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No. 9 UCLA haunted by turnovers and other issues in win over Washington

Westwood, CA - February 02: Washington guard PJ Fullere II, #4, left, battles UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Washington guard PJ Fuller II, left, and UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. battle for a loose ball in the Bruins' 70-61 win Thursday night. Jaquez finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It didn’t seem like the sort of game that would involve any nervous moments for UCLA.

Dominating in every facet early, the Bruins looked as if they had walked over to the Wooden Center and were taking on a random collection of students that happened to be wearing the uniform of a Pac-12 rival.

But as the minutes passed, their once-massive lead dwindling, some old issues reemerged Thursday night against Washington. Ball movement ceased. Players stood around. Turnovers piled up. Everyone looked at one another, waiting for someone to do something.

UCLA’s offense bottomed out with one sequence in which David Singleton badly misfired on an NBA-range three-pointer before Jaylen Clark missed an easy put-back and the ball eventually trickled out of bounds off Adem Bona.

Having once led by as many as 18 points, the Bruins found themselves up only seven with 3½ minutes to go. But Washington’s Keion Brooks Jr. airballed a three-pointer and the Bruins made enough free throws to avert a complete meltdown.

Ninth-ranked UCLA officially ended its two-game losing streak with a 70-61 victory over the Huskies at a tense Pauley Pavilion, even if it felt like more of the same for a team that couldn’t shake its offensive funk.

UCLA (18-4 overall, 9-2 Pac-12) committed a season-worst 18 turnovers, including five each by guards Tyger Campbell and Amari Bailey. Two of Campbell’s turnovers came on inbounds passes along the baseline off the hands of teammates.

UCLA guard Amari Bailey, right, drives to the basket against Washington guard Jamal Bey in the second half.
UCLA guard Amari Bailey, right, drives to the basket against Washington guard Jamal Bey in the second half. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“Eighteen turnovers, to me, is like 25 to other coaches, so beyond unacceptable,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said.

Forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. had four turnovers, removing some luster from his double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“He’s way better than he played tonight,” Cronin said. “And if he’s not better than he played tonight we’re not going to win. ... Our supposed best two players [Campbell and Jaquez] got nine turnovers, and all of them unforced. At no point did they get trapped, so those two single-handedly let the other team back in the game with their carelessness with the ball.”

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark, left, and UCLA forward Adam Bona celebrate after defeating Washington on Thursday.
UCLA guard Jaylen Clark, left, and UCLA forward Adam Bona celebrate after defeating Washington on Thursday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

While acknowledging that some turnovers are inevitable, Cronin said many of his team’s were a result of “immaturity.”

“When you’re throwing passes at people’s feet and Nolan Ryan fastballs off the glass,” Cronin said, referring to the Hall of Fame pitcher, “you think you’re going to win anyway — in my opinion, tonight — and you’re just screwing around and in doing that all you do is make yourself look bad — really bad.”

The Bruins also uncharacteristically struggled to defend while allowing the Huskies (13-11, 5-8) to make six of 12 three-pointers during the second half. Brooks was a game-long menace with 23 points on nine-for-17 shooting.

After UCLA was outscored 39-32 in the second half, Jaquez said the Bruins were trying too hard to be perfect on offense rather than just taking good shots.

UCLA coach Mick Cronin argues with a referee in the second half of the Bruins' win over Washington.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin argues with a referee in the second half of the Bruins' win over Washington. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“If you have an open shot, I think at this point in the year you just got to take ’em,” Jaquez said. “And I think that’s something that we’re gonna look back at the film and see and hopefully improve for the next game.”

UCLA’s first victory in two weeks wasn’t entirely devoid of positives. Cronin lauded his team’s 14 offensive rebounds. Clark made his first three shots after missing all seven last week against USC and finished with nine points on four-for-nine shooting against the Huskies.

In his return to the starting lineup in only his second game back from the foot discomfort that sidelined him a month, Bailey added another dimension to the offense by scoring 13 points on six-for-nine shooting.

“I felt great,” Bailey said. “Just being able to hoop again with the guys, help the team win most importantly. I have to cut down on the turnovers.”

A night that looked as if it might sour for the Bruins ended with an upbeat tone, courtesy of their coach.

“We’re 18-4 and in every metric that matters we’re in the top five in the nation and we don’t buy players,” Cronin said, alluding to other programs paying high school recruits. “So I think everybody should be happy if you’re a UCLA fan, and I’m happy. I’m not happy about the turnovers.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.