Adem Bona retains breakout season going as No. 7 UCLA routs Utah

Adem Bona can at all times take Mick Cronin out of a grumpy temper, whether or not it’s by flashing a large smile or throwing an arm round his coach’s shoulder and telling him all the things goes to be all proper.

UCLA’s ceaselessly joyful large man generated delight Thursday evening with an evolving expertise.

His ferociousness.

Bona was a pressure across the basket within the recreation’s early going in opposition to Utah, the freshman powering in for a putback, rising for a mini-hook shot and taking a Tyger Campbell lob for a dunk as a part of a private six-point run.

“That was kind of like the boost we needed,” Bona stated. “I didn’t get the buckets myself, they found me rolling to the rim.”

A couple of minutes later, when Campbell was desperately trying to find somebody to take an inbounds go, wanting a method after which one other, Bona burst via the lane to gather the ball and drove in for a dunk.

Bona was all over the place the seventh-ranked Bruins wanted him to be throughout a 68-49 victory over the Utes at Pauley Pavilion, persevering with an emergence that has made his crew much more formidable whereas stretching its profitable streak to 12 video games.

Having been chosen the Pac-12’s freshman of the week in every of the final two weeks, Bona was constructing a robust candidacy for a three-peat. Contributing in each class, he posted 15 factors on seven-for-nine taking pictures to go together with eight rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal.

“You guys can see what he can really do,” UCLA ahead Jaime Jaquez Jr. stated on an evening his shot wasn’t falling however discovered different methods to contribute. “He’s flourishing right now and that’s what we need to do if we’re going to be a great team.”

Rebounding was the world that Cronin had most closely focused for enchancment on condition that Bona’s common of 4.9 earlier than Thursday ranked solely third on the crew, trailing guard Jaylen Clark (6.8) and Jaquez (6.4). Bona snagged three offensive rebounds within the first half in opposition to the Utes, together with one which he threw to Campbell for a three-pointer.

“Adem started beating some blockouts and that’s what really got us going,” Cronin stated. “It changed the game.”

Displaying the taking pictures accuracy that has deserted him for a lot of the season, Campbell made seven of 14 photographs and three of six three-pointers on the way in which to 17 factors and 7 assists for the Bruins (15-2 total, 6-0 Pac-12).

“That’s what he’s capable of,” Cronin stated. “I was imploring him to be more aggressive, he’s been a little too passive lately.”

It helped Bona’s trigger that Utah was with out main scorer Branden Carlson due to an unspecified sickness, taking his averages of 15.7 factors and seven.4 rebounds off the board, to not point out his imposing 7-foot presence within the submit. Guard Rollie Worster led the Utes (12-6, 5-2) with 12 factors as they struggled in opposition to a UCLA protection led by reserve ahead Kenneth Nwuba’s career-high 5 blocks in solely quarter-hour.

In the meantime, UCLA freshman guard Amari Bailey continued his new custom of waving to college students whereas wearing sweatpants throughout the pregame roll name. It was the fourth consecutive recreation Bailey has sat out due to discomfort in his left foot, and he’s not anticipated to play in opposition to Colorado on Saturday.

The Bruins shook off a shaky begin largely due to Bona, his six consecutive factors sparking an 11-0 spurt that put UCLA forward to remain. Cronin in contrast Bona to former NBA star Kenyon Martin, whom Cronin had mentored when he was an assistant coach at Cincinnati underneath Bob Huggins.

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell (10) shoots over Utah guard Lazar Stefanovic (20) throughout the second half on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Related Press)

“Kenyon, he was the smartest basketball player I ever coached,” Cronin stated. “Adem’s really basketball-intelligent and he’s only a freshman, so the guy’s obviously an NBA player.”

Bona’s large early burst helped his crew take a 31-22 halftime lead even with Jaquez going scoreless whereas lacking his first 4 photographs.

Jaquez lastly broke via a few minutes into the second half when he rose for a three-pointer and adopted shortly thereafter with a jumper. Jaquez scored all eight of his factors within the second half and completed with a game-high 12 rebounds alongside 10 deflections and 6 assists as UCLA pulled away.

One other ally bolstered the Bruins of their bid to solidify their maintain on the highest spot within the convention standings. Considerably extra quietly than it could have appreciated, UCLA has constructed probably the greatest homecourt benefits in school basketball underneath Cronin.

A dive into the wonderful print of current seasons is required to search out the final time the Bruins misplaced a recreation at Pauley Pavilion with a full allotment of followers allowed contained in the constructing.

A defeat final January in opposition to Oregon got here with just a few dozen quick relations permitted due to COVID-19 restrictions. The final setback earlier than that got here with simply cardboard cutouts wanting on as USC’s Tahj Eaddy sank a late nook three-pointer in March 2021.

One should go all the way in which again to Jan. 15, 2020, to search out the final time a big throng of UCLA followers left Pauley Pavilion sad as Stanford’s victory that evening sparked a memorable postgame rant by Cronin.

The Bruins received their remaining seven dwelling video games that season, went 11-1 at dwelling with no followers permitted throughout the coronavirus season that adopted and completed 14-1 on their dwelling courtroom final season.

UCLA is 10-0 at Pauley Pavilion, giving Cronin the form of success that’s important in his crew’s bid for its first Pac-12 regular-season title in a decade.

“If you’re going to build a program that competes for your league title,” Cronin stated earlier this week, “you must win at home.”