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UCLA men’s basketball splashes season-high 11 3s to defeat Stanford

Freshman guard Sebastian Mack eyes the court during UCLA men’s basketball’s matchup with UC Riverside. Against Stanford on Wednesday night, Mack tallied a game-high 21 points and was 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)

Men’s basketball


By Gavin Carlson

Feb. 7, 2024 9:09 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 8 at 8:57 p.m.

The Bruins and Cardinal faced off inside Pauley Pavilion just over a month ago.

UCLA scored 53 points in its first conference home loss in front of fans since January 2020. It then lost again three days later for its first winless homestand against the Bay Area schools in nearly two decades.

Shooting a combined 5-of-23 from behind the arc in both games and falling to 6-9 in the process, the Bruins’ season outlook went from concerning to bleak.

But in a month’s time, newfound 3-point success was the key to redemption in Palo Alto and the team’s first four-game win streak of the season. 

Behind a season-high 11 triples, UCLA men’s basketball (12-11, 7-5 Pac-12) scored its most points in a game all season in an 82-74 road win over Stanford (11-11, 6-6) on Wednesday night. Freshman guard Sebastian Mack scored 21 points – including a career-high four 3-pointers – as the Bruins outlasted the Cardinal late to earn their sixth win in their last seven Pac-12 contests.

Coach Mick Cronin told reporters after the game that the 3-point shooting differential was key to the victory.

“We win 33-12, so it’s nice to be on the positive end – a 21-point differential,” Cronin said. “Our game plan was to do everything we could to eliminate their 3-point shooting.”

The 3-point line quickly became the Bruins’ home, picking up a 12-point advantage from beyond the arc to take a 35-33 lead into halftime before then using it again for an early second-half cushion. 

Following a midrange jumper from sophomore guard Will McClendon to open the Bruins’ second-half scoring, Mack hit a pair of triples in less than a minute for the second time, as part of a 13-4 UCLA run. 

McClendon – who finished the contest with a career-high 13 points – capped off the 2 1/2 minute run with the third 3-pointer of the stretch to give the Bruins a 48-40 lead with 16:44 left in the game.

“It’s all about being the underdog and having that grit coming into every game,” McClendon said. “A lot of people have been counting us out. We had a rocky start.”

But the Cardinal had an immediate answer to the early second-half run.

Stanford responded to UCLA’s spurt with a 10-1 run in less than five minutes to turn the eight-point Bruin lead into a one-point advantage for the Cardinal. Mack missed four of five free throws during the stretch, and UCLA shot 0-of-3 with a pair of McClendon turnovers as its lead quickly vanished.

Then – after nearly 30 minutes of Mack leading the charge – the Bruins’ three veteran starters took the baton to finish off the high-scoring race in Palo Alto.

The trio of Andrews, sophomore forward/center Adem Bona and junior guard Lazar Stefanovic combined for 22 of UCLA’s 33 points over the final 11:24 of the contest.

Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona crouches with the ball. Despite fouling out against the Cardinal, Bona nearly recorded a double-double with 16 points and eight assists. (Myka Fromm/Assistant Photo editor)

Bona capped off his own 5-0 run with a two-handed slam off an Andrews assist to put the Bruins up 54-50. The 6-foot-10 big ultimately finished with 16 points and eight rebounds before fouling out.

“We try to play through Adem – it’s no secret – we’re better when we do,” Cronin said. “He draws so much attention, he puts a lot of pressure on the other team’s defense. … He’s become a really good passer, we’ve got guys out there playing H-O-R-S-E.”

Following McClendon’s third triple of the contest and two more free throws from Bona, Andrews responded to a 1-of-7 first half with eight points in the final 7:07 of the game. Stefanovic added five of his 10 points in the final six minutes and UCLA made its final 12 free throw attempts after starting 11-of-18 from the charity stripe.

The Bruins failed to score more than 30 points in either half against the Cardinal last month but needed just over 11 minutes to do so on Wednesday night and ice a victory in their highest-scoring contest of the season.

“We had a bunch of young guys – we talked about it was going to be a process,” Bona said. “It’s just exciting to see, it’s coming together now.”

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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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