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UCLA men’s basketball crushed by Utah in second-biggest loss of all time

Coach Mick Cronin (left) eyes the floor as sophomore forward/center Adem Bona (right) walks off the court. Bona had four fouls and four points in UCLA men’s basketball’s loss Thursday. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

Men’s basketball


UCLA44
Utah90

By Grace Whitaker

Jan. 11, 2024 8:56 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 12 at 10:43 a.m. 

One record in the history of UCLA and Utah matchups was broken Thursday night in Salt Lake City. 

The previous record for the Bruins’ biggest loss to the Utes was shattered by 14 points as Utah outscored UCLA 57-21 in the second half en route to a 46-point win. 

The loss proved the second worst in program history – two points short of tying for the largest margin of defeat.

UCLA men’s basketball (6-10, 1-4 Pac-12) was steamrolled 90-44 by Utah (12-4, 3-2). In addition to being outscored, UCLA’s 3-point woes persisted with an overall clip of 17.6% as the team was out-rebounded 50-28.

Coach Mick Cronin told reporters he knows how to rebuild a team from a spot similar to this one.

“I’ve been here before,” Cronin said. “It’s been a while, but I’ve been here before.” 

Both teams were plagued by lackluster 3-point shooting throughout the majority of the first half. Across the first 15 minutes of the game, each program made only one basket behind the arc, with UCLA notching a 17% 3-point clip and Utah an even worse 13%. The initial scoring misfortunes kept the Bruins within reach of the Utes and even allowed them to tie the game early in the half. 

Eventually, Utah recovered its deep scoring capabilities.

UCLA, on the other hand, did not. 

In the final five minutes of the first half, Utah burst ahead, inflating the score to a 12-point lead off the back of an 11-2 scoring run featuring three made 3-pointers. The surge – only answered by two jump shots from the Bruins – allowed the Utes to enter halftime with a 10-point advantage. 

The run would be neither Utah’s last nor its largest of the game.

Cronin said beyond Utah’s scoring success, UCLA’s lack of rebounding played a significant role in his team’s demise.

“It could have easily been a two-, four-point game at halftime, but their made shots just broke our back,” Cronin said. “You keep going down and missing wide-open shots, and they keep going down and making them. … But even when they missed them, I would contend that the score is a result of our lack of defensive rebounding.”

Out of the locker room, Utah center Lawson Lovering collected two personal fouls on back-to-back possessions. Lovering added a third on the ensuing play, sending freshman guard Sebastian Mack to the charity stripe to chip away at the Bruins’ deficit. 

Immediately following Mack’s free throws, Utah entered a 15-0 run, claiming a 21-point lead over UCLA – the largest of the game thus far.

Cronin (right) talks to junior guard Lazar Stefanovic (middle) during a game. Stefanovic transferred from Utah before this season, scoring eight points in his return to Salt Lake City. The Bruins’ loss to the Utes was the worst of the season and second worst in team history. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona provided a jumper to minimize the gap, but Utah’s dominance persisted, scoring 10 more points in under two minutes to extend the lead to 29 points. The run totaled 25-2 in just under seven minutes of play.

To add to its success on the scoreboard, Utah also led 38-22 on rebounds with just over 11 minutes of playtime left in the contest.

“I just feel like we got a little manhandled today, and it turned into a pride thing at a certain point,” said sophomore guard Dylan Andrews. “We have to be better. We can’t give up those second-chance points.”

Answering his earlier foul trouble, Lovering completed an and-1 play to stretch the Utes’ lead to 31 points. As the second half persisted, Utah’s scoring never ceased, and it closed the contest with a 57-point second half on 40.6% shooting from behind the arc, over double UCLA’s 17.6% figure.

In the last two minutes of the contest, the Bruins added a pair of baskets to surmount the 40-point threshold, but the game had already been decided.

Junior guard Lazar Stefanovic said UCLA’s list of needed improvements extends beyond skills on the court.

“We’ve got to watch, we’ve got to learn from it. We’ve got to play tougher, rebound the ball, effort has to be better,” Stefanovic said. “We have to be better in every aspect of the game – we can’t let that happen.”

Utah’s win handed UCLA its fourth loss in a row – and second largest of all time.

With another game three days away, Cronin said his plan was simple. 

“Back to the drawing board.”

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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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