Practice pays off for No. 23 UCLA, which beats Oregon State and avoids another upset
The bouncing ball echoed through the empty arena. The game had been over for half an hour, interviews conducted and teammates dispersed. UCLA guard David Singleton remained inside Pauley Pavilion, moving from one spot on the court to another as he took passes from a student manager and lofted shot after shot.
It was a display of dedication, of preparing for the kinds of moments that Singleton had seized earlier in the evening while helping his team persevere on a night so many things went wrong.
Singleton’s three-point shooting and rebounding off the bench Saturday complemented another strong performance from forward Cody Riley, nudging No. 23 UCLA toward a 57-52 victory over Oregon State in a game that easily could have led to more insomnia for Bruins coach Mick Cronin.
Sleep had been hard to come by earlier in the week, Cronin acknowledging that he had suffered through three restless nights after his team sustained a crushing defeat in the final second against Stanford.
No. 2 Baylor remained undefeated with a victory over Auburn, while No. 1 Gonzaga improved to 17-0 with a win at Pepperdine.
More heartache seemed possible against Oregon State after UCLA (13-3, 9-1 Pac-12 Conference) struggled mightily against the Beavers’ matchup zone, making 32.7% of its shots and only six of 24 three-point attempts (25%).
“We had great looks from guys who can really shoot,” Cronin said, “the ball just didn’t go in for us.”
What had been an 11-point Bruins lead was down to three with 14 seconds to go. Oregon State called a timeout to set up a play and Beavers guard Ethan Thompson drove toward the corner.
Highlights from UCLA’s 57-52 home win over Oregon State on Saturday.
But Thompson stumbled and lost the ball out of bounds with 8.6 seconds left, pounding the court with his hand in frustration on a night his team-high 16 points weren’t enough. UCLA’s Tyger Campbell made four free throws in the final seconds to close out the Beavers (8-7, 4-5), who are happy to leave Los Angeles after suffering a two-game sweep.
Meanwhile, the Bruins extended their advantage over second-place USC to 1½ games one week before the rivals meet at Galen Center. The Trojans will also play Stanford on Tuesday in a makeup game.
UCLA improved to 8-1 this season in games decided by five points or fewer or that went to overtime, helping that bad Stanford ending recede further into the background.
Running back Zach Charbonnet, a former Westlake Village Oaks Christian High star who spent two seasons at Michigan, said Saturday that he’s transferring to UCLA.
“It was just one of those games that we had to grind out,” Riley said after powering his way to 16 points on five-for-10 shooting to go with 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals, continuing to enjoy the rewards of being what Cronin described as “by far our best player in practice” because of his sustained effort.
“A lot of guys, they think they’re going to score at game time, but they don’t give it all in practice and so they’re going to try to flip the switch, and I thought that was a problem with our shooting today,” Cronin said. “We didn’t have great practices other than Cody, but he’s a product of his practice habits and that’s why he’s grown so much as a player.”
Singleton made three three-pointers on the way to nine points off the bench and grabbed five defensive rebounds while playing 31 minutes in place of guard Jules Bernard, who briefly returned from a bruised right knee that had forced him out of the game in the first half.
“We needed that with Jules out,” Cronin said of Singleton’s production. “We needed what he gave us in defensive rebounding for sure.”
Cronin had talked to his players about finding ways to win on a night when shots weren’t going in. The Bruins did it with strong defense and a step-up performance from Singleton, who also pleased his coach by not passing up a pull-up jumper after the Beavers had taken away an open look from beyond the arc.
It wasn’t perfect. Singleton made only three of 11 shots, including three of nine three-point attempts.
So he headed back out to the court afterward, more shots to be taken that would never show up on the scoreboard while possibly leading to wins later in the season when his team needs him once more.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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