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UCLA men’s basketball falls to Villanova following second-half scoring drought

Coach Mick Cronin directs his team from the sidelines. UCLA men’s basketball lost its first true road game Saturday night, falling to Villanova in Philadelphia. (Eden Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

Men’s basketball


By Gavin Carlson

Dec. 9, 2023 7:15 p.m.

Villanova guard Jordan Longino attempted a jump shot with 45 seconds left as the shot clock wound down.

As it had done all night, UCLA’s defense made its presence known, with redshirt sophomore guard Will McClendon’s tight contest forcing an airball on the late-game shot.

But in a contest defined by poor shooting performances, that missed shot ironically resulted in a game-sealing score for the Wildcats.

With one second left on the shot clock and 40 seconds remaining in the game, guard TJ Bamba caught the air ball in midair and converted a layup for a late six-point lead in Villanova’s (7-4) 65-56 win over UCLA men’s basketball (5-3) on Saturday night. Despite holding the Wildcats to 32.8% shooting from the field for the game, the Bruins’ own offensive struggles down the stretch – including a nearly five-minute scoring drought – were too much to overcome in Philadelphia.

The first half featured a flurry of runs sparked by struggling offenses.

With the game knotted at seven early, UCLA missed seven straight shots to allow a 6-0 Villanova run. The Bruins started the evening shooting 3-of-15 from the field to fall behind 13-7 midway through the first half.

But then it was the Wildcats’ turn to shut down offensively.

Villanova missed 13 consecutive field goals to completely silence the Wells Fargo Center crowd, while guard Dylan Andrews helped bring his offense to life.

Following the sophomore’s heroics in UCLA’s victory over UC Riverside – including 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and the game winning shot with three seconds left – Andrews sat at zero points through the opening 12 1/2 minutes on Saturday.

But he rapidly became the Bruins’ leading scorer, draining a pair of triples in the midst of a 10-0 run to give UCLA a 17-13 lead with 6:44 to play.

Another basket from the 6-foot-2 guard put the the Bruins back up four with less than five minutes left in the first half, but the game’s opening period still had a pair of runs left in it – seven points in a row for Villanova before UCLA recorded 10 of its own.

Even with all the runs, neither team exceeded 30 points in the opening 20 minutes as the Bruins took a 29-25 lead into the break.

Junior guard Lazar Stefanovic looks to his right while holding the ball. Stefanovic had nine points late in the game – and a team-high 14 overall – but couldn’t power the Bruins to a win over the Wildcats. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

The game’s low-scoring personality continued through the majority of the second half, as the Bruins trailed by one possession with 11:43 remaining in the game despite making just four field goals to that point. 

The contest’s theme of runs resumed from there.

UCLA went on a 7-0 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes, capped off by an and-1 finish from sophomore forward/center Adem Bona. The 6-foot-10, 245-pound big man followed the finish with a flex of his right arm from the floor before converting the ensuing free throw attempt to put the Bruins up 45-41.

But the Wildcats found their touch from behind the arc to spark the largest scoring spurt of the game that proved decisive.

After only making seven of their first 30 3-pointers, the Wildcats made three of their next four from deep to complete an 11-0 run and turn the four-point deficit into a 52-45 lead with 4:47 left.

Junior guard Lazar Stefanovic put an end to the run with a jumper. Despite Stefanovic’s nine points in the final 3 1/2 of the game, a 3-pointer and subsequent jumper from Longino helped the Wildcats hand the Bruins their third loss of the nascent season and break a losing streak of their own.

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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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