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UCLA men’s basketball will face Oregon State, Oregon to start conference play

UCLA men’s basketball sophomore forward/center Adem Bona guards an Oregon player during last season’s contest between the two teams. The Bruins will face the Ducks in their second game of Pac-12 play on Saturday after opening the conference slate against Oregon State on Thursday. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men's basketball


Oregon State
Thursday, 7 p.m.

Corvallis
Pac-12 Networks
Oregon
Saturday, 1 p.m.

Eugene
CBS

By Grace Whitaker

Dec. 28, 2023 12:05 p.m.

The Bruins are heading into conference play with a losing record for the first time in the coach Mick Cronin era.

In fact, this is the first time the squad has entered Pac-12 play under .500 in 14 years.

UCLA men’s basketball (5-6) will head north for contests against Oregon State (8-3) and Oregon (8-3) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, to begin conference action. Dropping their past four games and facing back-to-back home losses, the Bruins snapped their 29-game home winning streak.

Cronin said he believes his team has forfeited its confidence.

“Clearly we don’t have a go-to guy. Yes, we need to get more out of Adem (sophomore forward/center Adem Bona),” Cronin said. “But we have a confidence problem, it’s very clear to me.”

UCLA retained Bona as the only starter from last season along with a slew of bench players who averaged a maximum of 12.5 individual minutes per game.

Freshman guard Sebastian Mack has since emerged as the Bruins’ leading scorer in UCLA’s last three games en route to winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week – but the guard is also second on the team in turnovers thus far with 21.

As the new team begins to find its rhythm, sophomore guard Dylan Andrews said the group has been watching some film from the 2022-2023 season to visualize team chemistry on the court and its defensive benefits.

“We watch a lot of film, especially on the last year’s team showing how it wasn’t one guy … and if he gets beat, he has faith and trust in his other guys that they’re going to be there,” Andrews said. “And so that’s what we’re working on with our team.”

Defensively, UCLA has faced first-half deficits in the initial moments of the game, trailing at the break in its last two games. Additionally, the Bruins have forfeited more than 15 points off turnovers in three of their last four contests.

“We got to come out swinging first. We can’t take the back seat to things,” Mack said. “We get hit first and we got to show some toughness, some manlihood and just not letting that happen anymore.”

As for its first two opponents of Pac-12 play, UCLA will face two unranked opponents in Oregon State and Oregon, with each boasting eight wins thus far. Similar to the Bruins, neither the Beavers nor the Ducks have been able to surmount a ranked opponent during this campaign.

With UCLA’s growing confidence problems, Cronin said each player is looking to the man to his right to fix it, and he hopes someone steps up with conference looming in the very near distance.

“It just seems like everybody’s looking for the next guy to do it, would be my opinion,” Cronin said.

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Grace Whitaker | Sports senior staff
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
Whitaker is currently a senior staff writer on the football, men's basketball and women's basketball beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and beach volleyball beats.
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