March Madness: UCLA beats Northwestern, returns to Sweet 16

how Sweet It Is.

For the third time in as many seasons, UCLA advanced to the second week of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bruins made it to the Sweet 16 again as another trend continued on Saturday at the Golden 1 Center: The last-minute winning overtime continued.

Rocking a huge Northwestern rally in which the Wildcats erased a 13-point deficit, second-seeded UCLA held off the seventh-seeded Wildcats for a 68–63 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bruins’ celebration was muted due to another season-ending injury.

UCLA senior guard David Singleton, whose three-pointer had given his team a late six-point lead, suffered an injury with 20 seconds left. With 20 seconds left, he had to assist from the court, but when he left the court, he returned to applause from the crowd and snapped his fingers.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 24 points, Amari Bailey had 14 and Tiger Campbell had 12 for the Bruins, who pulled away after making all the plays they needed in the final minutes. After the last tick of the clock, Campbell threw the ball in the air.

UCLA (31-5) will play the winner of the second-round game between Gonzaga and Texas Christian in a regional semifinal on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Boo Buie scored 18 points in the second half for Northwestern (22–12), Matthew Nicholson had 17 and Chase Audige scored all 16 of his points, given the lack of basketball tradition in what was likely the biggest game in school history.

An incredibly intense, back-and-forth game was leaning in UCLA’s direction when Singleton buried a three-pointer to push the Bruins into a 62–56 lead, followed by an Adem Bona block to give his team the lead. was given possession. Northwestern’s Brooks Barnheiser made two free throws to pull the Wildcats within 62–58.

Tiger Campbell of UCLA hits a shot in the first half against Northwestern on Saturday.

Tiger Campbell of UCLA hits a shot in the first half against Northwestern on Saturday.

(Wally Scalise / Los Angeles Times)

Northwestern got the ball back after a tough baseline jumper by Jaime Jaques Jr. that sailed over the rim, but the Wildcats missed two consecutive shots and UCLA’s Tiger Campbell grabbed the rebound with 42 seconds remaining. Campbell was eventually fouled and Northwestern’s Boo Bui made two free throws to increase the advantage to 64–58 before making a short jumper with 23 seconds left.

The Wildcats fouled Singleton, who was in such pain that he threw one arm around trainer Tyler Lasher down on the court. UCLA’s Dylan Andrews made both free throws with 20 seconds left before Buie missed a driving layup, effectively ending the Wildcats’ chances.

A “UCLA!” Chants echoed inside the arena after Andrews’ three-pointer from the wing pushed the Bruins into a 51–45 lead and secured a 6–0 lead for his team. As had happened earlier in the second half, Northwestern rallied, coming within 51–50 on a Boo Bui three-pointer.

It looked like UCLA might be on its way to a blowout when Bailey looped around Buie to give the Bruins a 41–28 lead in the second half.

But in a sign of things to come, Jacquez airballed a three-pointer, and Northwestern fans let him hear it. The Wildcats then began to find the offensive rhythm they hadn’t found in the first half, going on an 11–2 run to pull within 43–39 and prompting UCLA coach Mick Cronin to call a timeout as Singleton called a timeout. forced and Bona argued on his way to the bench. ,

Bona threw down a dunk coming out of a timeout but quickly grabbed a left shoulder during the Pac-12 tournament and went away. Northwestern quickly tied the score at 45–45 when UCLA’s Kenneth Nuba was called to score on a driving lap by Buie.

Kenneth Nuba of UCLA fights for a loose ball against Ty Berry of Northwestern in the first half.

Kenneth Nuba of UCLA fights for a loose ball against Ty Berry of Northwestern in the first half.

(Wally Scalise / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA’s stifling defense did its job in helping the Bruins take a 35–25 halftime lead, holding Northwestern’s veteran backcourt of Buie and Audies to five points on combined one-of-eight shooting. Bailey and Dylan Andrews in particular were torrid in their attempts at Bui, consistently denying him driving lanes within bad breath’s distance.

The Bruins had little success in stopping Nicholson, who after scoring on a variety of lobs and pick-and-roll plays, made all five of his shots en route to 10 points. All three of UCLA’s big men were equally ineffective at stopping those easy baskets.

In his first appearance after running cautiously off the court during the Pac-12 tournament, Sow struggled early on after missing a good pass from Bailey. Bona was called for two fouls in a 24-second span and came off after playing only four minutes in the first half.

Nuba continued his surprising tenure as the Bruins’ best big man, blocking a shot that ended the fastbreak into a Jackass dunk. Jacquez and Bailey were their team’s primary heroes on offense, combining for 25 points by the game’s midpoint.

UCLA’s full-court pressing was also effective in the pockets, helping the Bruins take an 11–3 lead on turnovers at halftime. This allowed him to get out on the fastbreak as much as possible in order to maximize his huge advantage in athletics. At halftime, all 13 fastbreak points in the game belonged to the Bruins.

After UCLA’s first round victory, Cronin joked that his sister, Kelly, would be rooting for Northwestern because she was an alumna of the Big Ten school. Seeing the opportunity, Kelly Cronin’s students at Summit Country Day High in Cincinnati, where she is principal, posted pro-Northwestern signs in their office, but they wore UCLA T-shirts to avoid any confusion.

Mick Cronin said, “She would never root against me.”

It would have been a futile effort anyway.

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