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UCLA men’s basketball to head to Arizona after snapping losing streak

Sophomore guard Dylan Andrews dribbles the ball while pointing to his left. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)

Men's basketball


Arizona State
Wednesday, 6 p.m.

Desert Financial Arena
Pac-12 Networks
Arizona
Saturday, 1 p.m.

McKale Center
ESPN2

By Grace Whitaker

Jan. 17, 2024 12:53 p.m.

Standing in front of the Bruins’ opportunity to equalize their conference record are two of the top teams in the conference.

Off the heels of snapping its four-game losing streak, UCLA men’s basketball (7-10, 2-4 Pac-12) will hit the road again, this time to go head-to-head with Arizona State (10-6, 4-1) on Wednesday and No. 12 Arizona (12-4, 3-2) on Saturday. The Sun Devils and the Wildcats sit at second and fourth in the conference, respectively, while the Bruins are third from the bottom.

On Sunday, UCLA picked up its second conference win against Washington. In that contest, the Bruins exceeded their season 3-point shooting percentage of 28.2% by 50% while going 6-for-14 against the Huskies. They also totaled 20 assists, eight of which came from sophomore guard Dylan Andrews, just one fewer than their season-high.

“It’s always a great feeling to get back in the win column but especially how we did it, we did it with a lot of passing,” said redshirt sophomore guard Will McClendon. “That was big for us because we haven’t had that many assists in a while.”

Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona put up 22 points to secure his second-highest scoring mark all season, just six points behind his season-high set in the first game of the year.

Coach Mick Cronin said one of the larger reasons behind Bona’s success was his increase in asking for the ball.

“We’ve been begging him to get better at it, and he’s going to have to continue in that area,” Cronin said. “But I think our passing was better as well.”

Ironically enough, the Bruins’ improvement in passing comes one week before facing the Pac-12’s leader in steals per game, with Arizona State guard Frankie Collins boasting an average of 3.1 takeaways each contest. In addition to the steals, the Sun Devils also force their opponents to turn the ball over an average of 14.3 times per game.

Andrews said to secure a win on Wednesday, the team will need to prioritize maintaining possession.

“They’re a very scrappy team, also a vet (veteran) team,” Andrews said. “And we know that they like to get after it, and we do too. We have to make sure we handle the ball and especially limit turnovers.”

After facing Arizona State, UCLA will travel down to Tucson to play Arizona, one of the top-15 programs in the nation. Despite facing recent difficulties within the conference with two Pac-12 losses, the Wildcats retained a spot in the rankings due to a series of quality wins against now-No. 7 Duke and now-No. 11 Wisconsin.

Cronin said one win against Washington can’t turn around an entire program, but the steps made are leading the Bruins to get better.

“We’re a young team, we’ve got to stay together and keep trying to learn and get better,” Cronin said. “I think what was different the other day (Sunday against Washington) was we played better defense, we were able to shoot 50% from the field.”

Given that 80% of the team is underclassmen, Cronin said ball control this weekend is essential within the guards, despite the lack of experience.

“The answer is you’ve got to take care of the ball,” Cronin said. “Young team like ours in this environment, with a team that does a great job of harassing you and making you uncomfortable, so that in this game on Wednesday is by far the most important thing.”

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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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