LOS ANGELES (AP) — The past two years as UCLA's point guard, Bryce Alford excelled at running the offense. This season, he's recognizing there's a time for him to forget about his teammates and just shoot.
His dad — Bruins coach Steve Alford — likes that approach.
"One thing I think Bryce has gotten into here in his junior year is that he's really understanding the times when we need him to make the big shot," the coach said after his son scored a season-high 27 points Tuesday night in an 89-80 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Alford's final field goal was a 3-pointer with 1:49 to play after the Ragin' Cajuns got within six. He shot 10 for 15 overall, including 4 of 6 on 3s.
"It's something you learn through experience," he said. "I went through stretches last year where I had to figure that out. I'm doing a lot better job this of knowing when to do that. Now I know when the team needs me to score," he said.
The short-handed Bruins (8-3) posted their fifth consecutive victory. Starting center Thomas Welsh was out with a stomach virus and reserve Prince Ali bruised his left knee against Gonzaga on Saturday night.
Tony Parker and Isaac Hamilton each added 19 points for the Bruins.
"We lost to Monmouth by one possession and we lost to Wake by one possession in Maui," Steve Alford said. "We're two possessions from having this thing at 10-1. But I think we've learned from those games, too."
Shawn Long contributed 26 points and 16 rebounds for Louisiana-Lafayette (3-5), which fell to 0-5 on the road this season.
For Long, it was his fifth double-double of the season. The 6-foot-11 senior is the NCAA Division I active leader in double-doubles (57) and total rebounds (1,133).
Kasey Shepherd scored 15 points and Jay Wright added 14 for the Ragin' Cajuns.
"I had a rough first half, but I came out staying with it. It was tough for a few of us to get into the groove," Long said. "Once we found it I thought there was still a lot of game left to play. We can't hang our heads. UCLA is a tough team. They're going to be a tournament team."
The Bruins shot a season-best 55.4 percent from the field. Their previous best was 52.8 percent in their upset victory over then-No. 1 Kentucky two weeks ago.
"We were a little disappointed with the way we started the ballgame," Louisiana-Lafayette coach Bob Marlin said. "I didn't think we had the focus we need to have."
"I didn't think we were guarding. We told the guys to just keep battling. We felt we could get back in it, and we got it to 4 with 10 and a half to play. I was proud of our guys. We continued to fight, and I think we got better tonight," he said.
UCLA, which led by as many as 19 in the first half, saw Louisiana-Lafayette pull within 63-59 with 10:13 to play.
The Bruins responded with an 11-2 spurt to lead 74-61, only to see the Ragin' Cajuns close to 79-73 on Long's 3-pointer with 2:17 to play.
UCLA made 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute for the victory.
The second half was refereed by two officials, David Hall and Marques Pettigrew, after referee Eric Curry left at halftime with an undisclosed injury.
Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin' Cajuns, coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons, entered the game ranked third among NCAA Division I programs in scoring, averaging 90.0 points per game, having already eclipsed the century mark twice this season.
UCLA: With Welsh out, coach Steve Alford was forced to change his starting lineup for the first time this season. He replaced Welsh with 6-10 sophomore Jonah Bolden. ... The Bruins cracked the AP Top 25 poll for the first time this season, boosted by two victories in nine days over ranked opponents, Kentucky 87-77 on Dec. 3 and No. 20 Gonzaga 71-66 on Saturday night.
Louisiana-Lafayette: At Pepperdine on Friday.
UCLA: Vs. North Carolina on Saturday in New York.