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UCLA men’s basketball’s 22-4 run in the first half powers it past USC

UCLA men’s basketball sophomore guard Dylan Andrews rises for a layup against USC guard Oziyah Sellers. Andrews led the Bruins with 20 points Saturday night. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

Men’s basketball


UCLA65
USC50

By Grace Whitaker

Jan. 27, 2024 8:18 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 28 at 11:38 p.m. 

The Bruins were facing a deficit when two players entered the game and caused the tide to turn. 

Freshmen forward Devin Williams and center Aday Mara, who average 3.2 and 11.7 minutes per game, respectively, spurred UCLA’s guards to accelerate onto a 22-4 run thanks to their height in the paint. 

“Aday and Devin really changed the rhythm of the game,” said coach Mick Cronin.

The Bruins’ ensuing 11-point lead was ultimately unrecoverable for the Trojans.

Buoyed by 20 points from sophomore guard Dylan Andrews, UCLA men’s basketball (9-11, 4-5 Pac-12) defeated USC (8-12, 2-7) at the Galen Center for the first time in the Cronin era Saturday night. The Bruins out-rebounded their opponents 43-29, with a 15-7 discrepancy on offensive boards.

Despite winning three of the last four games, Cronin said he is still looking for more from his group.

“We did what we needed to do. We just keep focusing on trying to get better,” Cronin said. “Obviously, we feel we should have won four in a row. So it is where it’s at.”

But before Williams and Mara checked in, the rival schools began their nights in complementary fashion. 

Back-to-back baskets from Andrews broke the scoring seal in the opening minutes. But they were quickly countered by USC guard Boogie Ellis’ two consecutive 3-pointers. Across the rest of the game, Andrews inflated his total to 20 points, whereas Ellis added only one more.

Junior guard Lazar Stefanovic said Andrews’ offensive power spurred the team and referenced a necessity to continue that stride.

“It was amazing,” Stefanovic said. “When he goes out there, he’s confident, he tries to make the right play and he’s amazing for us. We need him. We need him for the rest of the year to play like that.”

Eight minutes into the half, Andrews drove to the basket with an ensuing layup in sight. But guard Bronny James blocked the shot attempt and said something to Andrews within earshot of the referee. Whatever was said warranted a technical foul on James. 

The following free throws put UCLA up three points, but a succeeding 10-2 run from USC sent the Bruins into a five-point hole. In addition to the run, USC recorded eight blocks across the half, largely thanks to having eight players at 6 feet, 6 inches tall, or above.

Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona reaches for the ball on a rebound attempt. Bona finished with a double-double against the Trojans. (Brandon Morquecho/Assistant Photo editor)

It was then that Cronin opted to send Williams and Mara – players who measure in at 6 feet, 10 inches, and 7 feet, 3 inches, respectively – into the game in response.

The decision quickly paid off. 

The rotation enabled UCLA’s 22-4 run and secured its 11-point lead, the second largest of the game to that point. 

With the space Williams’ and Mara’s height provided, sophomore guard Will McClendon was able to record two 3-pointers in two minutes while Andrews claimed seven of his 12 points in the first half. The stretch put UCLA ahead by 11 at halftime, a lead it would not forfeit for the remainder of the contest. 

“My teammates are always telling me, ‘Man, we trust you,’” Andrews said. “So it just felt good to see the ball go in the basket today.”

The Bruins maintained their lead throughout the second half, with Andrews steadily increasing his total to 18 with nine minutes to go and sophomore forward/center Adem Bona adding a pair of substantial offensive plays.

The first was a dunk six minutes into the second half, and the second was an and-1 basket less than two minutes later. 

“Everyone was 100% locked in today, and we loved it,” Bona said. “It was amazing to see.” 

Andrews’ 20-point clip alongside double-digit scoring performances from Bona and Stefanovic ensured that if this contest had involved a Victory Bell, the trophy would’ve remained within UCLA’s care.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Bona said. “Last year we came in, we gave up our lead. I wasn’t going to let that happen this year.”

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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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