LOS ANGELES -- UCLA's exhibition opener Thursday night turned out a little better than last year's as the Bruins trounced Westmont, 95-59, at Pauley Pavilion.
Reeves Nelson had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Malcolm Lee had 12 points, seven assists and five steals for UCLA, which was never really in trouble against Westmont, an NAIA school in Santa Barbara.
The same couldn't be said last year, when UCLA nearly lost to NAIA Concordia in its exhibition opener.
"This was a much better game than we had at this time a year ago," UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
Freshman center Joshua Smith played only eight minutes because he sprained his thumb in the first half. He was impressive in his short time, with nine points and four rebounds on three of four shooting.
He was examined by team doctors after the game and will have an X-ray Friday, but Howland said he doesn't think the injury is serious.
"I felt it was better to not chance it and let him get ice on it right away," Howland said.
The Bruins displayed their new transition game, getting many easy baskets. They shot 53.6% form the field and 64.7% in the first half. Most of Nelson's points came on fast-break dunks.
Three-point shooting, a weakness last season, was again a problem, however, as UCLA made only three of 21 shots from long range.
"It's not good," Howland said. "But we had some good looks that we’ll normally make. We’ll shoot better than that."
Howland's big concern coming into the game was defense and he seemed to be justified. Westmont players routinely beat their man off the dribble and the Bruins held a slim 43-36 rebounding edge over the much smaller Warriors.
"We’ve got a lot of things to work on," Howland said. "We’re very very young. We’re going to make mistakes, I understand that."
But, he added, he saw enough to be encouraged.
"This team has a chance to be a very solid team in my opinion," Howland said.