Saturday, April 13

UCLA men’s basketball falls to California for first time in 8 years

UCLA men’s basketball freshman guard Sebastian Mack (left) drives to the basket past California guard Jalen Cone. Mack had a team-high 20 points Saturday. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Men’s basketball


For the first time since 2010, the Bruins failed to secure the win in Pauley Pavilion against the Golden Bears.

UCLA men’s basketball (6-9, 1-3 Pac-12) couldn’t overcome another lackluster offensive performance, snapping an 11-game win streak against California (5-10, 1-3) with its 66-57 defeat Saturday night. The decision marks the Bruins’ seventh loss in their last eight games and the first time they have dropped four consecutive games at Pauley Pavilion since 2003. 

Assistant coach Rod Palmer – who spoke to media after the game in place of coach Mick Cronin and players, who were unavailable – said the team has yet to conquer the growing pains of adjusting to Division I basketball as one of the youngest programs in the nation.

“It could be youth, it could be inexperience – we’re just not getting the job done,” Palmer said.  “Every mistake that we make with our inexperience is magnified.”

The start of Saturday’s matchup mirrored the lopsided nature of UCLA’s opening minutes against Stanford on Wednesday. One program jumped out to a 9-0 start – this time, though, it wasn’t the Bruins.

The Golden Bears opened the scoring with a three-point play and back-to-back 3-pointers while forcing three turnovers. Cal capitalized on UCLA’s sloppy handling with six points off turnovers, and the home team failed to find the bottom of the net until the 14:46 mark of the game.

“We don’t have margin for error, so if we turn the ball over, and we get out-rebounded, that’s going to limit our chances even more,” Palmer said. 

As characteristic of a Cronin-led squad, the Bruins maintained some aspects of defensive discipline en route to their 13th game this season holding opponents to 70 points or fewer. When a swarm of UCLA defenders descended for a double-team under the basket, Pauley Pavilion attendees anticipated a traveling call amid the commotion. But collective outcries erupted when officials ruled a foul against the Bruins.

The decision elicited an animated response from Cronin, who ripped off his suit jacket to confront a referee and earned a technical foul in return. Behind two made free throws in exchange, Cal led 30-19 with just under a minute in the half.

The Bruins emerged from the locker room impassioned, sinking four of their first five baskets and locking down on defense via sophomore forward/center Adem Bona’s two steals while limiting the Golden Bears to single-shot possessions. They pulled within seven, but Cal’s sixth 3-pointer of the game ignited a 7-0 run to bring the score to 45-31 with 14:42 to play.

Facing a double-digit deficit again, sophomore guard Dylan Andrews surveyed the paint and launched an alley-oop pass to Bona. The big caught the ball and slammed down the dunk to cut the Golden Bears’ lead to eight.

Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona rises for a slam dunk. Bona played 23 minutes against Cal, his fewest of conference play.
(Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

But as was the trend, Cal had an immediate answer in store and continued dominating the glass. The Golden Bears concluded the contest with a 10-rebound advantage, a statistic that afforded them nine more field goal attempts than the Bruins on the night.

“Physicality – that’s what it comes down to,” Palmer said. “Either you’re going to hit someone, or you’re going to get hit. And we’ve been getting hit a lot.”

Freshman guard Sebastian Mack attempted late-game heroics amid a two-and-a-half minute scoring drought, driving to the basket to convert and draining another from deep to bring his point total to 18.

Down 59-51, the Bruins appeared on the verge of revival. They had just under four minutes to complete the comeback after trailing all night.

Again, Bona came up big under the basket to bring the Bruins within six with 1:44 to play, but the home squad gave up a 3-pointer to Cal on the left wing one possession later. Guard Jalen Cone gestured to indicate ice in his veins as he ran the length of the court.

The Golden Bears, never trailing, had indeed iced the win to end their 14-year drought in Pauley Pavilion. 

“Coach Cronin is still preaching the same message, but is it getting through the way he wants it to? No,” Palmer said. “But in time it will.”

Sports senior staff

Wang is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women’s basketball, men’s basketball, NIL and football beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women’s basketball, men’s soccer, men’s golf and track and field beats, reporter on the women’s basketball beat and contributor on the men’s and women’s golf beats. Wang is also a fourth-year history major and community engagement and social change minor.

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