COMING BACK STRONG
The Hawks returned 69 percent of their scoring from last season, when they were 18-15 for the program’s most successful season in nine years. They nearly won at West Virginia in last season’s opener, leading by 14 points before losing.
Monmouth added Oklahoma transfer Je’lon Hornbeak, who had seven points, six rebounds and four assists in 23 minutes.
“This was incredible for our school, our program, our athletic director,” Rice said. “I told my kids that if we believed in each other we’ll have a chance against anybody. Over the years we’ve played almost everybody.”
ON THE GLASS
The only category in which the Bruins dominated was rebounding, owning a 60-37 edge, including 22-9 on the offensive glass. Monmouth’s bench outscored UCLA’s reserves 41-14, and the Hawks were better in the paint (34-30) and in fast-break points (8-0).
Monmouth: The Hawks improved to 1-1 against Pac-12 schools. It was their first game in California since 2005. ... With road trips to Los Angeles, Orlando, Buffalo and Philadelphia, they will have traveled 8,681 miles total before their home opener against Wagner on Dec. 13.
UCLA: Guard-forward Jonah Bolden’s college debut was delayed a game when he sat out as punishment for violating unspecified team rules. The Aussie redshirted last season after being ruled ineligible. He will return Sunday. ... The Bruins were 16-1 at home last season. ... They were picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.
Monmouth: At Southern California on Monday.
UCLA: Host Cal Poly on Sunday.