April 16, 2024

Closing time continues to be the same story for UCLA.

The Bruins keep finishing off themselves.

Given another chance against a quality opponent in the final minutes Saturday afternoon, the Bruins fell short again.

Late defensive breakdowns and staggering offense plagued UCLA during a 67-60 loss to Ohio State at State Farm Arena in the CBS Sports Classic.

The Bruins (6-4) did not box out or rotate properly in failing to notch what was their last chance at a quality win for NCAA tournament resume purposes before the start of Pac-12 Conference play later this month.

Already missing Berke Buyuktuncel (ankle), UCLA found itself doubly shorthanded with 1:54 left after guard Sebastian Mack drove toward the basket, was fouled and landed with a thud along the baseline. Trainer Tyler Lesher and coach Mick Cronin came over to check on Mack, who left the game.

Ohio State chose Adem Bona to shoot the free throws that Mack had been awarded and he made one of two, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to 59-54.

Mack reentered the game and made a floater to pull UCLA to within 59-56 and the Bruins played good defense through the final seconds of an Ohio State possession that ended with Jamison Battle burying the Buckeyes’ first three-pointer after they had missed their first 14 attempts from long range.

Guard Roddy Gayle Jr. scored 19 points for Ohio State (9-2), which won after making 55.6% of its shots in the second half to UCLA’s 45.2%.

Mack led UCLA with 14 points while making just five of 16 shots. Dylan Andrews added 13 points and Bona had 12.

After adding little of value in the first half, Bona finally made some moves midway through the second half. He took a lob from Andrews for a dunk and followed it with a driving layup and a jump hook to give the Bruins a 47-46 lead.

UCLA held a 23-22 halftime lead courtesy of strong defense that forced 10 Ohio State turnovers and held the Buckeyes to 0 for 10 on three-point shooting.

Of course, the Bruins had their own offensive issues in a game in which neither team was on pace to reach 50 points. Post players Bona, Aday Mara and Kenneth Nwuba combined to miss all seven of their shots. UCLA’s offense mostly consisted of jumpers and Mack drives to the basket.

Freshman forward Brandon Williams provided a boost when he followed a layup off an inbounds pass with a tip-in to give the Bruins their first lead of the game. Pleased with what he saw, Cronin gave Williams a spirited pat on the rear after he returned to the bench.

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