UCLA beats Northwestern to return to Sweet 16; David Singleton sprains his ankle

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For the third time in as many seasons, UCLA is advancing into the second week of the NCAA tournament.

The Bruins made it back into the Sweet 16 because another trend continued Saturday at the Golden 1 Center: the closing minutes were still winning time.

After a huge rally in the Northwest that saw the Wildcats recover from a 13-point deficit, second-place UCLA held off the seventh-place Wildcats for a 68-63 second-round win.

The Bruins’ celebration was muted because of another late-season injury.

UCLA senior guard David Singleton, whose only three-point throw of the evening had opened a late six-point lead, suffered a sprained right ankle when he slipped with 20 seconds to go. He had to be helped off the pitch but returned, wiggling his fingers as he walked away to cheers from the crowd. He gave reporters one optimistic assessment of his injury: “I just twisted my ankle. I’m doing well.”

Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 24 points, Amari Bailey added 14 and Tyger Campbell had 12 for the Bruins, who retired after making all the necessary plays in the final minutes. Campbell threw the ball in the air after the last second had elapsed.

UCLA (31-5) will play the winner of Sunday’s second-round game between Gonzaga and Texas Christian in a regional semifinal on Thursday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

UCLA’s Tyger Campbell shoots against Northwestern in the first half of Saturday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Boo Buie scored 18 points, Matthew Nicholson 17 and Chase Audige a whopping 16 in the second half for Northwestern (22-12), who, given their lack of basketball tradition, had their chances in the biggest game in school history.

An incredibly intense back-and-forth leaned toward UCLA as Singleton buried a three to give the Bruins a 62-56 lead with 1:45 left after a block from Adem Bona gave their team possession . Northwestern’s Brooks Barnhizer made two free throws to pull the Wildcats within 62-58.

Northwestern got the ball back after Jaquez airballed a hard baseline jumper that sailed over the rim, but the Wildcats missed two straight shots and Campbell grabbed the rebound with 42 seconds left, was fouled and made two free throws for the advantage to extend to 64-58 before Buie made a short jump with 23 seconds left.

The Wildcats fouled Singleton, who was in so much pain he threw an arm around coach Tyler Lesher as he walked onto the court. UCLA’s Dylan Andrews made both free throws with 20 seconds left before Buie missed a driving layup, effectively ending the Wildcats’ chacnes.

A “UCLA!” Chants echoed around the arena after Andrews’ three-pointer from the wing gave the Bruins a 51-45 lead and crowned a 6-0 lead. Just like before in the second half, Northwestern rallied to go 51-50 with a three-pointer from Buie.

It looked like UCLA was on the way to a blowout as Bailey turned around Buie for a layup to give the Bruins a 41-28 lead early in the second half.

But as a sign of the future, Jaquez threw a three-pointer and Northwestern fans made him heard. The Wildcats then began to find the rhythm that had eluded them in the first half, making an 11-2 push to draw within 43-39, forcing UCLA coach Mick Cronin to call a time-out, when Singleton and Bona argued on the way to the bank.

UCLA's Kenneth Nwuba battles Northwestern's Ty Berry for a loose ball in the first half.

UCLA’s Kenneth Nwuba battles Northwestern’s Ty Berry for a loose ball in the first half.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Sacramento, California, March 16, 2023 – UCLA's Ammari Bailey, left, and Adem Bona battle for the loose ball.

UCLA’s Amari Bailey (left) and Adem Bona (right) battle for loose ball against Northwestern in the second half.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Bona threw a dunk after the time-out but immediately latched onto the left shoulder he injured during the Pac-12 tournament and left. Northwestern quickly drew to a 45-45 tie when UCLA’s Kenneth Nwuba was called up by Buie as a goaltender.

UCLA’s smothering defense did its job by helping the Bruins take a 35-25 halftime lead and held Northwestern’s experienced backcourt from Buie and Audige to five points in a one-on-eight combined shooting. Bailey and Andrews especially choked on Buie, denying him lanes while staying at airway distance.

The Bruins had significantly less success stopping Nicholson, who made all five shots en route to 10 points after scoring on a variety of lobs and pick-and-roll plays. All three of UCLA’s great men were equally ineffective at preventing these simple baskets.

In his first appearance since leaving cautiously during the Pac-12 tournament, Bona struggled in the early stages, save for a dunk after a nice pass from Bailey. Bona was called out for two fouls within 24 seconds and came out, playing just four minutes in the first half.

Nwuba continued his surprise stint as the Bruins’ best big man, blocking a shot that set off a fast break that ended in a dunk from Jaquez. Jaquez and Bailey were their main players on offense, scoring 25 points together at halftime.

UCLA’s full-court press was also effective in pockets, helping the Bruins take an 11-3 lead on points after turnovers by halftime. It also allowed them to go on the fastbreak 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 a graduate student. When Kelly Cronin’s students at Summit Country Day High in Cincinnati, where she is the principal, saw the spot, they put up Northwest signs in her office, but just to avoid confusion, she wore a UCLA t-shirt.

“She would never rage against me,” said Mick Cronin.

It would have been a futile attempt anyway.

Source : www.latimes.com

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