About 18 feet from the basket, Nevada Las Vegas player Bryce Hamilton made a jump shot thinking it was safe. The ball met the massive hand of UCLA’s Miles Johnson as it left Hamilton’s fingertips and fell back onto the court.
Runnin ‘Rebels guard Keshon Gilbert picked up the loose ball and drove to the basket, only to find Johnny Juzang standing in his way and knock Bruins guard down. Gilbert was charged and UCLA returned the ball after another stop.
It was reassuringly familiar the way the Bruins, runners-up, played Saturday afternoon on a 73-51 win, prioritizing defense and stamina over the jumpers.
Four days after offering little resistance to Gonzaga during a 20 point loss, UCLA (6-1) held UNLV (4-3) with 30.4% shooting, the rebels made only one of 10 shots in one segment in the second half and continued with zero. account for more than 6 and a half minutes.
“I told the guys it was good that my team was back,” said UCLA coach Mick Cronin. “We have played this defense since last year. So we had a couple of vigorous workouts, we talked a lot about what it takes to be a real team without relying on performance, attack and jump shot, going back to why we got to the Final Four, and back to why we got into the rating. just focus on what we need to do to win the tough road game. “
No one imagined that resilience more than Bruins striker Jaime Hakes, Jr., who spent the second half with an eye patch after being elbowed by Johnson at the end of the first half for a rebound. The crowd was shocked when a video panel showed blood dripping down Hakes’s face. Hakes had to be helped into the locker room before he returned early in the second half.
Defender Jules Bernard led the Bruins with 18 points, including an unbalanced circus shot he counted on when he was fouled in the second half. Defender Tiger Campbell added 15 points and Juzang had 12 points and nine rebounds when UCLA softened the blow after losing to Gonzaga.
“We had something to think about after our last game and just go to the hotel, we had a day off to really think about our game and what we need to work on, and we immediately started training,” said Bernard. “We had two great workouts, super intense, high activity, and I think it was the pace we played in practice that really led to the game and we got off to a quick start.”
UCLA started off with a defense that was like its last NCAA tournament, staying ahead of the riders and changing quickly. The rebels made only one of their first eight shots, 14-2 behind.
As expected, as the Bruins’ defensive concentration began to wane, UNLV fled. Hamilton (15 points) received a dunk during the transition period, putting the rebels in the 22-19 range, and the long silent crowd roared.
After UCLA complicated things again and forced tough shots on multiple occasions, UCLA went ahead 15-3, taking a 37-22 lead at half-time. The Rebels had a couple of mini-runs to kick off the second half and had three chances to cut the Bruins’ lead to single digits, but missed three consecutive three-pointers in their prolonged cold spell.
“I am very pleased with our efforts and our attitude, and as I told them, I don’t care about losing — I really don’t care — it’s about how you play the game,” Cronin said. “I don’t think we competed and played the way UCLA should, actually defensively this year, except for the last seven minutes against Villanova, so it’s nice to have them back.”