UCLA dodges upset trend, opens NCAA tournament with rout of UNC Asheville

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. battles for a rebound with UNC Asheville’s Jamon Battle in the first half of the first round of the NCAA tournament in Sacramento on Thursday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The only nervous moments came several hours before tipoff.

A slew of massive upsets put UCLA on high alert against another Cinderella seeking a sprinkling of March magic.

None would be found after an early Bruins blitz of baskets eased any lingering fears. UCLA would not go the way of Arizona or Virginia and get eliminated on the NCAA tournament’s opening day.

The big question facing the second-seeded Bruins during an 86-53 first-round rout of 15th-seeded North Carolina Asheville on Thursday at the Golden 1 Center was how much rest the starters would get.

Everyone besides David Singleton was given the final 5 minutes 46 seconds off.

The victory was so comfortable that the Bruins did not need to use freshman center Adem Bona, who was cleared to return from the left shoulder injury that had sidelined him since a Pac-12 tournament semifinal against Oregon.

He’ll likely play Saturday when UCLA (30-5) faces seventh-seeded Northwestern in the second round in a high-stakes preview of future Big Ten rivals.

There was no need for Bona on Thursday given his team’s dominance in every facet while building a 21-point halftime lead that it stretched to 33 points in the second half.

“It doesn’t surprise me because we lost our last game and we don’t take losing lightly,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said, adding that senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. was as upset as he had ever seen him after the team’s setback against Arizona in the Pac-12 championship. “We play to win at UCLA. It’s not OK to lose. When we lost Saturday, I wasn’t happy, but I knew it was going to help us.”

Another huge assist came from big man Kenneth Nwuba. With two dunks and a layup, the fifth-year senior logged his career high for points in only 41/2 minutes. He was so effective that his teammates kept feeding…

Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/ucla-dodges-upset-trend-opens-041307755.html?src=rss

Author : LA Times

Publish date : 2023-03-17 04:13:07

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