February 25, 2024

Mick Cronin acknowledged the obvious earlier this week.

Given UCLA’s severe offensive limitations, the Bruins would have to win with defense and toughness.

But even that formula wasn’t enough Wednesday night given the lows to which their offense sunk. After scoring the game’s first 10 points, the Bruins fell into an epic funk during a 59-53 loss to Stanford at Pauley Pavilion during which they set a season low for points scored.

Airballs abounded as UCLA made only one of 13 shots during one stretch of a second half in which it shot 21.4%. The Bruins (6-8 overall, 1-2 Pac-12) shot just 32.8% for the game on the way to their sixth loss in seven games.

Once again stout inside, with post players Berke Buyuktuncel (13 points) and Adem Bona (12) combining to make eight of 13 shots, UCLA made just three of 13 three-point attempts. The Bruins compounded their shooting woes by committing 10 of their 16 turnovers in the second half.

Kanaan Carlyle scored 17 points to lead Stanford (7-6, 2-1), which prevailed despite making only six of 20 three-point shots.

UCLA got off to its best start of the season, rolling off a 10-0 lead to start the game thanks, in part, to forcing a flurry of turnovers. Showing active defense from the tipoff, Bona and Buyuktuncel swarmed Maxime Raynaud along the baseline on Stanford’s opening possession and forced a jump ball for a turnover.

Meanwhile, an offense that had sputtered during the season’s first two months moved the ball crisply and made eight of its first nine shots. UCLA’s Lazar Stefanovic, stuck in a season-long shooting slump, swished a couple of jumpers and Sebastian Mack (14 points) was a whirlwind around the basket, scoring on a spinning layup and a powerful drive.

UCLA guard Dylan Andrews and Stanford Cardinal James Keefe go for a rebound Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion.

UCLA guard Dylan Andrews (2) and Stanford Cardinal James Keefe (22) go for a rebound Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion.

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Associated Press)

Stanford, which upset then-No. 4 Arizona last week on the strength of 16 three-pointers, missed its first five attempts Wednesday, finally connecting when Michael Jones made one with 8:21 left in the first half. The Cardinal nearly wiped out all of its early deficit to pull to within 30-26 by halftime.

It was another cameo appearance for UCLA freshman Ilane Fibleuil, whose 12-second stint was down from the 17 seconds he played against Oregon last weekend. Fiblueil’s crime that led to such a short stay? He lost the ball on a drive to the basket for a turnover.

Cronin said earlier this week that Fibleuil was struggling to learn the intricacies of the college game as far as fundamentals and defense. Strong defense could keep Fibleuil on the court, Cronin said, but the freshman never got the chance to play any Wednesday after being yanked from the game after just one offensive possession.

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