LOS ANGELES — After a back-and-forth second half, the UCLA men’s basketball team trailed UC Riverside by one point with 10.9 seconds left on Thursday night. That’s when UCLA’s Dylan Andrews received the inbounds pass and went coast-to-coast, banking in an off-balance shot from the right side of the lane with 3.4 seconds left to give the Bruins a 66-65 victory on a night when they were without head coach Mick Cronin.
Afterward, the sophomore point guard could not help but smile when asked about doing something he has never done before as a Bruin.
“High school man,” Andrews said with a smile when recalling the last time he hit a game-winning shot. “So it’s a blessing to be able to make that shot. It’s a great feeling. All credit to UC Riverside, they play really hard. Fourteen (3-pointers) in a game is unbelievable and so we have to go back to the drawing board and just get ready for the next one. We’ve got a big one coming up (vs. Villanova on Dec. 9).”
The Bruins, who had an 11-point lead with 8½ minutes to play, fell behind 65-63 when Nate Pickens made two free throws with 48.8 seconds left. Aday Mara got one back at the foul line at 41 seconds but after running the clock down, the Highlanders put up an airball and lost the rebound out of bounds at 9.5, setting the stage for Andrews’ dramatic drive.
The Bruins (5-2) then prevented the Highlanders (3-5) from getting off a final shot, which preserved their hard-fought victory at Pauley Pavilion.
“I thought (Andrews) did a fairly good job (Thursday), especially on offense,” said UCLA associate head coach Darren Savino, who filled as UCLA’s acting head coach in Cronin’s absence. “Defense, I still want him to improve, but Dylan is going to have to play like that in these games coming up. He’s going to have to give us good minutes and some scoring.”
UCLA associate head coach Darren Savino on filling in for Mick Cronin, who missed Thursday’s game vs. UC Riverside with COVID and the late game heroics of sophomore guard Dylan Andrews to pull off a 66-65 win vs. UCR at Pauley Pavilion. pic.twitter.com/izr2HDCrs0
— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) December 1, 2023
The victory extended UCLA’s home winning streak to 29 games, the longest active home winning streak in the nation.
Andrews scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the first half. Sophomore guard Will McClendon added 11 points.
Isaiah Moses scored 21 points (16 in the second half) to go with three rebounds and four assists for UCR. Senior forward Kyle Owens, a former Crespi High standout, scored all 18 of his points in the first half, going 5 for 7 from 3-point range. Pickens added 14 points, 10 in the second half.
The Highlanders finished 14 for 32 from 3-point range, with Moses and Owens making five each.
Playing without Cronin, who missed Thursday’s game due to a reported COVID illness, UCLA led UCR 34-32 at halftime.
The Highlanders went 5½ minutes without a field goal in the second half and UCLA turned that into a 13-1 run to take a 55-44 lead with 8:27 to play. Six points came from the foul line but McClendon and Aday Mara capped the surge with a 3-pointer and dunk, respectively.
“It always feels good when you see the ball go in,” McClendon said. “Knowing as a team we’re going to need scoring, whether it be me tonight or whether it be somebody else tomorrow but it felt good. Obviously, it’s good for confidence as well but I’ve been working all season on getting my shot right. The coaches trust me, they get mad at me when I don’t shoot it so I was just happy to see it go in (Thursday).”
Riverside stormed right back, hitting four consecutive shots, the last three 3-pointers, and pulled within 58-55. McClendon had a 3-pointer to keep the Highlanders from catching the Bruins and then added another to put the lead at 61-56 with four minutes to play.
“Moving forward, it’s a nice little weapon for us if he can continue to play with that confidence when we kick it to him just to lace it up and shoot it,” Savino said of McClendon’s 3-for-4 performance from behind the arc.
When Pickens and Moses hit 3-pointers, the Highlanders had tied the score at 63 with 1:40 remaining.
UCLA missed four straight shots before Andrews hit the winner.
Savino’s starting lineup against UCR was Andrews, freshman guard Sebastian Mack, junior guard Lazar Stefanovic, sophomore forward Adem Bona and Mara, a freshman center.
UCLA freshman forward Berke Buyuktuncel went down with an apparent ankle injury with 3:56 left in the first half and did not return to the game. Savino did not reveal the severity but said Buyuktuncel was icing his ankle in the locker room after the Bruins’ win.
The Bruins shot 42% from the field (13 for 31) in the first half, while UCR shot 50% from the field (12 for 24) and 40% from behind the arc (6 for 13) before the intermission. Andrews, who grew up in Gardena, scored 13 points in the first half, going 3 for 6 from behind the arc, but he was the only UCLA player who scored more than six points before halftime.
“It’s a good wake-up call for our whole team,” McClendon added. “Anybody can come in. We have to be prepared for any team because teams like Riverside can come in and give you a scare like this. It’s just going to bring us all closer together. … At the end of the day, we have to do a better job of executing our game plan.”
UCLA basketball sophomore guards Dylan Andrews and Will McClendon on the Bruins’ 66-65 win vs. UC Riverside at Pauley Pavilion. The last second win extended UCLA’s home winning streak to 29 games, which is the longest active home winning streak in the nation. pic.twitter.com/1Wba9aPTBF
— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) December 1, 2023
UCLA will play No. 18 Villanova on Dec. 9 in Philadelphia.
UCLA outlasts UC Riverside 66-65 for its 29th consecutive win at home 🐻
Highlights ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/ZHgqwEladv
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) December 1, 2023
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