LOS ANGELES — It took UCLA more than four minutes to score a basket against Utah on Thursday night, but as soon as the Bruins broke through, the loss began.
Seventh-ranked UCLA rode to a 68-49 win over the Utes in a matchup between two of the Pac-12’s better teams at Pauley Pavilion, though Utah missed leading scorer Branden Carlson, who was out with a non-COVID illness .
UCLA (15-2 overall, 6-0 Pac-12) has won 12 straight games and can continue the program’s longest winning streak since the 2016-17 season with a win over Colorado on Saturday.
Tyger Campbell led UCLA by 17 points and went 3 to 6 from 3-point range, and UCLA coach Mick Cronin considered his performance one of the highlights.
“I begged him to be more aggressive,” Cronin said. “He’s been a little too passive lately.”
Campbell said he heard his coach’s pleas and made the right shots on offense. He said he was trying to be patient, waiting to get off the screen to shoot his 3-pointers.
“I felt like I had a good week this week,” Campbell said. “The guys drove in and kicked it and found me. I just took my time and kept my feet up. They went in.”
Freshman Adem Bona was all over the color early for UCLA, catching passes and dunking his 6-foot-10 frame. Bona finished with 15 points and eight rebounds and made all five of his first-half field goal attempts.
“I would say that was the boost we needed,” Bona said of his early goal. “You found me. It’s a team effort. It wasn’t just me, so I think we all did it together. As an open man, I got the buckets.”
Jaime Jaquez Jr. said Bona has come a long way since his first games as a bruin. He’s gone from dropping passes and trying to get his feet right to ‘blooming’.
“That’s definitely what we need from him if we want to beat a great team,” Jaquez said. “I’m definitely proud of how far he’s come and how hard he’s worked.”
Rollie Worster led Utah (12-6, 5-2) by 12 points. UCLA kept the Utes at 37% shooting, only the fourth time they have shot below 40% this season.
Cronin said the defensive effort, punctuated by 41 deflections, caused the Bruins to take over the game.
“We were able to increase our pressure and take over our defensive efforts,” Cronin said.
UCLA, which let USC back in the game last week after building an 18-point halftime lead, didn’t allow the Utes to make a second-half comeback after taking a 31-22 lead at the break.
Jaylen Clark made sure the Bruins continued to pull away. He scored the first basket of the half and later, after a steal and a skillful fast break feed from Jaime Jaquez Jr., threw a thundering dunk in transition to extend the lead to 38-24.
The Bruins opened a 20-point lead with five minutes to go and won again, despite starting supervisor Amari Bailey missing his fourth straight game with an ankle injury.
The Bruins shot 48% from the field, with Clark trailing Campbell and Bona by double digits on 11 points.
UCLA and Utah entered the matchup as the only two Pac-12 teams with five wins, but UCLA won its sixth straight game against the Utes and improved to 6-0 in the Pac-12 game. It may as well match last year’s 16-2 start on Saturday.
The Bruins’ first basket came after four minutes because they missed their first five shots. But UCLA began guarding the full court, rattling off 11 straight points topped by a steal and a 3-pointer from Clark.
“It’s hard to play teams that break you down easily,” Cronin said. “We thought they were trying to control the game. We had to speed up the game.”
The game sped up and Utah couldn’t keep up.
UCLA also overtook Utah by 40-26. According to Cronin, the Bruins started hitting block-outs, getting to the glass and changing the game. UCLA had 14 offensive rebounds from 31 misses.
“If we could add offensive rebounding — we have skills, we have guys that can score, that would really help our offense,” Cronin said.
In a game with little possession, rebounds were valuable and helped make the difference.
“The way they burned the watch, 68 is like 88,” Cronin said.
UCLA hosts Colorado (11-7, 3-4) Saturday at 5 p.m. at Pauley Pavilion
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/12/no-7-ucla-dominates-utah-for-12th-straight-win/ UCLA No. 7 dominates Utah for 12th straight year – Orange County Register