UCLA men’s basketball shows its grit in win over Marquette

Mick Cronin was hopping mad in the game’s opening minutes, the UCLA coach repeatedly jumping on the sideline after his team had given up two offensive rebounds leading to a three-pointer.

Into the game came Jaylen Clark and Jalen Hill, out went Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Cody Riley.

The message was clearly conveyed. It was going to take more grit to match a tough, physical opponent such as Marquette on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion.

It wasn’t long before three Bruins dove on the court chasing a loose ball. Chris Smith and Jaquez stepped in front of driving players to take charges. Jules Bernard came up with a steal that led to his own layup.

UCLA was starting to show the resolve it would need to emerge with a 69-60 victory over the Golden Eagles that qualified as the Bruins’ most impressive of the young season.

It was the first meeting in Los Angeles between these storied programs and, given the riveting display, might be worthy of developing into an intersectional rivalry.

Jaquez shrugged off some late foul trouble to tie his career high with 18 points and Bernard added 15 points for the Bruins (5-1), who closed the game on a 13-4 run and won in large part by playing solid defense and committing only seven turnovers to Marquette’s 18.

Smith, who entered the game averaging a team-high 15 points per game, didn’t log his first points until two free throws with 5:54 left. It was part of a 7-0 run for the Bruins that involved Hill dunking an alley-oop pass from Tyger Campbell and a Smith free throw that gave them a 63-56 lead with 4:32 left.

An even more entertaining sequence came when Hill blocked a shot and Smith saved the ball going out of bounds with a behind-the-back pass to Hill. It started a trend as Smith and Hill blocked two more shots in the final minutes to help preserve the Bruins’ lead. Smith finished with four points after missing all eight of his shots but had seven rebounds and two steals to go with his block.

Guard D.J. Carton scored 18 points to lead the Golden Eagles (4-2), who could not capitalize on outrebounding the Bruins by six.

The Bruins endured an epic cold stretch early in the second half, missing seven consecutive shots, before Bernard found Jake Kyman in the corner for an open three-pointer that gave UCLA a 47-45 lead.

UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr., right, puts up a shot in front of Marquette forward Theo John during the first half Friday.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

UCLA held a 36-34 halftime advantage after a flurry of activity in the final minute, some of it inspired, some of it comical, including the Golden Eagles getting away with what appeared to be traveling and backcourt violations on the same play.

The Bruins rebounded with a nifty drive and pass from Campbell to Hill for a monstrous two-handed dunk before Marquette’s Carton buried a floating jumper at the halftime buzzer. The Golden Eagles were right there with the Bruins despite starting forward Justin Lewis being limited to six minutes in the first half after picking up three fouls.

UCLA’s lead at the game’s midpoint came despite Smith going scoreless to that point, missing all four of his shots, though he did collect two steals and two rebounds.

Jaquez rebounded from his quick hook with a determined effort for the balance of the first half, making a steal before taking a lob from Campbell for a dunk. He also nearly saved a ball going out of bounds, giving his team the kind of effort that its coach was seeking with his early demonstrative display.