How low can it go for UCLA?
Hard to say. There’s still more than two months left in the season.
The only certainty is that the Bruins sank to new depths Saturday night, falling to an opponent that had won only one game over the previous five weeks and had not beaten a major-conference team all season.
UCLA changed all that, giving California a speck of life while darkening its already bleak outlook.
A new point guard rotation, different lineups, more minutes for seldom-used players … nothing worked for the Bruins during a 66-57 loss at Pauley Pavilion.
Down by as many as 14 points in the second half, UCLA pulled to within 61-55 with 1:44 left before Cal’s Jalen Cone hit a backbreaking three-pointer. It was that kind of night for the Bruins.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin was so flabbergasted over a referee’s call — not to mention the way his team was playing late in the first half — that he flung his suit jacket over the bench, earning a technical foul.
It’s been a frustrating turnabout for the Bruins (6-9 overall, 1-3 Pac-12), who have lost four consecutive home games, seven of eight games overall and are staring at the possibility of a first-to-worst reversal in the conference standings after winning the Pac-12 by four games last season.
That’s what wholesale roster turnover necessitating seven freshmen and bigger roles for the top two returners can do.
Seeking to change his team’s sagging fortunes, Cronin had instructed Sebastian Mack to take over primary point guard duties from Dylan Andrews.
It only made things worse.
The Bruins missed their first five shots and committed three turnovers while giving up the game’s first nine points to California.
Cronin then gave Jan Vide a few minutes at point guard and things didn’t get much better. So the coach went back to Andrews, whose four points in rapid-fire fashion pulled the Bruins to within 32-23 at halftime.
Presumably intended to take pressure off Andrews, who was shooting 24.5% over his previous four games while logging nearly as many turnovers as assists, the move only led to more turnovers and sloppy offense for the Bruins.
Andrews never found much of a shooting form, finishing with 10 points while making four of 12 shots. Mack led UCLA with 20 points and center Adem Bona added 14, but the Bruins made only two of 10 three-pointers in another abysmal showing from long range.
Guard Jaylon Tyson scored 22 points on nine-for-12 shooting for Cal (5-10, 1-3), whose previous victories had come over St. Thomas, Cal State Bakersfield, Santa Clara and UC San Diego.
At this point, it’s not obvious if its triumph over UCLA qualifies as the Golden Bears’ best of the season.
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