With the amount of energy ringing in the Pauley Pavillion after Max Hazzard drained his fourth consecutive three, it was hard to tell if the UC Irvine sophomore guard was wearing the right uniform.
Hazzard had a homecoming of sorts in Los Angeles’ historic arena, holding ties to the city and the program that runs back to his grandfather, Walt.
Walt Hazzard donned the blue and gold in the 60s and contributed to the program’s first ever NCAA championship in 1964 alongside Gail Goodrich and under legendary coach John Wooden. Twenty years later, Walt returned to Westwood after a few seasons in the NBA to serve as a head coach, earning a Pac-10 coach of the year honor in 1987. Thirty years later, his grandson stepped onto the campus where he had helped the Bruins establish as a household name for decades to come.
“It was special,” Hazzard said of playing in the Pavillion. “Getting to see my grandfather’s jersey in the rafters and getting to play on the court at a place that he’s built. I was excited for this game…I wish we could have won…that’s the most important [thing]…but hopefully we could schedule [a game] next year and beat them.”
Hazzard did everything on his part to make the game a memorable one, putting up an 18-point effort on 50 percent shooting—a bright spot in the ‘Eaters’ (3-5) 87-63 loss to the Bruins (5-1) Sunday afternoon.
The ‘Eaters made it a competitive one for the majority of the first half, fielding the Bruins well defensively while keeping tempo offensively. A three pointer from junior guard Brandon Smith gave the ‘Eaters their first lead of the night while sophomore forward Tommy Rutherford padded the lead with a free throw at 9-5.
UCLA, however, found their rhythm halfway through the period and would go on a 13-0 run, fueled by junior guard Aaron Holiday and redshirt sophomore guard Prince Ali, who ended up leading the Bruins with 21 points on the night.
With that run, the Bruins would hold onto a double-digit lead until sophomore forward John Edgar Jr. converted a reverse lay-in to shave the deficit to nine, 38-39.
Just like he had done in the first half, Hazzard knocked down a triple to crack open the second and went on fire from that point on. As the Bruins answered with a slew of lay-ins, Hazzard kept the ‘Eaters in it with two more long range bombs, the last of which cut what was once a nine point deficit into four. Hazzard would draw some more cries from the crowd when he later hit his fourth triple within the first four minutes of action to finish the period shooting 4-5 from beyond the arc.
When Edgar Jr. connected on a jumper to bring UCI within two—the closest they had been since the 10:24 minute mark in the first half, forcing the Bruins to call a time-out.
The ‘Eaters then hit a wall and failed to come up with a basket for nearly four minutes of action. It was all the Bruins needed to go for 10 unanswered points to establish a 55-43 edge. Capitalizing on the 18 fouls that they would force on UCI, they would use their cushion and their free throw opportunities to ride out the rest of the game for an 87-63 decision.
“We played a good 27…28 minutes and we just didn’t have enough to sustain it,” Hazzard said, “But that’s encouraging to see our guys…especially a lot of our young guys step up and be ready to play so I’m excited about that.”
UCI’s defeat against the Bruins marked their final game in a grueling Thanksgiving holiday road trip that featured three games in four nights. The ‘Eaters will have two days to recuperate before heading back to the Bren Events Center to host Whittier on Wednesday at 7:00pm.