how sweet it is
For the third time in as many seasons, UCLA advances to the second week of the NCAA tournament.
The Bruins reached the Sweet 16 again because another trend persisted Saturday at the Golden 1 Center: The final minutes continued to gain time.
After a great Northwestern rally in which the Wildcats erased a 13-point deficit, second-seeded UCLA held off the seventh-seeded Wildcats for a 68-63 second-round victory.
The Bruins’ celebration was muted due to another injury late in the season.
UCLA senior guard David Singleton, whose lone 3-pointer of the night had opened up a late six-point lead, suffered a sprained right ankle when he slipped with 20 seconds left. He had to be helped off the court, but he came back and waved his fingers as he walked away to the cheers of the crowd. He gave reporters a optimistic assessment of your injury:: “I just sprained my ankle. I’m fine.”
Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 24 points, Amari Bailey added 14 and Tyger Campbell had 12 for the Bruins, who pulled away after making all the necessary plays in the final minutes. Campbell tossed the ball into the air after the last second ticked down on the clock.
UCLA (31-5) will play the winner of Sunday’s second-round matchup between Gonzaga and Texas Christian in a regional semifinal Thursday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Boo Buie scored 18 points, Matthew Nicholson had 17 and Chase Audige all 16 of his in the second half for Northwestern (22-12), which had its chances in the biggest game in school history due to a lack of lore. in basketball.
An incredibly intense back-and-forth game was tilting in UCLA’s direction when Singleton buried a 3-pointer to push the Bruins to a 62-56 lead with 1:45 to play after an Adem Bona block hit home. his team possession. Northwestern’s Brooks Barnhizer made two free throws to pull the Wildcats within 62-58.
Northwestern got the ball back after Jaquez hit a hard baseline jumper that went over the rim, but the Wildcats missed two straight shots and Campbell grabbed the rebound with 42 seconds remaining, was fouled and made two shots. free to extend the lead to 64-58. , before Buie made a short shot with 23 seconds remaining.
The Wildcats fouled Singleton, who was in so much pain that he wrapped an arm around coach Tyler Lesher as he walked down the court. UCLA’s Dylan Andrews made both free throws with 20 seconds left before Buie missed a layup, ending the Wildcats’ chances.
A “UCLA!” The chant echoed inside the arena after Andrews’ 3-pointer from the wing pushed the Bruins to a 51-45 lead and capped a 6-0 surge. Just as it had earlier in the second half, Northwestern rallied, making it within 51-50 on a 3-pointer by Buie.
It looked like UCLA might be headed for a blowout when Bailey spun around Buie for a layup to give the Bruins a 41-28 lead early in the second half.
But in a sign of things to come, Jáquez hit a 3-pointer and the Northwestern fans let him hear. Then the Wildcats began to find the rhythm that had eluded them in the first half, going on an 11-2 push to pull within 43-39 and forcing UCLA coach Mick Cronin to call timeout while Singleton and Bona argued on his way to the bench. .
Bona dunked coming out of timeout, but immediately grabbed his left shoulder that he injured during the Pac-12 tournament and left. Northwestern quickly pulled to a 45-45 tie when UCLA’s Kenneth Nwuba was penalized for stepping in the way of a Buie layup.
UCLA’s stifling defense did its job helping the Bruins take a 35-25 halftime lead, holding Northwestern’s veteran backcourt de Buie and Audige to five points on a combined one-of-eight shooting. Bailey and Andrews were particularly stifling in their efforts with Buie, denying him driving lanes while keeping a distance from bad breath.
The Bruins had much less success stopping Nicholson, who made all five shots en route to 10 points after scoring on a variety of block and turn plays. UCLA’s three big men were equally ineffective in preventing those easy baskets.
In his first appearance since cautiously walking off the court during the Pac-12 tournament, Bona struggled early on, except for a dunk on a fine Bailey pass. Bona was called for two fouls in a span of 24 seconds and came out, playing just four minutes in the first half.
Nwuba continued his surprising run as the Bruins’ best big man, blocking a shot that set off a fast break that ended in a Jaquez dunk. Jaquez and Bailey were their main players on offense, combining for 25 points at the half point.
UCLA’s full-court rush was also effective in the pockets, helping the Bruins take an 11-3 lead in turnover points by halftime. It also allowed them to come out on the fast break as much as possible to maximize their huge advantage in athletics. At halftime, all 13 fast-break points of the game belonged to the Bruins.
After UCLA’s first-round win, Cronin joked that his sister, Kelly, would support Northwestern because she was an alumna. Upon seeing the ad, Kelly Cronin’s students at Summit Country Day High in Cincinnati, where she is the principal, put up pro-Northwestern signs in her office, but to avoid confusion, she wore a UCLA T-shirt.
“She would never criticize me,” said Mick Cronin.
It would have been a futile effort anyway.