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Comeback win over Colorado earns UCLA men’s basketball Pac-12 regular-season title

Senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. celebrates during a home game against Colorado in January. No. 4 UCLA men’s basketball came back in the second half to take down Colorado in Boulder on Sunday afternoon. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

Men’s basketball

No. 4 UCLA60

By Gavin Carlson

Feb. 26, 2023 4:18 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 26 at 9:31 p.m.

With less than a minute to play, the Bruins were one defensive stop away from sole possession of their first Pac-12 regular-season title since 2013. 

The Buffaloes had given the blue and gold trouble all afternoon in front of their raucous home crowd, and after a UCLA miss, Colorado raced down the floor with a chance to tie or take the lead late in its valiant upset bid.

But when guard Buffalo KJ Simpson attempted a game-tying floater with 18 seconds left, freshman forward Adem Bona swatted the shot all the way to the other side of the floor. Redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell scooped up the loose ball and found freshman guard Amari Bailey for a two-handed slam to earn the Bruins a title 10 years in the making.

No. 4 UCLA men’s basketball (25-4, 16-2 Pac-12) secured outright ownership of the Pac-12 regular-season championship with two games to spare after eking out a 60-56 win over Colorado (15-15, 7-12) on Sunday. The Bruins overcame a 10-point first-half deficit and 1-of-14 shooting from behind the arc to seal the deal in front of a rowdy Buffalo crowd.

After a quiet first half from UCLA’s starting backcourt, Bailey and Campbell carried the Bruins to a strong offensive start to the second half.

UCLA went on a 7-0 run in less than 90 seconds, featuring an acrobatic finish from Bailey before Campbell earned the Bruins’ first lead since the opening minute of the game with a mid-range jumper and 3-pointer to extend UCLA’s advantage to 35-30. 

Bailey then responded to a Colorado score with a free throw and mid-range jumper to put the blue and gold up six. After scoring a combined three points on 1-of-8 shooting in the first half, the starting backcourt scored all 10 points of the run on 4-of-6 shooting.

Redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell elevates for a layup. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

But when the backcourt got it going, the rest of the Bruin squad went cold.

UCLA missed its next seven field goal attempts and was limited to just six points on free throws over the next seven minutes. The Buffaloes outscored the Bruins 12-6 over the stretch to tie the game, taking their first lead since the beginning of the half with a 3-point make to go up 49-48 with less than five minutes to play. 

With UCLA trailing 53-52 with 3:10 to play, Bona and senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. drew fouls and each split a pair of free throws while Campbell continued his stellar second half with a step-back jumper to extend the Bruins’ lead to 56-53 with 1:22 remaining. 

Thanks to Bona’s block, UCLA would hold on from there to claim the Pac-12 title.

But the eventual victory didn’t come without a slugfest of a first half for the blue and gold.

After Jaquez kicked off the scoring Sunday with an alley-oop dunk, Colorado responded with an 11-0 run to ignite the home crowd.

The Bruins turned the ball over four times and missed their next nine shot attempts during the four-minute Buffalo run to fall to 1-of-11 shooting from the field, trailing 11-2 after the opening five minutes.

The UCLA deficit reached as large as 10 after a Colorado 3-pointer with 7:55 left in the first half. But the Bruins outscored the Buffaloes 17-9 the rest of the way before the break.

Junior guard Jaylen Clark helped ignite a four-minute, 10-2 run during the stretch with a pair of free throws followed by a steal and fastbreak layup off the forced turnover. Shortly after, Jaquez scored back-to-back buckets in the paint, including a jump hook off the glass just moments after appearing to twist his right ankle.

Jaquez’s ankle didn’t appear to bother him during the second half, however, as he added seven points in the final 20 minutes of his 17-point performance to lead UCLA to the title-securing victory. Campbell and Bailey finished with 14 and 11 points, respectively, including a combined 22 in the second half.

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Gavin Carlson | Sports staff
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
Carlson is currently a staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. He was previously a reporter on the softball and men's golf beats.
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