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UCLA men’s basketball ends regular season with comeback victory over Arizona State

Sophomore Adem Bona soars over his defender for a dunk. The forward/center garnered a double-double Saturday night with 20 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

Men’s Basketball


Arizona State47
UCLA59

By Benjamin Royer

March 9, 2024 10:35 p.m.

This post was updated March 10 at 10:27 p.m.

“Go,” Mick Cronin yelled from the bench, attempting to spark the offense.

It didn’t help.

Brick after brick, the Bruins only scored six points – one 3-pointer from junior guard Lazar Stefanovic – across the first 10 minutes of the second half.

“I’ve never spent this much time yelling at guys to shoot,” the fifth-year coach said.

Down nine, with time beginning to slip away and the message to fire away, the shots began to rattle in.

A 3-pointer from freshman guard Sebastian Mack? Drained. 

A jumper from sophomore guard Dylan Andrews? Knocked down. 

Stefanovic’s fourth beyond-the-arc bucket of the game? Swish.

Arizona State’s lead quickly became just two. And the score kept rolling in the Bruins’ favor.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Andrews and Mack provided UCLA men’s basketball (15-16, 10-10 Pac-12) a four-point advantage with under five minutes remaining – a lead it would not relinquish en route to a 59-47 comeback victory over Arizona State (14-17, 8-12) at Pauley Pavilion. Saturday night was UCLA’s best defensive effort since the 2024 season opener – holding its opponents to a sub-50 mark for the first time since November.

“The last five games, the defense wasn’t as well – we didn’t play as well,” Stefanovic said. “That was a big focus in practice yesterday: ‘How are we going to defend them, and what are we going to do better?’ So we came out, and when it was most important, we did a good job.”

Lazar Stefanovic locks his eyes on the basket as he rises for a jumper. UCLA’s junior guard recorded a game-high 83.3% shooting from beyond the arc Saturday night. (Jeremy Chen/Photo editor)

The Sun Devils shot 22.7% from the field in the second half and only converted 35.7% of their 14 free throws in the frame, allowing the Bruins to take an advantage. UCLA held Arizona State to just four points over the last 9 1/2 minutes of the game.

Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona recorded a double-double, grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds and scoring six of his 20 team-leading points in the second half – four of which put the game out of reach for the Sun Devils.

Both teams, however, entered the contest in attempts to turn the curve after suffering losses.

At first, it appeared UCLA was in a deep hangover from its wipeout defeat to No. 5 Arizona – allowing Arizona State, the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference, to sink three 3s from the get-go to stumble into the under-16 timeout down 13-5.

For the Bruins, Bona was a swift cure – scoring 14 of his team’s first 23 points. 

A strip, a steal and a Bona slam on back-to-back possessions helped lead the Bruins to a 12-0, almost eight-minute run to put them up 10.

“He was just on a dunk-a-thon,” Cronin said.

But once the former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year left the floor with his second foul and 5:53 remaining in the first, UCLA’s wheels fell off its bicycle.

The Sun Devils outscored the Bruins by 14 from 8:50 onward, holding them scoreless from the field over the last 4 1/2 minutes.

“In the first half I didn’t shoot the ball too good,” Andrews said. “But I knew for a fact that I couldn’t let that carry, bring down my confidence or anything, so I knew I just had to get stops on defense.”

And as the defense turned rock solid in the final 10 minutes, the rest of the Bruin offense woke up. 

UCLA shot 63.6% from beyond the arc, with Andrews, Mack and Stefanovic combining for seven 3s to put the final touches on the last Pac-12 regular season game in history. Stefanovic ended the night second only to Bona, tallying 16 points on 50% shooting and shooting 5-of-6 from deep.

With the win, UCLA secured the No. 5 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and will face off against No. 12 seed Oregon State in the first round. Cronin said defensive intensity is the anchor to his team’s success Wednesday and beyond.

“It’s the only way we’re going to win,” Cronin said. “We have to defend. I mean, that’s just the way we have to do it. We’re not beating anybody 85-80.”

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Benjamin Royer | Alumnus
Royer was the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was also a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats in 2022-2023. He studied communication and graduated in 2024.
Royer was the 2023-2024 Assistant Sports editor on the baseball, gymnastics and men's water polo beats and a reporter on the football beat. He was also a staff writer on the baseball, football and gymnastics beats in 2022-2023. He studied communication and graduated in 2024.
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