Los Angeles–UCLA has been playing well the last few weeks and there is no sign that the Bruins are slowing down anytime soon.
No. 7 UCLA (15-2, 6-0) beat a short-handed Utah (12-6, 5-2) men’s basketball on Thursday night inside Pauley Pavilion, 68-49.
It was the second time in three games that UCLA limited their opponent under 50 points, matching a season-low 49 yielded to Washington on Jan. 1, 2023.
With the loss, the Utes is now 2-4 all-time when facing an AP ranked UCLA team. Utah is now 69-157 all-time against AP ranked opponents and 3-12 all-time against No. 7 AP ranked opponents.
First half action both teams went toe to toe until the 7:49 mark, Utah called a timeout after the Bruins went on a 7-0 run to take an 18-10 lead over the Utes. Both teams got hot exchanging threes. Bostyn Holt grabbed a rebound took it the length of the court and got the Utes within 31-22 of the Bruins before going into the locker room.
Tyger Campbell led the way with 11 points for UCLA and Adem Bona chipped in 10 points with six boards closing out the half. Campbell finished the contest with 17 points with 7 assists.
The difference in the first half came on the offense boards with the Bruins turning eight rebounds into a 12-2 edge over the Utes. UCLA were relentless in the second half on the glass and converted second shot attempts into points.
“I thought Bostyn Holt and Wilguens and Brenchley and Mike, and Keba, those guys had really good practices this week, and got better,” Utah head coach Craig Smith said. “You never concede, but I felt like those guys were giving us some really good minutes.”
Smith said Branden Carlson, a late scratch, developed flu-like symptoms before the game and “really wanted to play,” but it just wasn’t meant to be. As of midday Friday, Carlson’s status for Saturday’s game at USC had not been updated by the team.
Without their leading scorer and his 15.7 points per game average, in addition to his presence on the blocks, the Utes had very little chance against UCLA, who won their 12th straight game and 31st at Pauley Pavilion.
“We know we need to develop our bench. We have to get more production from our bench and it just got to the point where it felt like it is going to be really really, really difficult to come back, so the last six minutes or so (reserves took over),” Smith said of his late-game moves.
The 6-foot-6 Holt, a senior forward from Portland, Oregon, who transferred from Coffeyville Community College before the 2021-22 season and then tore his ACL early in that campaign, was effective in the first half. He finished with six points in 23 minutes, but committed five of the Utes’ 16 turnovers.
“I am just staying ready for whenever my number is called,” said Holt, who had appeared in 12 games and logged 93 minutes before Thursday’s extended minutes. “I am throwing together some good practices. We have been getting after it in practice, so I am just staying ready to go out there and just make a play and perform.”
Trailing 46-28 after UCLA opened the second half on a 15-6 spurt, Smith gradually began pulling a lot of his starters with the exception of Gabe Madsen.
The Utes did its best in the second half to keep pace with the home team but UCLA got hot and shot .552 (16-of-29) from the field in the final 20 minutes of the game to seal the game.
Rollie Worster led Utah with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting while Lazar Stefanovic chipped in with nine points.
BY THE NUMBERS
Saunders Jr. made his first appearance since Dec. 13, 2022, vs. UTSA at home at the 4:09 mark in the first half Jaxon Brenchley made his third-straight appearance after checking in at the 12:40 mark in the second half.
Utah closes out its trip to Los Angeles this Saturday, Jan. 14, when it takes the court against USC for a 7:30 p.m. (MT) tip-off inside the Galen Center with Ted Robinson and Don MacLean guiding fans through the action on Pac-12 Networks.
UCLA concludes a three-game homestand on Saturday, hosting Colorado at 5:00 p.m. PT on FOX. The game can also be heard live on AM 570.