No. 24 UCLA faces sneaky test at Cal

UCLA heads into this week’s Pac-12 basketball action on a six-game winning streak and ranked No. 24 in the nation ahead of a matchup with the California Golden Bears on Thursday night in Berkeley, Calif.

The Bruins (11-2, 7-0 Pac-12) have won their last seven meetings with the Bears and are riding high in first place in the conference. It’s the first time UCLA has opened the conference season 7-0 since the 1993-94 season.

UCLA has six players averaging at least 10 points per game, led by guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. at 13.2. The Bruins are limiting mistakes, having committed fewer fouls than the opposition in every game this season.

Point guard Tyger Campbell is the conference assists leader at 6.4 per game and 83 total this season. Guard David Singleton has made 20 of 40 3-point attempts and leads the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage, and Jaquez has hit 19 treys this season while converting at a 45.2 percent clip.

“Tyger, we’re not a good team unless he’s playing well,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said.

Defense is a staple of Cronin’s philosophy, and the Bruins have been solid there, too. UCLA holds a 7-0 record when limiting the opposition to 70 or fewer points.

The Bruins were tested against one-win Washington on Saturday, trailing by 10 points at halftime before outscoring the Huskies by 15 in the second half for an 81-76 victory.

“College basketball, matchups mean so much, more than the other team’s record,” Cronin said. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing. We’ve been able to have some guys make some big buckets … We’ve got a bunch of young guys that can get where they want to go as players. It’s fun coaching them, but we don’t overwhelm with our athleticism.”

The Bears (7-8, 2-6) are coming off a 72-63 victory at Utah on Saturday in which they scored 50 second-half points. They won despite not having their floor leader and top scorer, Matt Bradley, who has been out with an ankle injury since Jan. 2.

Cal may have found some new chemistry and a formula for better results. The Bears lost their first five Pac-12 games, but they have since won two of three.

Forward Andre Kelly is shooting 61.5 percent from the field this season, the second-best mark in the Pac-12. He is shooting 70.9 percent in Cal’s eight Pac-12 games.

Forward Grant Anticevich looks as if he is fully recovered from an emergency appendectomy in December. He led Cal with 14 points and added seven rebounds at Utah.

“He’s a really good player who has had an awful experience,” Cal coach Mark Fox said. “He was in the hospital for 4 1/2 days. He had not been the same since he came back. He lost a ton of weight. He hadn’t played well. He’s been frustrated.

“It was really uplifting for our entire team, I think, for our entire team to see him make a few, and I think it took the pressure off of everybody.”

–Field Level Media

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