Amari Bailey, UCLA bounce back by blowing out Pepperdine

UCLA’s Adem Bona dunks during the first half of their game against Pepperdine on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr., left, battles for a rebound against Pepperdine’s Boubacar Coulibaly during the first half on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA’s Jaylen Clark soars to the basket for a layup as Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis defends during the first half on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA’s Amari Bailey gets to the basket during the first half of their game against Pepperdine on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar talks with Mike Mitchell Jr. during the first half of their game against UCLA on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell drives to the basket as Pepperdine’s Mike Mitchell Jr. defends during the first half on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA’s Amari Bailey passes off as Pepperdine’s Jan Zidek defends during the first half on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA coach Mick Cronin reacts from the sideline during the second half of their game against Pepperdine on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA’s Amari Bailey takes a 3-point shot during the first half of their game against Pepperdine on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell handles the ball during the first half of their game against Pepperdine on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA’s Amari Bailey drives to the basket during the first half of their game against Pepperdine on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr., right, goes up for the rebound against Pepperdine’s Jevon Porter during the first half on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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LOS ANGELES — First, it was a perfectly executed pick-and-roll. Amari Bailey delivered a wrap-around bounce pass to Adem Bona, who slammed it home with two hands. A few plays later, Bailey drove baseline and flicked a dump-off pass to Bona for another dunk.

It was another small dose of what we’ve already seen from the 5-star recruit through a handful of games this season, but Wednesday night, UCLA fans got a heaping pre-Thanksgiving scoop of what Amari Bailey is capable of in the Bruins’ 100-53 victory over Pepperdine at Pauley Pavilion.

On the heels of scoring just six total points in two losses in Las Vegas over the weekend, Bailey’s comfort level was apparent back at home as he scored a career-high 19 points with four assists and three rebounds in 25 minutes.

Bailey also added a career-best three 3-pointers, which seemed to be prompted by Pepperdine’s bench.

“The whole Pepperdine bench was calling me a ‘non-shooter,’” he said. “They were going under screens, and I felt like it was disrespectful. They were giving me plenty of (room) to shoot the ball.”

Don’t let Amari get hot

: Pac-12 Network
: https://t.co/c16UAaEYxL#GoBruins pic.twitter.com/oI39GJg2zO

— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) November 24, 2022

It’s something Coach Mick Cronin forecasted for Bailey’s college career.

“I’ve been telling him since he committed here that people weren’t going to guard him,” Cronin said, alluding to teams sagging off Bailey and daring him to shoot. “Because he’s so explosive, you have to pick your poison with him … they’re going to force you to make shots, which he can do.”

UCLA (4-2) put together a 19-2 run in the first half after Pepperdine took a 14-12 lead on a Houston Mallette corner 3-pointer. Bailey made back-to-back 3-pointers just before halftime to give UCLA a 43-29 advantage at the break.

Bailey opened the second half with a half-court alley-oop pass to Bona before making a turnaround jumper on the next possession. He was feeling it.

“I can’t even imagine the pressure those kids are under,” Cronin said of freshmen Bailey and Bona. “I try and simplify life for guys like that: keep playing hard. Keep being coachable. It will all happen for you. It did for Peyton Watson, he went in the first round of the (NBA) draft.”

Thank 𝐅𝐔𝐋𝐋 FOR BONA ALLEY-OOPS

: Pac-12 Network
: https://t.co/c16UAaEYxL#GoBruins | #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/UzYwxmlYFC

— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) November 24, 2022

Jaime Jaquez Jr. had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and eight rebounds in 28 minutes for UCLA. Jaylen Clark had 12 points, six rebounds and two steals, David Singleton added 13 points and Tyger Campbell and Bona each scored 11.

“It was great to see,” Jaquez said of Amari’s performance. “He’s adjusting well. It takes time, he’s just getting his feet wet. He’s going to have more nights like this.”

UCLA shot 55% from the field and 50% from 3-point range.

Bailey scored just one point in UCLA’s 89-80 loss to Illinois, going 0 for 5 from the field. He then scored five points, going 2 for 5 in Sunday’s 80-75 loss to Baylor in 28 and 20 minutes, respectively. The numbers were well under his 11.6-point average heading into the weekend, but most concerning was his drop in aggression.

That was not an issue Wednesday night, which is a testament to his competitive spirit.

“They say you judge a man by how he handles adversity, so to come back (home) and bounce back collectively as a group, not just me individually … it was a great collective win,” Bailey said.

A Jaquez free throw gave UCLA a 72-42 lead with 10:38 left in the second half. The Bruins’ lead grew to as much as 41 points (88-47) with 5:37 left.

Pepperdine (4-2) was led by Mallette (13 points, eight rebounds). Jan Zidek, the son of former UCLA big man George Zidek, who played on UCLA’s 1995 national championship team, also had 13 points. Maxwell Lewis added 10 points for the Waves, who shot just 35% from the field as their three-game winning streak come to an end.

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“Our effort was much, much better and I’m a big believer in that,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said when asked about his team’s defense. “I didn’t think we played harder than our opponents in Vegas and I take that personally.”

LEARNING CURVE

Pepperdine had six turnovers during that 19-2 UCLA run and had 17 in the game, which the Bruins turned into 28 points.

“I talked to our guys, we have a young team, and I said ‘Learn from it. Learn from what they do. That’s how it’s supposed to look when you’re playing the right way and you put everything together,’” Pepperdine coach Lorenzo Romar said. “We’ll learn from it.”

Mallette went 3 for 8 from 3-point range and has made a shot from behind the arc in 32 consecutive games to match a Waves record set by Terrance Johnson in 2004. Pepperdine entered the game shooting 45.8% from 3-point range – fifth in the nation – but went 7 for 31 (22.6%) against the Bruins.

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