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UCLA men’s basketball looks to defend perfect home record against Colorado, Utah

Redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell floats in a layup at the rim. Campbell and No. 7 UCLA men’s basketball will take on Utah on Thursday and Colorado on Saturday. (Jack Stenzel/Daily Bruin staff)

Men's basketball

Thursday, 8 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion
Pac-12 Networks
Saturday, 5 p.m.

Pauley Pavilion

By Amelie Ionescu

Jan. 12, 2023 3:52 p.m.

With the new year comes New Year’s resolutions.

And for the Bruins, that means rest.

“We cut practice down right around Jan. 5-10 every year and try to make sure we’ve got the energy to play the game,” said coach Mick Cronin. “I’m a big believer in that.”

Following a week of rest after taking down crosstown rival USC, No. 7 UCLA men’s basketball (14-2, 5-0 Pac-12) will attempt to uphold its undefeated record at Pauley Pavilion with games against Utah (12-5, 5-1) on Thursday and Colorado (11-6, 3-3) on Saturday.

Recently, the Bruins have begun showcasing their depth, giving freshman guard Dylan Andrews and redshirt freshman guard Will McClendon minutes off the bench to allow redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell time to recover.

Cronin also gave Campbell the day off practice Monday as a chance to refuel before the Bruins resume their Pac-12 schedule.

“When you get into the thick of the season, … it’s just trying to keep my body right for the rest of the games,” Campbell said. “I trust coach, … but I always stay ready, and I’m just ready to play.”

Alongside Campbell, who is averaging over 13 points per game, freshman forward Adem Bona has had two career nights in his last two games. Bona notched a career-high 18 points against Washington on the road before compiling a career-high 10 rebounds against USC.

Bona said being detail-oriented has allowed him to improve his rebounding in particular since his collegiate debut in November.

“I was really excited for the game, and I was ready to put everything out there,” Bona said. “I’m paying attention to details and most of the time going for the ball every single time.”

While Bona has continued to build experience, so too have UCLA’s opponents. Cronin said Pac-12 play will only continue to pose more challenges as the regular season rolls on.

“It’s harder to win,” Cronin said. “Because the teams that maybe struggled early, … they watch film, coaches are trying to keep their jobs. And they figure out ‘Alright, we now know how we have to play to be competitive.’”

Next on deck for the Bruins is the Utes – a team that has hit its stride in Pac-12 play.

Utah’s defense contributed to a 15-point win over No. 9 Arizona to begin conference play, and the team has held its conference opponents to just 23.3% shooting from beyond the arc.

“Hopefully, that’s law of averages got to go against them on Thursday, so we just got to make some shots,” Cronin said. “But you know, when you defend the way they’re defending, you’re giving yourself a chance every night.”

Despite clinching wins against both its ranked opponents of the season, Colorado has only won one game on the road and is .500 in conference play thus far.

Cronin said winning these types of home games is integral to building a high-level program.

“If you’re going to build a program that competes for your league title, you must win at home,” Cronin said.

The Bruins will rest up before they suit up for their conference matchup against the Utes on Thursday at 8 p.m.

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Amelie Ionescu | Assistant Sports editor
Ionescu is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
Ionescu is currently an assistant Sports editor on the men's volleyball, women's volleyball, swim and dive and rowing beats. She was previously a contributor on the women's tennis beat.
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