Friday, December 9

Freshman Amari Bailey leads UCLA men’s basketball to wipeout over Pepperdine

Freshman Amari Bailey dribbles along the baseline. The five-star guard led No. 19 UCLA men’s basketball in points and assists Wednesday evening to guide his team over Pepperdine at home. (Kaiya Pomeroy-Tso/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men’s basketball

No. 19 UCLA100

This post was updated Nov. 23 at 10:25 p.m.

After scoring six total points in a two-game trip to Las Vegas, Amari Bailey had his coming out party at home.

Behind double-digit scoring from each of the starting five – including 19 from the freshman guard – No. 19 UCLA men’s basketball (4-2) took down Pepperdine (4-2) 100-53 at Pauley Pavilion. With the win Wednesday evening, the Bruins snapped their two-game skid and remain undefeated at home. 

Bailey looked the part of the five-star guard that committed in 2021, leading the Bruins in points and assists for the first time in his young career. Following back-to-back single-digit scoring performances – including a one-point outing in a loss to Illinois on Friday – Bailey took the reins from his veteran teammates on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting clip.

“I was honestly just taking what the defense was giving me, and I credit my teammates,” Bailey said. “It just happened to be my night, but collectively as a team, we all played together.”

But Bailey wasn’t the only freshman to put on a show, as forward Adem Bona recorded a personal-best 11 points in the victory. 

UCLA struck first and maintained the lead early, with Bona slamming in two dunks off of feeds from Bailey. Except Pepperdine hung on, as guard Houston Mallette hit back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 14-12 lead just under seven minutes into the contest. 

But a layup from Bailey sparked a 13-0 Bruin run behind seven consecutive baskets – including three from fifth-year guard David Singleton, who finished with 13 points off the bench – and the blue and gold would not concede the lead again.

“We wanted to have the mentality of putting them away early and not giving them a chance to even think that they can come back,” said senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr.

Four players scored at least seven points in the first half to give the Bruins a 43-29 lead at halftime. UCLA turned 11 forced turnovers into 20 points while leading the rebound battle with 18 boards, including six on the offensive glass. 

Jaylen Clark had his hand prints on the defensive stat sheet once more, scoring 12 points and swiping the ball twice to bring his season steals total to 16. UCLA outscored Pepperdine by 38 points with the junior guard on the floor.

Bailey hit two consecutive long-range shots in the closing minutes of the opening half, doubling his season total in the process.

“What they were saying the whole time is calling me a nonshooter,” Bailey said. “They went under the screen, and I felt like it was disrespectful.”

The freshman guard kept things going after the break, finding Bona for a fast-break alley-oop before making back-to-back shots in the paint and finding redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell for his only 3-point make on six tries.

Coach Mick Cronin said Bailey’s versatility as a combo guard limits defenders’ options.

“What I’ve been telling him since he committed – people aren’t going to guard him,” Cronin said. “He’s so explosive that you have to pick a poison with him.”

Bailey proceeded to knock down another long-range shot himself, extending the Bruins’ lead to 56-33 four minutes into the second period. After a layup from Jaquez put the Waves’ deficit at 30 for the first time with 12 minutes remaining, the blue and gold did not let up, closing the game on a 31-14 run from that point.

The large scoring margin contrasts the two teams’ last matchup in 2020, when it took an extra three periods for the Bruins to emerge victorious. 

[Related: Men’s basketball beats Pepperdine in triple overtime to secure 1st win of season]

Jaquez, who played all 55 minutes in that contest, was on the court for all but one minute in the first half Wednesday. While he entered halftime with just four points, the senior finished as the second-leading scorer with 17 points, tacking on eight boards and two assists on the night.

Jaquez said he was glad he did not have to break as much of a sweat Wednesday. 

“That was a crazy time,” Jaquez said. “I got so tired I asked Coach for a sub. I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”

Daily Bruin senior staff

Palmero is a senior staff writer for Sports. He served as the assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats from 2021-2022 and a Sports reporter on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats in 2021. He is a third-year mathematics and economics student.

Sports senior staff

Moon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, men's soccer, track and field and cross country beats and a contributor on the women's basketball and women's tennis beats, while also contributing for Arts. He is a fourth-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student.

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