After redshirting due to a knee injury last year, UCLA sophomore guard Prince Ali appears eager to make up for lost time. The native New Yorker looks to continue his hot start Wednesday as the 25th-ranked Bruins host Cal State Bakersfield, which won two of its three games at last week’s Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage.
Ali started in place of injured point guard Jaylen Hands last Sunday and scored a career-high 21 points in 33 minutes as the Bruins cruised to an 87-63 win over UC Irvine. “Very proud of Prince,” coach Steve Alford told reporters. “He took advantage of his starting role definitely and really got us going in the first half.” Ali’s play has provided a welcome spark for the Bruins, whose lack of depth remains an issue with freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill suspended indefinitely for shoplifting during the team’s trip to China. Hands, who was held out of Sunday’s game for precautionary reasons due to a sprained left foot, averages 12 points on 50 percent shooting and could return as soon as Wednesday.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
ABOUT BAKERSFIELD (4-3): Guard Damiyne Durham made six 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 24 points in last Saturday’s 75-72 loss to Central Michigan while guard Rickey Holden added 15 points and five assists. The Roadrunners’ impressive backcourt includes senior point guard Brent Wrapp, who had a total of 26 assists in games against Alaska Anchorage, Idaho and Central Michigan during the Great Alaska Shootout. Shon Briggs averages 12 points and a team-high 5.4 points for the Roadrunners, who are facing their second Pac-12 opponent of the season after losing 91-59 at Arizona on Nov. 16.
ABOUT UCLA (5-1): Senior center Thomas Welsh recorded his fourth double-double this season with 13 points and 13 rebounds in the win over UC Irvine while freshman guard Kris Wilkes scored eight of his 14 points from the free throw line. Welsh is averaging 13.2 points and 11.3 rebounds for the Bruins, who are allowing 9.3 3-pointers per game and need to improve their perimeter defense heading into conference play. Alford has been using an eight-man rotation led by junior guard Aaron Holiday, who is averaging a team-high 17 points to go with 14 steals.
1. The teams are meeting for the first time since Nov. 20, 2009, when UCLA won 75-64 at Pauley Pavilion.
2. Bakersfield announced Monday that it will leave the Western Athletic Conference to join the Big West Conference, effective July 1, 2020.
3. UCLA has gone 77-13 in Pauley Pavilion since the arena reopened in November 2012.
PREDICTION: UCLA 88, Bakersfield 69