Unranked UCLA started the game strong, unleashing a level of intensity typically seen in the NCAA tournament. They held a 12-point lead over No. 4 Marquette, proving that they could be a formidable force in March.
However, the Bruins began to unravel in the second half, showing their inexperience and the work that still needs to be done. Marquette fought back, turning the game around and taking a seven-point lead.
Despite the setback, UCLA didn’t give up. With 21 seconds left on the clock and trailing by two, UCLA coach Mick Cronin called a timeout to set up a play. Unfortunately, the Golden Eagles disrupted the play by tipping the ball out of bounds.
UCLA had two more chances to score, but both attempts fell short. Lazar Stefanovic’s three-pointer missed, and Sebastian Mack’s wild shot after an offensive rebound was off the mark. The Bruins ultimately lost 71-69.
The loss was disappointing, but UCLA remains determined. “Obviously, we didn’t finish the job tonight,” said UCLA sophomore center Adem Bona. “We plan to finish the job next time.”
In their next game, the Bruins will face Chaminade in a losers’ bracket game. Despite the loss, Mack had an impressive performance, scoring a career-high 25 points and making all 13 free throws. Bona also contributed with 13 points.
Marquette’s David Joplin led his team with 19 points, making five of 11 three-pointers. The Golden Eagles reclaimed the lead and secured the victory with a three-pointer from Sean Jones in the final seconds.
Cronin acknowledged that the Bruins’ inexperience showed during Marquette’s 17-0 run. He emphasized the importance of solid defense and smart play, stating that the margin of error shrinks as the competition level increases.
Despite the loss, UCLA had moments of brilliance. Bona’s two-handed dunk and Mack’s contested layup showcased the team’s potential. However, Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro’s dunks shifted the momentum in their favor, and the Golden Eagles took control of the game.
UCLA fought back and briefly took the lead, but Marquette ultimately prevailed. Cronin acknowledged that his team may experience lulls like the one in the second half and highlighted the challenges faced by a young team.
Before the game, Cronin expressed concerns about turnovers and defensive intensity. However, for the first 25 minutes, UCLA played with a level of intensity rarely seen in the early season. They held a 35-30 halftime lead.
Buyuktuncel, who was cleared by the NCAA, made his first appearance and start for UCLA. Although he missed all seven shots, he made an impact on both ends of the court with a blocked shot, four rebounds, and two assists.
Stefanovic and Mack contributed significantly to the Bruins’ offense, with Stefanovic’s baseline jumpers and Mack’s ability to draw fouls. Will McClendon also provided a surprise boost with three three-pointers.
Defensively, UCLA made it difficult for Marquette to score inside, but the Golden Eagles capitalized on open opportunities from long range. They made six three-pointers in the second half, including the game-winning shot.
Although UCLA lost the game, they gained admiration from Marquette coach Shaka Smart. He acknowledged the Bruins’ potential and predicted that they will become a formidable team if they continue to improve.
Overall, UCLA’s performance against Marquette showcased a mix of potential and inexperience. While they showed moments of brilliance, they also displayed areas that need improvement. With determination and continued growth, the Bruins have the potential to become a strong team in the future.
Source: Los Angeles Times