UCLA men’s basketball to test home winning streak in season opener
Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona (middle) shouts in the direction of former Arizona guard Kerr Kriisa (left), while former UCLA men’s basketball guard Amari Bailey (right) celebrates. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 4, 2023 2:21 p.m.
This post was updated Nov. 6 at 1:09 a.m.
The last time the Bruins lost a game in Pauley Pavilion, there were no fans to send home sulking.
It was Jan. 13, 2022, and the stands stood empty of spectators as a COVID-19 pandemic precaution.
Nearly two years later, the Bruins possess the longest home winning streak in the nation.
“It’s what you have to do if you want to be an elite program,” said coach Mick Cronin in the preseason.
UCLA men’s basketball’s 25-game streak will be tested for the first time this season Monday night when it faces Saint Francis. The men’s team is set to tip off at 8:30 p.m., slotting in as part two of a doubleheader after the women’s season opener at 5:30 p.m. against Purdue.
When they face the Red Flash, the Bruins will have two key players at their disposal: sophomore forward/center Adem Bona and freshman center Aday Mara.
The NCAA has officially cleared Mara to play, as announced by UCLA Athletics on Nov. 3. While Cronin held Bona out of Tuesday’s exhibition game against Cal State Dominguez Hills as a precaution for a shoulder injury sustained in March, he diffused uncertainty regarding Bona’s status for the regular season.
“I expect to see Adem at the opening tip Monday,” Cronin said after Tuesday’s exhibition. “There will be no suspense.”
Cronin was forced to play an eight-man rotation, but with the addition of the two bigs, the horizons broaden for the Bruins. The fifth-year coach said after Tuesday’s game that he expects to employ taller rotations going forward.
“Tonight we played small and switched. That’s not going to happen,” Cronin said. “You’re going to see lineups with Berke (freshman forward Berke Buyuktuncel), Adem and Aday in the same lineup. That’s the reality, hopefully, so that lineup can be playing zone.”
Before the Bruins even saw the court Tuesday, Bona said there remained no question marks surrounding his attitude in returning to action.
“I’m always ready. If they want to call me, I’m ready,” Bona said.
While UCLA cements player availability in its frontcourt ahead of Monday, its backcourt is noticeably more fluid with the absence of sophomore guard Dylan Andrews.
Freshmen guards Sebastian Mack and Jan Vide shared the point guard position Tuesday, with Mack assuming most of the signal-calling duties en route to 23 points and seven assists in 31 minutes.
“Dylan, when I came here, he taught me a lot of different things about how coach Cronin is and what he expects,” Mack said. “I feel like I needed that big brother, little brother type of relationship. He’s teaching me different things every day.”
Andrews’s status for Monday’s matchup remains unknown. But while the game pieces continue to shift, Cronin said in a preseason Q&A that his goal is unwavering. The Bruins have a record to uphold.
“I need all of us as one to look at that (record) with pride and say, ‘As you’re getting ready to come to games, we’re not going to let this team get out of here with a win,'” Cronin said.