LOS ANGELES (AP)This time, the UCLA Bruins had their minds in the game for 40 minutes.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 20 points on his 22nd birthday and fourth-ranked UCLA routed last-place California 78-43 on Saturday night to improve to 15-0 at Pauley Pavilion this season and extend the nation’s longest home winning streak to 23 games.
After falling behind against Stanford two days earlier before pulling out a win, the Bruins stormed to a 25-6 lead against Cal.
”Sometimes it’s very easy to just lose your focus and not care and just try and go for stats or try and shoot the ball every time you get it,” Jaquez said. ”I don’t think we did that. We shared the ball really well, everyone played hard, and we got a great win.”
Amari Bailey contorted his body every which way in adding 16 points and nine rebounds for the first-place Bruins (23-4, 14-2 Pac-12). They clinched a first-round bye in next month’s Pac-12 Tournament.
”Just more energy on the ball, more energy defensively,” Bailey said in explaining his performance.
UCLA’s 11th win in a row over last-place Cal was essentially an exhibition game, with the Bruins leading all the way and drawing loud cheers for three dunks by Adem Bona and acrobatic moves around the basket by Bailey.
Jaquez stole the ball and fed Bailey for a one-handed dunk midway through the second half. Bailey returned the favor on the next play, finding Jaquez under the basket for an easy layup that extended UCLA’s lead to 59-22, its largest of the game. Bailey later hit a 3-pointer in front of 13,659, tying the season’s highest attendance.
”Our defense was as good as it could be early in the game and then we held them to 11 field goals,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. ”The goal was to stay focused, that we were professional and had the right attitude. The results speak for themselves when you do that.”
Kuany Kuany scored 14 points to lead the Golden Bears (3-24, 2-14), who dropped their 11th in a row. They fell to 0-3 against top-5 teams this season, having also lost a pair against No. 8 Arizona.
Trailing 59-22, the Bears scored 10 straight points during their only big run of the game.
The Bruins led 38-15 after a dominant first half. They held the Bears to 18% shooting, outrebounded them 25-14 and outscored them 20-6 in the paint. Cal didn’t score its first basket until six minutes into the game.
California: The Bears finished off another losing road trip, having also been blown out at USC on Thursday. They have four games remaining in the regular season before heading into the Pac-12 Tournament without leading scorer Devin Askew (15.5 points per game). He’s been out since Feb. 1 after surgery for a sports hernia, one of several injuries to befall the team. The Bears have used 12 different starting lineups this season.
UCLA: The Bruins hit the road next week to play at Utah and Colorado. They beat the Utes by 19 points and the Buffaloes by 14 points in January. After that, they close the regular season at home against Arizona State and No. 8 Arizona. UCLA beat the Sun Devils by 12 points and lost at Arizona by six points. … Kenneth Nwuba is day-to-day with a left hip injury. … Abramo Canka missed the game with a non-COVID-19 illness.
Some in the crowd serenaded Jaquez with a chorus of ”Happy Birthday.” Bailey had a birthday on Friday when he turned 19. ”I’m not going to disclose the festivities, but there will be some festivities afterwards,” a smiling Jaquez said.
THEY GOT RUSSELL
The fans chanted ”We want Russell!” multiple times in the second half, urging Cronin to put in Russell Stong. They got their wish when the fifth-year senior entered with two minutes left. It was his eighth appearance of the season and only his second since Dec. 14. He made one of two free throws, earning wild cheers for the first and an anguished groan for the miss.
California: Hosts Washington on Thursday.
UCLA: Plays at Utah on Thursday in its final Pac-12 road trip of the season.
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