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UCLA men’s basketball ends 14-game win streak with loss to Arizona

Junior guard Jaylen Clark dribbles around a Utah defender on Jan. 12. Clark notched a double-double Saturday afternoon, but No. 5 UCLA men’s basketball’s 14-game win streak snapped at the hands of Arizona. (Jason Zhu/Daily Bruin staff)

Men’s basketball


No. 5 UCLA52
No. 11 Arizona58

By Jon Christon

Jan. 21, 2023 1:34 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 22 at 10:31 p.m.

The same script has repeated itself over and over for the Bruins. 

Low-scoring, slugfest first halves are followed by just enough toughness and grit – and some improved offense – to win the game for UCLA. Coach Mick Cronin and company have followed that plan for 14 consecutive victories.

On Saturday, however, that story didn’t get its usual ending – despite a late rally.  

Thirty-five minutes of lethargic play doomed No. 5 UCLA men’s basketball (17-3, 8-1 Pac-12) on Saturday afternoon, snapping its 14-game winning streak with a 58-52 loss to No. 11 Arizona (17-3, 6-3) in the McKale Center. 

The Bruins’ 11-4 run to close the game proved too little, too late. 

Facing its largest deficit of the season late in hostile territory, Cronin turned to his patented press defense to rattle his opponent – and rattle the Wildcats it did. Turnover after turnover led to layup after layup. 

However, despite scoring eight unanswered at the rim, the press couldn’t raise the Bruins out of the hole they dug earlier in the game. 

The contest marked UCLA’s second-worst shooting performance under Cronin, with the Bruins shooting only 31.3% from the field. This poor shooting started with yet another boxing match of a first half that looked eerily similar to UCLA’s start versus Arizona State on Thursday.

Only three points separated the Bruins and Wildcats entering the halftime locker room, with the home team holding the advantage. The blue and gold limited the Pac-12’s top offense to just 26 points, but scored only 23 itself. The two teams combined to shoot just over 30% through the opening 20 minutes.

Arizona’s interior play proved to be the difference early. Center Oumar Ballo time and again wreaked havoc down low, finishing the first half with 10 free throws and six forced fouls drawn on freshman forward Adem Bona and redshirt senior forward/center Kenneth Nwuba combined. 

Eventually, the Wildcats’ perimeter offense rounded into form, with guards Kerr Kriisa and Courtney Ramey knocking down the team’s first two triples of the second half. Down low, forward Azuolas Tubelis took over where Ballo left off and continued Arizona’s post prowess.

UCLA’s offense, meanwhile, was still missing in action. 

The Bruins shot worse to begin the second half than they did in the opening frame. UCLA made only four of its first 17 field goal attempts out of the locker room and trailed by as much as 12 through the half’s first 10 minutes. 

When UCLA eventually did find a rhythm offensively, Arizona countered every punch. 

A 3-pointer from redshirt freshman guard Will McClendon cut the deficit to nine, and redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell had a chance to make it six with a 3 of his own. But his missed triple led to a fastbreak runout that ended with a Bona goaltend. 

Bona later missed a dunk on what could have been a 3-point play, and Arizona quickly followed it up with a Ramey 3 that gave UCLA its largest deficit of the season at 13 points. 

UCLA would get within four, but a missed 3 and a missed layup from senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. halted any chance of a miraculous comeback. 

Four Bruins scored in double figures, but the rest of the team combined for just four points on 15.4% shooting. The 52 points as a team were a season low for the blue and gold. 

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Jon Christon | Sports senior staff
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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