Henderson Propels Bruins Past New Mexico, 69-58

Box Score

Dec. 6, 1997

ANAHEIM, Calif. - J.R. Henderson scored a season-high 24 points and helped contain Kenny Thomas on defense as 15th-ranked UCLA took a major step towards regaining its identity with a 69-58 victory over number eight New Mexico in the nightcap of the John Wooden Classic at Anaheim, California.

Toby Bailey added 18 points for UCLA (3-1), which again played without starting small forward Kris Johnson and center Jelani McCoy. Both were suspended by the school before practice started and have been only partially reinstated. UCLA also started its season with a 109-68 thrashing at the hands of North Carolina in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout.

"For us to come out, regroup, and get a win against New Mexico is very important to our confidence," said Bailey, who added that, "We can compete with anybody in the nation. We can't worry about them (Johnson and McCoy) coming back right now."

"Henderson and Bailey showed great leadership," said Bruins coach Steve Lavin. "They have been like fathers to the freshman. I am most proud of my two captains."

Clayton Shields scored 20 points and Lamont Long and Royce Olney added 10 apiece for New Mexico (5-1), which again failed to assert itself off its homecourt. Thomas, the star center who entered the game averaging 19.6 points, was scoreless in the first half and finished with eight.

The Lobos, who have an active 31-game home winning streak, have not recorded a victory outside "The Pit" in Albuquerque over a ranked school since March 12th, 1993, when they defeated Brigham Young in the Western Athletic Conference tournament semifinals.

"This was our chance to let people know who New Mexico is," lamented Thomas.

After the Bruins scored the first four points of the game, New Mexico responded with a 17-2 run that spanned 6:25. Shields hit a pair of three-pointers in the run, including one from the top of the key that gave the Lobos a 17-6 lead with 12:47 to go in the first half.

UCLA answered with nine consecutive points as a steal and layup by Bailey made it 17-15 with 10:32 to go. A layup by Travis Reed knotted the game at 19-19, but the Lobos took off on a 9-2 run that provided a 28-21 margin after a three-pointer from Shields.

But the Bruins surged and closed the half with a 13-2 spurt. Baron Davis hit a layup, Henderson hit a bank shot and Bailey drained a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game, 28-28. Shields hit two free throws to stem the tide, but Earl Watson and Brandon Loyd hit three-pointers to give UCLA a 34-30 advantage at halftime.

Henderson, aided by the four guards coach Steve Lavin started, held Thomas to 0-of-3 shooting and forced him to commit three turnovers as he played all 20 minutes.

"I used my quickness," replied Henderson when asked how he guarded Thomas. "He's much bigger than me. But when I got caught behind, my teammates did a great job of helping me."

"I was frustrated in the first half on offense," admitted Thomas. "It was difficult for me to get in the middle and I tried to do too much."

An acrobatic reverse layup by Bailey gave UCLA a 45-34 advantage 3:30 into the second half, and the Bruins opened their largest lead at 53-41 following his 15-footer at the 9:29 mark.

The Lobos closed within 60-55 on a free throw by Shields with 2:19 left, but Bailey hit an 18-footer and Davis fed Henderson for a layup as UCLA closed the door.

"Their quickness at the guards beat us," Lobos coach Dave Bliss said. "We did not get over the hump in the second half. Our lack of depth was apparent."

UCLA shot 48 percent (29-of-60) from the field and forced 23 turnovers. Bailey had seven assists and Watson recorded five steals.

New Mexico, which made 9-of-28 shots from the field in the final 20 minutes, shot 41 percent (20-of-49) overall. The Lobos hit only 2-of-12 three-pointers in the second half.