UCLA comes up short against No. 4 Marquette in Maui Invitational opener – Daily News

HONOLULU — UCLA showed all of its potential and all of its inexperience in the same game Monday night.

After a back-and-forth second half in which the Bruins saw their 12-point lead become a seven-point deficit, Coach Mick Cronin’s team regained the lead in the final minute only to see Sean Jones hit a straightaway 3-pointer with 38 seconds left to lift fourth-ranked Marquette to a 71-69 victory over UCLA in a Maui Invitational opener.

UCLA took a late 69-68 lead after Adem Bona’s spin move and basket inside with 53 seconds to play, but Jones answered with his 3-pointer to put Marquette back ahead to stay. The Bruins had the ball trailing by two with 21 seconds left and Cronin called a timeout to set up a play, but the Golden Eagles tipped the ball out of bounds with 8.8 seconds to go.

UCLA got two more opportunities but came up empty both times. Lazar Stefanovic’s 3-point attempt rimmed out, then Sebastian Mack’s driving off-balance shot bounced off the side of the rim as time expired in the final game of the night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

“We didn’t play very smart,” Cronin said. “They’ve got great players and we got rattled and it took us too long to get our composure back.”

The Bruins (3-1) will face tournament host Chaminade on Tuesday at 2 p.m. PT in a consolation bracket game.

Mack scored 16 of his career-high 25 points in the second half and Bona added 13 for the Bruins, who had held three lesser opponents to an average of just 50.7 points per game to begin the season. UCLA held the Golden Eagles (4-0) to 12-of-31 shooting in the first half, but saw them shoot 54.2% (13 for 24) from the field after halftime.

“Obviously, we didn’t finish the job tonight,” Bona said. “We plan to finish the job next time.”

David Joplin scored 19 points, including five 3-pointers, to pace Marquette (4-0). Oso Ighodaro scored nine of his 14 points in the second half, Kam Jones had 12 points and reigning Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek added nine points, nine assists and five rebounds.

“When we got down 12 points though, our huddle was the huddle of a team with real character and these guys looked at each other and told each other what they needed to do and we went out there and attacked and took the lead,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “UCLA deserves a lot of credit as well for fighting and taking the lead back and huge shot by Sean Jones to win it for us.”

UCLA led by as many as eight in the first half after Stefanovic’s dunk off an inbounds pass with 7:38 left until halftime. Marquette cut the margin to two on a layup by Jones at the 1:13 mark of the half, but UCLA found some breathing room with Will McClendon’s 3-pointer just before halftime.

UCLA opened a double-digit lead early in the second half when Bona drove for a two-handed dunk, then Mack scored on a contested layup.

Then it all unraveled for the Bruins.

Marquette’s Ighodaro drove for a dunk over Bona and Berke Buyuktuncel, sparking his team to a 17-0 run that included a technical foul on Bona for a vicious elbow. When Ighodaro dunked over Buyuktuncel again, the Golden Eagles had grabbed a 46-45 lead. Marquette took a 50-45 lead before UCLA freshman Ilane Fibleuil hit a 3-pointer.

“I would say we got distracted a little bit and we lost sight of the game plan we had,” Bona said. “Toward the end of the game, we got back into the game plan.”

Cronin said the inexperience of a team that plays seven freshmen showed with the Bruins getting rattled during the Marquette run, which included several defensive breakdowns against penetration.

“I thought we competed. You play smart, solid defensively 80% of the time, that ain’t enough,” Cronin said. “Not against this team. You’ll get exposed. As the competition changes, the margin of error shrinks. Against a team like that, you can’t have the mistakes that we had tonight.

“That’s why it’s great to play these games. Games like this are good for you early. Tells you the truth. Tells me the things I need to get better at as far as coaching our team.”


Making his first appearance after getting cleared by the NCAA, Buyuktuncel started and was a considerable presence on both ends of the court. The 6-foot-9 Turkish forward was 0 for 7 from the field but he had four rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot in 27 minutes, though Cronin felt like he got fatigued.

“He’s going to be a big player for us,” Cronin said, “so might as well throw him in there and get him ready.”


Former Marquette and NBA star Dwayne Wade sat courtside for the game and received a loud ovation from the crowd during a timeout.

“This whole trip he’s been around the guys, he’s been giving us words of wisdom and talking to us a lot, so it’s always great to have some greats come support us,” Joplin said.


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