No. 8 UCLA upset by No. 19 Illinois in first big test of season
When UCLA was struggling to get the ball only into midfield, the Bruins were rocked by body swarms and waving arms, it was obvious they were no longer playing a low-major team on their home court.
This was a rude Big Ten Conference-style basketball salute in a game that felt like a street game rather than a neutral court. The Illinois fans who filled most of the T-Mobile Arena roared with every turnover their team forced.
In their first test of the season, UCLA failed miserably, as if they stopped filling out answers halfway through.
Unable to withstand the intense pressure at Friday night’s Continental Tire Main Event, the No. 8 Bruins gambled away a 15-point lead while losing to No. 19 Illinois 79-70.
“It’s simple: They were a lot tougher than us in a lot of areas,” said UCLA coach Mick Cronin after his team gave up 51 points in the second half. “We are withered. When the game turned up, the game got physical, they refused to go, we gave in. Its my fault.”
UCLA’s consolation prize after nine of their 15 second-half turnovers? A consolation game against No. 5 Baylor on Sunday afternoon after Virginia upset the Bears the previous Friday.
Even with a strong lead in experience from veterans, three Bruins starters who had played in a Final Four two years ago, it was a disparity in favor of the orange-clad team, which had five new starters among its 10 newcomers. The Illini ended the game on a 50-26 run, the decibel levels rising with every steal and layup.
“I didn’t know what the score was for four minutes,” Cronin said. “I’ve never seen that before.”
About a half hour later it seemed hard to believe, but the Bruins (3-1) looked like they could win in a breakaway early in the second half. Jaime Jaquez Jr. cornered a touch pass from Adem Bona and raised for a three-pointer that extended his team’s lead to 44-29.
But Illinois’ Terrence Shannon Jr. countered with a three and the Illini forced consecutive turnovers that ended in layups to complete a 7-0 run.
“In terms of coaching, they messed up the game so we couldn’t execute it,” Cronin said. “They’re pushing and to be honest I’m surprised at how our veterans have handled that. But then again, I’m their coach. So if we don’t handle something well, we haven’t prepared them well enough.”
Illinois (4-0) nearly extended their rebound as they forced another turnover before UCLA’s Tyger Campbell took on an attack to finally win ball back for his team.
Campbell (22 points), Jaquez (20), and David Singleton (15) combined for 57 points, or 81.4% of their team’s scored effort, and didn’t get nearly enough support.
Jaylen Clark, who came into the game with a team-best average of 17.3 points, finished the game with seven points on three-for-eight shooting while she managed just one steal, a season low.
Clark was also among the Bruins who made a futile defensive effort against Shannon, who scored eight of nine three-pointers en route to 29 points.
“Right now we’re worried about offense, so we’re not hearing defensive assignments, we’re not hearing defensive adjustments, we’re not hearing a scouting report,” Cronin said. “We think we’re great. The oldest trick in the book – show me a guy who isn’t humble and I’ll show you a guy who’s preparing to be humble.”
Cronin said he knew his team was in trouble because of how Thursday’s practice went.
“I’ve had people tell me, ‘Don’t worry,'” Cronin said. “We will hang a banner for beating the state of Norfolk.”
There are no banners to beat Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference teams and the Bruins have shown they have considerable work to do ahead of their arrival – UC Regents poised – as members of the conference in 2024 to compete with the best of the Big Ten to compete.
“We just didn’t handle it well,” Jaquez said. “We weren’t tough enough to deal with their pressure – they came at us and like the coach said we just folded, there’s really nothing left.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-11-18/ucla-loses-illinois-college-basketball No. 8 UCLA upset by No. 19 Illinois in first big test of season