UCLA Crushes Iona

Earl Watson was uncertain he would be healthy enough to be in UCLA's starting lineup.

He wound up silencing his critics for at least one game.

Watson bounced back from a poor shooting performance in UCLA's season-opener by scoring 18 points and handing out seven assists as No. 13 UCLA beat Iona 105-73 on Saturday night.

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  • Watson, a junior guard, made 6-of-8 including both of his 3-point attempts after making just 3-of-12 shots in 76-57 victory over Fairfield on Tuesday night.

    "I was not looking to score tonight," he said. "I didn't even know if I would start. Then all of a sudden, it started falling for me and I got a rhythm."

    UCLA (2-0) led 43-34 at halftime and 57-46 when Watson and Ray Young hit back-to-back 3-point shots, making it 62-47. The Gaels weren't closer than 14 points after that, and a late 15-0 run gave UCLA its biggest lead, 103-67.

    Bothered by a bruised tailbone during preseason practice, Watson said he had a sore back after the Fairfield game. The injury threatened to end his streak of 65 consecutive starts, which began with his first game as a freshman.

    "I had lots of treatment this week four times a day," he said. "That's what got me out here tonight."

    Watson bruised his right elbow when he fell late in the game, but coach Steve Lavin is confident Watson will be able to continue his streak when the Bruins play Moran State on Wednesday night.

    "I know he's hurting a lot, but I know he will do whatever it takes to get on the court," Lavin said.

    Watson's performance against Fairfield drew heckling from a courtside spectator who Watson later told to go home.

    "I come from Kansas, and I was surprised when the fans booed me, but I think it motivated me for tonight," Watson said.

    Young, a sophomore guard, added a career-high 17 points, while Jerome Moiso had 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds and Dan Gadzuric and JaRon Rush each had 11 points.

    Tariq Kirksay had 24 points and eight rebounds and Phil Grant added 14 points for Iona (1-2) in the first meeting between the schools.

    "I'm not happy," Iona coach Jeff Ruland said. "I don't care if we play the Lakers. We're not supposed to give up 105 points. We followed our game plan for about 28 minutes, then it was like we were driving down the highway and we needed an oil change and we couldn't get one.

    "I'm looking down the bench for someone to put it in, and I've got a 300-pound manager and they've got five All-Americans."

    UCLA scored the game's first six points, and led 13-4 before the Gaels scored 10 straight points to take their only lead. The Bruins responded with nine straight points on Sean Farnham's basket and two free throws, Young's 3-point shot and Gadzuric's hook shot.

    After baskets by Kirksay and Ivo Kresta cut UCLA's lead to 28-24, Young and Watson made 3-point shots to give the Bruins a 34-24 lead.

    Young scored 15 of his 17 points on five 3-point shots in six attempts. As a team, UCLA was 8-of-18 from 3-point range.

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