LOS ANGELES (AP) — Aaron Holiday has yet to miss a game in three seasons at UCLA. Starting or coming off the bench, he’s been reliable.
Holiday scored 20 points and UCLA defeated Utah 83-64 on Thursday night to stay atop the Pac-12 standings.
Holiday has been on a roll since league play began nearly two weeks ago, averaging 17.8 points. He also leads the Bruins (13-4, 4-1 Pac-12) in scoring with 19.4 points.
“I’ve grown since I was a freshman,” said Holiday, who started all 32 games in his first season. “Obviously, I have different roles and they’ve gotten more and more each season. I always was a good defender. I’m always usually on the best guy and I just try to stop him.”
Holiday came off the bench in all 36 games as a sophomore and now he’s back in the lineup.
“There’s not very many that are better than him,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “The thing where he’s really grown is feel for the game and how you can take over a game not just scoring.”
Holiday got plenty of support from his younger teammates.
Freshman Kris Wilkes added 19 points for the Bruins, who shot 52 percent from 3-point range. Holiday was perfect from long range, making all four of his shots.
“He started the season slow shooting the basketball. He’s shooting at an elite level now,” Alford said of Holiday. “He’s really helping our young guys a lot.”
David Collette scored 15 points and Justin Bibbins added 12 points for the Utes (10-6, 2-3).
“They came out and hit shots and got hot early,” Bibbins said. “We couldn’t shoot the 3 and they did that very well.”
UCLA never trailed, leading by eight at halftime and pulling away to its largest lead of 21 points in the second half.
The Utes tried to get back into the game with four 3-pointers during a four-minute stretch, but the Bruins scored nearly every time down the court. Utah’s 13 turnovers led to 21 points UCLA points.
“It was like a nightmare,” Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “We just didn’t play tough defense. I don’t think they guarded us man-to-man until the 11-minute mark.”
UCLA’s Prince Ali had 13 points and freshman Jaylen Hands scored all of his 12 points in the second half, making 4-of-4 free throws and grabbing five rebounds.
Utah’s Chris Seeley had nine points and seven rebounds while playing 19 minutes in his second game back after recovering from gallbladder surgery. He played just two minutes against Arizona State last week, his first game since Nov. 16. “I’m not sure why, but I just feel so much better,” he said. “Coach has told me that I have to get in shape, so I did a lot of playing 5-on-5 and getting some extra conditioning in.”
QUIET BIG MAN
UCLA center Thomas Welsh had seven points and six rebounds in a quiet night. He came in averaging 12.8 points and 11.1 rebounds. The senior played with a clear mask on to protect his nose after getting an elbow in the face at Stanford last week.
Utah: The Utes are going in the wrong direction, having lost three in a row after winning three straight.
UCLA: The Bruins have won six of seven and things have settled down after three players were detained for shoplifting on the team’s season-opening trip to China, including LiAngelo Ball who withdrew from school.
Utah: Visits USC on Sunday.
UCLA: Hosts Colorado on Saturday.
Box score: UCLA 83, Utah 64
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