David Singleton took the loss a little differently than his teammates.
“Saturday night I went out there, shot 200 free throws,” the freshman guard said. “I just needed to get some free throws down, make sure to get my mind right so I could move on (to) the next game.”
UCLA men’s basketball (12-12, 5-6 Pac-12) blew a 22-point second-half lead to Utah (13-10, 7-4) on Saturday. Interim coach Murry Bartow said he and the rest of the coaching staff sat down to hash things out as they typically do after games, but the loss hit harder than usual.
“It’s not easy,” Bartow said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve had some hard losses. But that was a hard one.”
Singleton was intentionally fouled with five seconds left in the game with the Bruins up by one. The freshman missed the first before his team ultimately lost on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
“I think (Singleton) was kind of beating himself up after the game because he felt like, maybe because he missed a couple free throws, that it was on his shoulders,” said sophomore guard Chris Smith. “But I made sure after the game, I told him that wasn’t his fault.”
Smith wasn’t the only Bruin to stand up for Singleton – sophomore guard Jaylen Hands said he and his family tried their best to keep the freshman’s spirits high.
“I gave (Singleton) a high-five. I saw my parents cheered him on after too,” Hands said. “I think that’s a big thing by him to go out there and put (free throws) up (after the game). But you know, we all have to get better in that area.”
Hands was UCLA’s leading scorer with a career-high 27 points, and his 7-of-8 mark from the free throw line was one of the best on the team. However, the guard’s one miss came in crunch time and allowed Utah to cut the lead to seven.
Smith said he thought Singleton was good enough that he could have hit all 200 of his postgame free throws, but that he handled the loss in another way.
“I think I was the second-to-last player to leave the locker room,” Smith said. “I took a shower, I went down (to the locker room), put some clothes on and I just sat there. I was just thinking about it, whatever I could have done more.”
Smith had four points and four rebounds in 14 minutes Saturday but was the lone Bruin to go perfect from the charity stripe.
Hands applauded Singleton’s commitment after the game but said he did what he normally does after a loss.
“I like to decompress for a while,” Hands said. “I normally like to watch tape after, see what I did good, see what I did bad, stuff like that.”
The lead was the largest UCLA had blown this season. It sent every player and coach in different directions and brought the Bruins down to .500 for the first time all year, but Bartow said that it won’t faze the team for long.
“I want to make it clear; there’s no lack of motivation,” Bartow said. “These guys, they want to win. They want to win.”