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UCLA men’s basketball fails to avenge Utah, ends win streak in buzzer-beater loss

Junior Lazar Stefanovic dribbles past a Utah defender. The guard put up a season-high 19 points Sunday evening on 8-9 shooting from the charity stripe and snagged eight rebounds for the Bruins. (Megan Cai/Photo editor)

Men’s Basketball


Utah70
UCLA69

By Gavin Carlson

Feb. 18, 2024 7:44 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 19 at 9:28 p.m.

A relatively uneventful first half preceded a 49-8 second-half run that helped the Utes embarrass the Bruins by 46 points Jan. 11.

But it took just 10 minutes Sunday evening for chaos to ensue before an unforgettable finish in the closing seconds.

After a midrange jumper from sophomore guard Dylan Andrews gave UCLA men’s basketball (14-12, 9-6 Pac-12) a one-point lead with 6.6 seconds left, Utah (16-10, 7-8) center Branden Carlson finished a putback layup in the final second to hand the Bruins a 70-69 defeat. 

Sunday’s first half featured freshman guard Sebastian Mack’s flagrant two foul ejection and technicals for each team before the Utes went on to snap UCLA’s six-game winning streak in dramatic fashion.

“It feels horrible,” said junior guard Lazar Stefanovic. “It came down to that last play, but you can count 20 plays down the stretch that we didn’t make that we could have made which would have made a difference.”

Carlson’s game-winner came nearly two hours after being injured by Mack’s first-half infraction.

Just over 10 minutes into the game, Carlson attempted to set a screen on Mack near half court.

Rather than avoiding the screen, Mack threw his right elbow near Carlson’s throat, sending the 7-foot Ute to the floor and the play under review.

When Carlson headed to the locker room with an injury, the referees soon sent Mack following. 

Mack’s foul was upgraded to a flagrant two, ejecting the Bruins’ leading scoring threat with 9:53 left in the half, and Utah proceeded to make four consecutive free throws to tie the game at 16.

Coach Mick Cronin said his team should’ve been able to perform despite Mack’s removal.

“Excuses are for losers – it was still five-on-five. … This is not hockey,” Cronin said. “They weren’t in the penalty. We got to sub somebody in. We didn’t get the job done, and that’s on me.”

Minutes after the ejection, an already-restless Pauley Pavilion crowd erupted when a jumbotron review revealed the officials incorrectly awarded the ball to the Utes. Moments later, the refs handed the Bruin bench a technical foul for disagreeing with the call.

UCLA followed Utah’s technical free throw with a 5-0 run to grab a 26-19 lead before the Utes responded with a 5-0 spurt of their own. 

Then, shortly after Stefanovic scored six consecutive points for the Bruins, the officials handed the Ute coaching staff a technical foul. Stefanovic finished with a season-high 19 points but shot 1-of-8 from deep.

Redshirt sophomore guard Will McClendon drained a midrange jumper on the subsequent possession to give UCLA a 34-32 lead with 12 seconds left. After an ejection and two technicals, just two points separated both sides heading into the halftime break.

Redshirt sophomore guard Will McClendon elevates for a jumpshot. McClendon tallied a near double-double Sunday, with nine points and nine rebounds off the bench. (Megan Cai/Photo editor)

From there, a series of runs initiated the nail-biting finish.

A Carlson 3-pointer completed an early 8-0 spurt for Utah, but UCLA followed another triple from the Utes’ man of the night with a 13-5 run to earn a 57-51 lead with 8:51 on the clock.

In line with the chaos of the game, the Utes regained the lead with a 7-0 run in less than 90 seconds and the game eventually reset at 64-64 with 2:44 left in the contest.

McClendon’s go-ahead 3-pointer broke the tie with less than 2 1/2 minutes to play, but two layups in 60 seconds gave Utah a 68-67 advantage.From there, UCLA put the ball in Andrews’ hands with a chance to score his third game-winning shot of the season.

Eight days after lifting UCLA over California in crunch time, and three months after a buzzer-beater against UC Riverside, Andrews sized up his defender and rose over him for the go-ahead jumper.

But his apparent game-winner was deemed inconsequential in the final seconds, as Utah guard Deivon Smith split Stefanovic and McClendon before throwing up a wild layup attempt over the outstretched arm of sophomore forward/center Adem Bona. 

McClendon said the team failed to execute the plan in the huddle heading into the final play.

“Stay in front of the ball, stop the ball … and rebound,” McClendon said. “Bona did a great job of forcing a tough shot, and usually when your five man stops the ball or goes to block the shot, it leaves a mismatch for the guards and the bigs. We didn’t do our part in blocking out and getting the rebound.” 

The attempt hit off the top of the backboard, and Carlson cleaned up the miss with a putback score to hand UCLA its first loss since Jan. 20 and a failure in its attempt to avenge a 46-point loss.

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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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