No. 16 UCLA starts off quick and never looks back in dominant win over No. 20 Maryland
It was a special greeting, from one future Big Ten rival to another.
Thanks for inviting us into your home. Now try to be a little better by the time we’re back in a few years.
Eleven turnovers and a 30-point deficit in the first half will do that.
The No. 16 Bruins were tougher, smarter and simply better during an 87-60 rout of the No. 20 Terrapins that showed they’re ready for the alleged rigors of Big Ten basketball. It was such a beatdown that fans started jamming the aisles on their way toward the exits with more than 11 minutes left.
“It feels like you came in someone’s house and [took] away their house,” UCLA freshman center Adem Bona said after his team played its most complete game of the season.
Making UCLA’s dominance even more impressive, the Bruins (9-2) built leads as large as 38 points even after Tyger Campbell missed most of the first half in foul trouble and Jaylen Clark sat out the first nine minutes of the second half after taking a hard fall underneath the basket. Clark made a floating jumper almost immediately after re-entering the game and finished with 19 points on seven-for-11 shooting to go with six rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“He’s literally the best defensive player in the country,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said of Clark, who also notched 12 deflections that include tipped passes in addition to steals and blocks.
Clark and Jaime Jaquez Jr. sparked a lockdown defensive effort, combining for eight of their team’s 12 steals as the Bruins forced 16 turnovers while stretching their winning streak to six games. UCLA handled the ball like it was cradling a newborn, committing only four turnovers, including one when it dribbled out its final possession for a shot-clock violation.
UC regents are done fighting UCLA’s move to the Big Ten after months of contentious review, but the Bruins will owe an annual tax to support Cal.
“Our goal was to play great defense and hold them to one shot, take care of the ball,” Cronin said. “If we take care of the ball, we’ve got plenty of guys who can score. Talent’s not an issue for us, all we’ve got to do is not turn it over.”
David Singleton added 18 points off the bench, including a three-pointer after a Kenneth Nwuba offensive rebound in the first half that gave the Bruins a 26-7 cushion and deflated the crowd.
Jaquez added 14 points and seven rebounds and center Adem Bona contributed 14 points and seven rebounds along with stifling interior defense that helped hold the Terrapins (8-3) to 40.4% shooting, no match for the Bruins’ 55.6%.
“I was telling the guys, six minutes, five minutes left, we don’t want 35 minutes of defense, we want 40 minutes of defense,” Singleton said. “So we proved we have it in us.”
Even with Campbell stuck to the bench for the final 15½ minutes of the first half, the Bruins kept adding to an early lead. UCLA’s 10 steals by the game’s midpoint fueled runs of 17-2 and 13-0 as the Bruins built a 49-20 halftime advantage that was their largest since leading Nicholls State by 31 points in November 2014.
Maryland coach Kevin Willard called three timeouts in the first half as part of a futile effort to spark his team, not to mention the increasingly hushed crowd. Nothing could reverse the Terrapins’ fortunes.
After Jaquez sank a tough fadeaway jumper shortly before the halftime buzzer, he draped an arm around Campbell’s shoulder as they gleefully bounded off the court toward the locker room.
An extra layer of intrigue was added a few hours before tipoff when the University of California regents approved UCLA’s move to the Big Ten in August 2024, effectively giving the Bruins a preview of a future road conference venue as part of the bizzarro world that is college sports.
“I knew that was coming,” Cronin said of the conference switch. “You’ve got to understand, in California we like politics, we like to make everything pretty dramatic. The Big Ten thing’s been done for a while.”
It wasn’t exactly a hospitable welcome for the visitors. Maryland students conducted a mock roll call before the game, shouting the name of walk-on guard Jack Seidler’s older sister, before unleashing a “F--- the Bruins” chant about a minute after tipoff. They didn’t have much to say after that, the Bruins stealing their mojo.
“We needed a statement game to be made,” Jaquez said. “All our guys were just bought into what we needed to do to win.”
UCLA’s men’s basketball team can improve its NCAA tournament standing with wins this week over No. 20 Maryland and No. 13 Kentucky.
For the Bruins, this was the start of a two-game East Coast trip that could resonate long after the final buzzer of a showdown against No. 13 Kentucky on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
A sweep could significantly boost the Bruins’ NCAA tournament seed and enhance their bid to start the postseason much closer to home. Think Sacramento or Denver.
UCLA will eventually return to the Xfinity Center as part of a new rivalry after the teams play another nonconference game next season at Pauley Pavilion. Given what happened here Thursday, the Terrapins would probably be willing to wait a few more years for another visit from the Bruins.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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