No. 5 UCLA finds a way to hold off Arizona

Just keep looking through.

This was the mandate for University of California Thursday night, and Fifth-ranked Bruins Swinging late in their Pac-12 Conference showdown with Arizona while jeopardizing the nation’s longest winning streak among major conference teams.

Extending the streak would keep the midseason fun going while also preventing the Sun Devils from moving into a tie above the conference standings. It would also put UCLA halfway to a desert sweep that ESPN’s Joe Lunardi said could catapult the team to a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

All remained well after the Bruins’ latest escape, a 74-62 win at Desert Financial Arena that came courtesy of a late game of courage.

Smothering most of the night hitting a two-pointer and two consecutive layups, UCLA’s Jaime Jacques Jr. buried a three-pointer late in the shot clock to give his team a six-point lead with nearly 21/2 minutes gone. He added a turnaround jump to extend the advantage as part of a 16-2 finish.

“I knew my shot would fall when it needed to,” Jaques said. “I’m not really worried about that.”

The Bruins (17-2 overall, 8-0 Pac-12) needed the extra offense with Tyger Campbell and David Singleton carrying such a heavy load. Campbell led his team with 22 points and Singleton with 21 while making four of six three-pointers.

The top scorers also led their team’s 14-goal celebrationy A back-to-back victory, Campbell banging his forehead with clenched fists, Singleton cupping his hand to his ear as he looked on at a record student section of 5,213 silent students in a near-saleout crowd of 13,363.

“It’s been fun flying under the radar the last couple of months,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said while speaking to just two reporters after the game, which was called by FS1’s remote announcers. Because of what happened in [Las] Vegas, I think people gave up on us.”

Cronin was alluding to his team’s two losses, which came in the space of three days in late November. The Bruins were outmatched by Illinois and Baylor largely due to success in making three-pointers, a formula that Arizona State has attempted to replicate (15-4, 6-2).

The Sun Devils made nine of 22 snaps from outside the arc, including one by Frankie Collins that pushed them to a 60-58 lead before UCLA got going on an eventual rally. Arizona’s late-game execution stumbled against a largely tight-lipped defense.

Sun Devils guard D.J. Horn went scoreless in the second half after the Bruins were crushed by 14 first-half points.

UCLA's Dylan Andrews greeted Jimmy Jackies Jr. after hitting a three-pointer against Arizona State.

Dylan Andrews (2) greets UCLA player Jimmy Jackies Jr. (24) after hitting a three-pointer against Arizona State late in the second half Thursday in Tempe, Arizona.

(Daryl Webb / Associated Press)

“We’re one of the best defensive teams in the country, and we’ve proven it during this winning streak,” Cronin said after Arizona finished the game by shooting only one of its last eight shots.

Somehow cut short again with Amari Bailey missing the sixth straight game due to discomfort in his left foot, the Bruins continued to find the energy to come back.

The Bruins took the lead by as many as six points, and advanced to 58-57 with 6:34 left when freshman quarterback Adem Bona made one of two free throws after he tied the score on a three layup single. Many of Singleton’s shots came from passes from Jaquez, who recorded five assists while finding his teammate open.

“They tend to rally and attack the dribbler, and the game plan when they do that was to find Dave,” Cronin said.

UCLA also wanted to squeeze more production from a bench that was scoreless this past weekend against Colorado. This mission was doubly important given that Arizona’s circulation reaches a depth of 10.

Freshman guard Dylan Andrews sparked off the bench with five quick points in the first half — plus an apparently taunted technical foul after he tangled in midair with Arizona State’s Devan Cambridge on a dunk and said something to his Sun Devils counterpart before heading down the court. .

Andrews finished with seven points, all of which came as his team came from behind.

“Dylan’s baskets tonight, are huge,” Cronin said. “I’m talking about a real team, in this environment, that gives you a lot of confidence for its future.”

A noticeable boost could arrive before the end of the weekend. Cronin said Bailey looked good in the team’s shootout Thursday and may be able to play against Arizona on Saturday depending on how he feels on Friday.

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