LOS ANGELES - UCLA opened with a 72-67 win against Drexel in Steve Alford's debut as head coach of the 22nd-ranked Bruins despite foul trouble and being forced to play a half-court game.
The Bruins' five-point win against the visiting Dragons in Pauley Pavilion on Friday evening was a departure from their two exhibition victories, in which they averaged 102.5 points with a high-octane transition game.
"For an opener, very pleased," Alford said. "We got to create our own enthusiasm and excitement."
Jordan Adams scored 16 points to lead UCLA. Zach LaVine and David Wear added 14 points each, and Kyle Anderson had 12 points, 12 rebounds and tied his career high with seven assists for the Bruins, who let an early 13-point lead dwindle to one with 2:19 to play.
"I'm overexcited to get out there and play," said Adams, who had his freshman season cut short by a broken foot in March.
Frantz Massenat scored 20 points, Damion Lee added 17 and Dartaye Ruffin had 13 rebounds for the Dragons, who traveled cross-country from Philadelphia on Wednesday to play a game that started at midnight EST.
"We've been here for a couple of days and when we're at home, we always play pickup basketball at all hours of the day," Massenat said. "We lost this game in the beginning of the game when they got out to their lead, and then lost in the last few minutes when we didn't get stops when we needed to."
Alford was named UCLA's 13th head coach in program history on March 30, 2013. He opened his 23rd season as a collegiate head coach Friday night with the non-conference win against Drexel.
"He got the job because he's good at what he does," Drexel coach Bruiser Flint said. "They played tough. Steve mixed it up with the zone a little bit. I know they're a little short-handed right now, but one thing that he does is put those guys in the right positions to make plays."
The Bruins were without Travis Wear, who is recovering from an appendectomy, and freshman Waanah Bail, who has yet to be cleared after having knee surgery in the summer.
The Dragons got within four points six times in the second half before closing to 65-63 on a layup by Massenat with 2:45 to play. They cut it to one on another basket by Massenat.
"I feel as though we definitely could have won the game. I think we beat ourselves a little bit at the end," Massenat said. "But it's OK. It's fine. We'll be able to pick it back up as a team."
After a pair of free throws by Adams, Chris Fouch airballed a 3-point attempt from the right sideline and David Wear grabbed the rebound. Tony Parker, who rarely played as a freshman under Howland, took a pass from Norman Powell and dunked, extending UCLA's lead to 70-65.
Parker had four fouls, while Adams and LaVine had three each, forcing Alford to juggle his lineup.
"Really proud of the team," Alford said. "We had a lot of adversity in this game with foul trouble and not being able to get to the free throw line. The guys just battled."
Lee's layup had the Dragons trailing 70-67 and then Parker turned the ball over. The Dragons inbounded and the ball went through the legs of Kazembe Abif, with the Bruins pouncing for a held ball call. They regained possession, but freshman Bryce Alford missed a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left.
Lee airballed a 3-point attempt from the top of the key with 5 seconds to go. The Dragons were forced to foul, sending Adams to the line. He made both for a 72-67 lead.
The Dragons never got off a final shot, and Abif turned the ball over as time expired.
"That's the first time we've had to play half-court offense," David Wear said. "It's the first game, we obviously realize it's something we need to work on. That's what we're going to face more. Teams are going to stop us in transition."
The Bruins led 42-31 at halftime, with LaVine scoring 11 points off the bench. He was 3 of 4 from 3-point range, where UCLA shot 56 percent.
"Zach played very well, knocked down three big 3s, guarded well," Anderson said. "He made a couple freshman mistakes. We've just got to get behind him even when he does make mistakes. I was very impressed with Zach and Bryce on how they came in and handled their first game."
Massenat went 3 of 5 on 3-pointers for the Dragons, who shot 30 percent from the floor and 9 of 14 from the line.