Through the first half, the Bruins held their own against their first top-five competition this season.
But in the second half, the margin between UCLA men’s basketball (5-3) and No. 3 Michigan State (5-2) continued to grow. The Spartans never relinquished the three-point lead they took into halftime – winning the game 75-62 to claim fifth place at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
UCLA will head home to Westwood with a sixth-place finish in the tournament, their only win in Maui coming over Division II Chaminade on Tuesday.
UCLA managed to hold Michigan State to just 26 points on 40% shooting in the first half, and outrebounded the Spartans 18-17. The Bruin defense also held Michigan State’s leading scorer Cassius Winston to two points in the first 15 minutes.
Freshman guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. made his first career start after coming off the bench in all of UCLA’s previous games. After posting a career-high 17 points against Chaminade, Jaquez Jr. scored five points in the first half against the Spartans, second only to redshirt freshman guard Tyger Campbell who posted six.
But after holding the Spartans to their second-lowest first-half offensive output all season, the Bruins never saw an advantage after Michigan State took a 21-20 lead with 3 minutes and 33 seconds left in the first half.
Michigan State captured the first 10 of 12 points to start the second half. The Bruins never came closer than four points for the remainder of the game, and trailed by no less than nine in the final 10 minutes.
Michigan State shot 53.8% from the field in the second half, up 16 points from its first-half field goal percentage. Spartan guard Rocket Watts and Winston combined for 22 of Michigan State’s 49 second-half points.
Seventeen of the Spartan’s second-half points came from the free-throw line, missing just one free throw attempt in the final 20 minutes to help to keep the Bruins at bay.
Junior guard Chris Smith did not start but led the Bruins with 13 points, going 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Redshirt sophomore forward Cody Riley, redshirt senior guard Prince Ali and Campbell were the only other Bruins to crack double-digit points, but none were able to cash in from beyond the arc.
Ali and Campbell shot a combined 0-6 from deep, and the Bruins were only able to convert two 3-pointers the entire game. UCLA finished the contest shooting 13.3% from 3-point range, going 0-5 in the second half.
With the loss concluding its run in Maui, UCLA will return to Pauley Pavilion on Sunday to take on San Jose State.