UCLA Men’s Basketball Survives Shaky 2nd Half to Beat Washington
For the third straight game, the Bruins got outplayed in the final 20 minutes, but they held on for a win over the Huskies on Thursday.
The Bruins’ second half woes returned Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion, but not to the point where it cost them another game.
Despite leading by as many as 18 points early on, No. 9 UCLA men’s basketball (18-4, 9-2 Pac-12) squeezed by Washington (13-11, 5-8) with a 70-61 home victory to avoid a season-worst three-game losing streak. The Bruins led by double digits for the middle 20 minutes of the contest only to see their advantage cut down to six in the waning minutes, and they were ultimately outscored in the second half for the third game in a row.
Still, UCLA’s stars played through foul trouble and closed out the victory by making their free throws late. Guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. dropped 15 points to go along with his 10 rebounds, while guard Amari Bailey, guard Tyger Campbell and center Adem Bona all finished the night in double figures as well.
Whether it was on the fast break or offensive glass, the Bruins had the Huskies’ number in the first half. Crisp passes and tipped balls had UCLA’s offense running on all cylinders, giving life to a unit that ranked No. 83 in adjusted offensive efficiency since the last time the two teams met on Jan. 1.
Guard Jaylen Clark hit two floaters early on, converting on a shot that had given him trouble over the past few weeks. Bailey, who was seven days removed from a seven-game absence due to a foot injury, came through with a second-chance layup and a two-handed jam to put UCLA up 8-0.
The Huskies finally got on the board after nearly four minutes of game time, but they couldn’t stage any kind of a run. The Bruins, meanwhile, went on a 12-0 run by swatting passes and shots and keeping their opponent without a point for over six minutes.
Washington finally started getting shots to go down as the half started to wind down, but UCLA answered with a dunk by Bona and 3-pointers by guard David Singleton and Dylan Andrews.
After Jaquez hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the opening frame, UCLA went into the break up 38-22 – the same advantage they held at halftime of their first meeting with Washington.
Unlike the matchup in Seattle, the Huskies didn’t fade away in Westwood.
The Bruins got called for three fouls on the first possession of the second half, only for Bailey to block the Huskies’ heave at the end of the shot clock. Washington got a corner 3-pointer to fall its next time down the court, though, converting on UCLA’s two turnovers on errant passes to open the half.
That helped make it a 22-15 run for the Huskies over an 11-minute span, allowing them to hang around as both offenses heated up. Neither team allowed back-to-back unanswered scoring possessions until after the under-12 timeout, though, as the Bruins’ lead wavered between 11 and 14 for the first 11-plus minutes of the half.
It looked like UCLA’s recent shooting woes might have returned when Jaquez watched his hook layup roll off the rim, but Bailey hit a big triple to ease the concerns.
As it turned out, it wasn’t shooting that would bite the Bruins – it was turnovers.
UCLA gave the ball away four times in less than 90 seconds, and Washington bounced by hitting 3s and getting to the line to cut the gap down to nine.
The Huskies missed the front of of back-to-back 1-and-1s, setting the Bruins up to pull back ahead with a Jaquez post layup and Singleton 3-pointer. Guard Cole Bajema hit a corner triple of his own, however, and forward Keion Brooks Jr. made it a nine-point game again after some free throws.
When Campbell nailed a straightaway 3, Washington answered with an and-1. Jaquez and Clark both found themselves with four fouls inside five minutes, and their continued gambling kept sending the Huskies to the line for more.
Clark hit front rim on one bunny and airballed another, the latter of which led to another eventual turnover for the Bruins. Even when Bona came through with a layup to seemingly calm things down, a fast break foul on Campbell handed Washington even more free throws.
Bona nearly stuck a dagger in the Huskies with an and-1 on a dunk, but he was called for offensive interference and only went 1-for-2 at the line. After Bailey committed an offensive foul, Brooks tried to take the gap under seven, only to travel himself.
Washington resorted to intentional fouls from there, and Campbell and Singleton each had perfect trips to negate Brooks’ triple. Bona flew in for an emphatic block with 26 seconds left, which finally sealed the win.
After shooting 57.1% with eight turnovers in the first half, UCLA shot just 40.0% with 10 turnovers in the second. The Bruins’ 18 turnovers were a season-high, but they still won the points off turnovers battle by 10 in the nine-point victory.
UCLA will try to make it back-to-back wins when it hosts Washington State on Saturday. That game, which will be televised on Pac-12 Networks, will tip off at 4 p.m..
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