The Bruins use weekend sweep to remain in first place in the Pac-12
February 9, 2023
The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team got just what they needed this past weekend. After back-to back losses on the road to Arizona and USC, the Bruins returned home for games at Pauley Pavilion against the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars, bouncing back from the losses with a much-needed sweep of the visitors to hold on to first place in the Pac-12.
The Bruins defeated the Huskies on February 2, 70-61, using a stiff first-half defense to build a lead that they never relinquished. The Bruins led from start-to-finish and built a 30-12 lead with about five minutes remaining in the first half. At that point of the game, the only question seemed to be, “would the Bruins win by 30 points?”
As it turned out, the Huskies kept chipping away at the lead and got it down to seven points with about four minutes to go in the game and had a chance to cut it to four with 3:30 left in the game, but Husky forward Keion Brooks missed a three-pointer, and they could never get closer than seven again. The Bruins had a much-needed win, but not one that was pleasing to watch.
The Bruins offensively looked stagnant in the second half. For the game, UCLA had 18 turnovers in the game, well above their average of 10.5 turnovers per game. The Huskies had 20 turnovers in the game. The Bruins are second in the nation in turnover margin at 6.3 per game. Bruin head coach Mick Cronin was not pleased about much of anything after the Huskie game.
“When guys turn the ball over, they do happen in the course of the game, but when you’re throwing passes at people’s feet and Nolan Ryan fastballs off the glass, you think you’re going to win anyway and you’re, in my opinion, tonight, just screwing around. In doing that, all you do is make yourself look bad, really bad,” Cronin said.
But Cronin was not pleased with the media, either. “We’re 18-4, in every metric that matters we’re in the top-five in the nation, and we don’t buy players. So, I think everybody should be happy if you’re a UCLA fan, and I’m happy. I’m not happy about the turnovers,” Cronin said. “Are we supposed to win every game by 30? Washington practices, they have a winning record, they’ve won four of their last five. They lost by three at Arizona, they won at Colorado.”
In the game against the Huskies, the Bruins were led by forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. with 15 points and ten rebounds. Freshman sensation Adam Bona added 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. The Bruins won the rebounding battle, 36-23. The Huskies were led by Brooks, who had 23 points in the game. Brooks is the leading scorer for the Huskies at 18.3 points per game.
It was obvious that Cronin got his message across for the Saturday evening contest against the Washington State Cougars at Pauley Pavilion. Jaquez Jr. had 24 points and 15 rebounds in leading the Bruins to an impressive 76-52 win over the Cougars. The Bruins held the Cougars scoreless for 5:11 of the second half, stretching a 46-38 lead to 59-38.
Cougar forward Mohamed Gueye was coming off a 31 point effort against USC and had scored 24 points in the Cougars upset victory over the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on January 26, but was held to just six points by the Bruins defense.
The sweep of the Huskies and the Cougars gives the Bruins a 19-4 record for the season. The Bruins are currently ranked at No. 7 in the nation in the Associated Press poll and are ranked at No. 5 in the NCAA Net rankings. The Bruins are in a good position to earn a No. 1 or No. 2 seeding in the NCAA Tournament if they can hold onto first place in the Pac-12.
The Bruins will return to action this weekend with a Thursday Night matchup with the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis on the Pac-12 Network and a 7 p.m. Saturday Night contest in Eugene against the talented Oregon Ducks. That game will be televised on ESPN.