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Prince Ali’s career night helps UCLA bounce back against Hawaii – Daily News

LOS ANGELES — Prince Ali saved his best for last.

A soaring, one-handed dunk in the final five seconds against Hawaii capped a banner night for the redshirt junior as he scored a career-high 23 points in UCLA’s 80-61 victory over the Rainbow Warriors on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.

After he hit the ground, Ali stared in the direction of former UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, who sat courtside next to fellow UCLA alumnus Aaron Holiday right under the basket.

Ball responded with an approving nod.

Ball and Holiday, UCLA’s two most recent point guards, had plenty to approve of as the next point guard in line, Jaylen Hands, had a career-high 11 assists to just two turnovers. The sophomore spurred UCLA’s best shooting night in three games. The Bruins (5-2) shot 49.2 percent from the field after shooting below 45 percent in games against Presbyterian, Michigan State and North Carolina.

“When he passes the ball like that, it’s very hard to guard us,” said Ali, who was 9-of-11 from the floor, making his first eight shots and not missing until the 12:47 mark in the second half

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Hands was just 1-of-6 from the field with four points, an uncharacteristic shooting night for the former McDonald’s All-American, but he set the tone for the Bruins with his passing. He had seven assists and no turnovers in the first half as UCLA raced to a double-digit lead in less than four minutes and took a 19-point lead into the locker room.

“When the ball moves, it’s not just going to be just one guy it’s going to affect; it’s going to affect everybody,” Coach Steve Alford said. “I thought tonight the ball moved and we got much, much better shots than what we did in Vegas or even the second half of the Presbyterian game, so hopefully the guys continue to trust one another. And that’s part of being a young team.”

Hands matched his career-high in assists when he lobbed a pass to Cody Riley with 13:24 to put the Bruins ahead by 27 with Riley’s dunk. Riley, appearing in his fourth collegiate game, was making his first career start after a combination of knee and jaw injuries delayed his debut. The redshirt freshman forward suffered a minor knee injury during fall practices and took an elbow to the jaw in practice just a few days before the season opener.

Riley finished with eight points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes.

Along with Ball and Holiday, UCLA also welcomed back TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu, who sat courtside together under the opposite basket from Holiday and Ball. Leaf, Anigbogu and Holiday, who were all drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the past two years, will face Ball’s Lakers on Thursday at Staples Center.

Only four players remain from the team that Ball and Leaf led to the Sweet 16 two seasons ago. Redshirt junior Alex Olesinski and walk-on juniors Armani Dodson and Isaac Wulff greeted their former teammates on the court at halftime with hugs. Ali, who was warming up for the second half, had to save his greeting for the very end of the game.

“That’s my guy,” said Ali, whose knee injury kept him sidelined during Ball’s one season in Westwood. “I had to do that in front of him.”


Prior to Wednesday’s singing of the national anthem, UCLA held a moment of silence for former UCLA forward Willie Naulls, who passed away on Nov. 22. He was 84 years old. Naulls, a three-time NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, was an All-American at UCLA in 1956 under John Wooden.

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