No. 9 UCLA seeks to stretch the nation’s longest active home winning streak to 21 games when it battles Washington State on Saturday in Pac-12 action.
The first-place Bruins (18-4, 9-2 Pac-12) are 12-0 at Pauley Pavilion this season and stand a half-game ahead of Arizona in the Pac-12 race.
UCLA overcame a 12-point deficit to eke out a 67-66 road win at Washington State on Dec. 30 and is looking for its 10th win in the last 12 meetings with the Cougars.
The Bruins halted a two-game slide with a 70-61 home win over Washington on Thursday. UCLA built an 18-point first-half lead during the wire-to-wire victory, although second-half inconsistencies continue to emerge.
“Every time you get a win at this time of the year, you pat yourself on the back,” said Bruins forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. “We didn’t play our best game, but to get away with a win is good.”
Jaquez registered 15 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season while raising his team-best averages to 16.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. But he also made four turnovers as part of a sloppy night in which UCLA committed 18 overall.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin was disheartened by the number of miscues, especially since half of them were committed by Jaquez and veteran point guard Tyger Campbell (five).
“Eighteen turnovers to me is like 25 to other coaches,” Cronin said. “That’s beyond unacceptable. Our supposed best two players had nine turnovers, all of them unforced. At no point did they get trapped. Those two single-handedly let the other team back in the game with their carelessness with the ball.”
The Bruins’ Amari Bailey, who had 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, also had five turnovers.
Jaquez recorded 20 points and eight rebounds when UCLA pulled out the one-point win over Washington State at Pullman, Wash., earlier this season. DJ Rodman scored 19 points for Washington State and Mouhamed Gueye added 18 points and a career-best 18 rebounds.
Gueye was again on his game Thursday when the Cougars (10-14, 5-8) dropped an 80-70 decision to host Southern California, in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.
Gueye scored a career-best 31 points on 14-of-21 shooting and collected 12 boards for his 10th double-double of the season. He is averaging 14 points and a team-leading 8.4 rebounds per game.
Washington State held a 26-13 lead over the Trojans just past the midway point of the first half before its caliber of play dropped. USC recovered to lead 37-35 at halftime and was up by just one point at 69-68 with two minutes remaining before finishing on an 11-2 run.
“Our guys’ effort was good competing-wise, but our defense was terrible, just disgusting,” Cougars coach Kyle Smith said. “That was one of the worst defensive efforts you’ll ever see.”
Rodman, who averages 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game, missed the game with an illness, as did reserves Adrame Diongue and Dylan Darling.
Cougars leading scorer TJ Bamba (16.2 points) had just seven points on 2-of-10 shooting against USC and has reached double digits just twice over the last eight games. His downturn began with a five-point effort on 2-of-9 shooting against the Bruins in the first meeting.
Bamba is shooting just 32.2 percent (28 of 87) during the stretch to drop his season mark to 40.7.
–Field Level Media