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Men’s basketball secures victory over California in lowest-scoring win since 2006

Junior guard Chris Smith led the Bruins with 12 points in the second half of UCLA men’s basketball’s (9-9, 2-3 Pac-12) 50-40 win over California (8-10, 2-3) on Sunday night at Pauley Pavilion. Smith shot 7-of-9 for the game and 50% from three-point range. (Kanishka Mehra/Assistant Photo editor)

Men's Basketball


By Jared Tay

Jan. 19, 2020 7:28 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 20 at 8:19 p.m.

Coach Mick Cronin said it wasn’t rocket science – if the Bruins can hold their opponent under 70 points, they have a shot to win.

His squad did just that.

In a matchup between the two lowest-scoring offenses in the Pac-12, UCLA men’s basketball (9-9, 2-3 Pac-12) came away with the 50-40 win over California (8-10, 2-3) to bring its overall record back to .500. The Bruins’ 50 total points is tied for their lowest total for a win since 2006 – when UCLA put up 50 against Memphis in the Elite Eight.

The Bruins and Golden Bears had come into Sunday night’s matchup scoring 70.7 and 65.3 points per contest, respectively. The 40 points scored by Cal tied the lowest scoring total by a Pac-12 team this season.

Cronin’s squad mustered 22 points in the opening half – which tied its lowest first-half scoring output of the season – but the Bruins took a one-point lead into halftime with redshirt sophomore forward/center Jalen Hill and junior guard Chris Smith combining for 16 of those points.

“The truth of it is, for us to win, (Smith) has got to give us some offense,” Cronin said. “Unlike the Democratic Party, we don’t have that many candidates.”

The Bears put themselves up by one on their first possession of the second frame, however, giving them their first lead since the 17:54 mark in the first half.

But after a made jump shot by Smith, both squads went cold combining to convert on just 1-of-7 field goals over a two-and-a-half minute stretch.

Cronin said the scoring drought on both ends was indicative of the youth in each team’s rotation.
“In fairness to (coach) Mark (Fox), they got a young team – same thing I’m dealing with,” Cronin said. “They missed some open shots, just like we did. You watch these games and when the ball goes in it changes a lot.”

A fast-break layup by Smith with 16:01 to go in the second half put the Bruins up by four and started what would be a 14-0 run that went unanswered by Cal for 11 minutes. Over that period, the Bruins cashed in on consecutive 3s from freshman guard Tyger Campbell and Smith, as well as a 2-point jumper from freshman guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr.

“We’ve noticed that in film that we just die at some point in the second half no matter what’s going on – be it losing, can’t make a shot or something along those lines,” Smith said. “We just tried to keep the energy up in the second half and we played the full 40 minutes.”

The run was stopped at the 5:55 after Cal guard Matt Bradley sank a jumper, giving the Bears only their third basket of the half.

Throughout the second half, neither team found much success shooting the ball, with California going 2-of-9 from 3-point range and UCLA posting a 3-of-11 mark of its own. The Bruins’ only 3s of the half coming during the Bears’ scoring drought and in garbage time, via a triple from sophomore guard Jules Bernard with 0:30 left on the clock.

Bernard, Smith, Jaquez Jr. and Campbell were the only Bruins to make a mark on the second half box score. Redshirt sophomore forward Cody Riley was held scoreless on four shots, while Hill – who led the Bruins in first half scoring with 11 points – went 0-of-1 in the final frame and left for a brief time following a blow to the head in the paint.

With the win, the Bruins managed to defend their home court for the first time in 42 days, after previously dropping contests to Stanford, USC and Cal State Fullerton at Pauley Pavilion.

Despite Cronin criticizing his team for poor defense after each of those games, Jaquez Jr. said the coach’s harsh words were necessary for the team to hear before taking the court Sunday.

“You’ve just got to take it as tough love,” Jaquez Jr. said. “He wants us all to succeed. He doesn’t wish bad upon any of us, and he just wants to bring out the best out of us and that’s how he does it.”

UCLA will next travel to Oregon to take on Oregon State and No. 8 Oregon on Thursday and Sunday, respectively.

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Jared Tay | Sports senior staff
Tay is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the men's basketball beat. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the baseball, men's soccer, men's tennis, cross country and women's tennis beats. Tay was previously a contributor on the men's tennis beat.
Tay is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the men's basketball beat. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the baseball, men's soccer, men's tennis, cross country and women's tennis beats. Tay was previously a contributor on the men's tennis beat.
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