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UCLA men’s basketball survives rough shooting night vs. Colorado

Lawson Lovering #34 of the Colorado Buffaloes controls the ball against Adem Bona #3 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Jaylen Clark #0 of the UCLA Bruins reacts against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Mick Cronin of the UCLA Bruins in the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

KJ Simpson #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes takes a shot against Jaime Jaquez Jr. #24 of the UCLA Bruins in the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Tad Boyle of the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half against the UCLA Bruins at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Adem Bona #3 of the UCLA Bruins reacts during play against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Adem Bona #3 of the UCLA Bruins reacts against the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Javon Ruffin #11 of the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half against the UCLA Bruins at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The UCLA Bruins react during play against the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The UCLA Bruins react during play against the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Adem Bona #3 of the UCLA Bruins takes a shot against Lawson Lovering #34 of the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Adem Bona #3 of the UCLA Bruins takes a shot against Lawson Lovering #34 of the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Adem Bona #3 of the UCLA Bruins takes a shot against Luke O’Brien #0 of the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on January 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES — For the entire first half and the beginning of the second on Saturday, UCLA men’s basketball had little going offensively against Colorado at Pauley Pavilion. The looks weren’t bad. But open shots went awry. Inside attempts spun around and out. Free throws clanked.

“I think the crowd was moaning as we kept missing open shots,” coach Mick Cronin said. “So was I.”

Still, the No. 7-ranked team in the country clawed out a 68-54 win, behind a 17-0 second half run and a masterpiece of a game from Jaime Jaquez Jr. Jaquez was all over the score sheet with 23 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks, four steals and two assists.

“If you’re going to pick 10 minutes to where the ball goes in, you’d want the last 10,” Cronin said.

The Bruins (16-2, 7-0 Pac-12) have won 13 straight games, matching the program’s longest win streak since the 2016-17 season. They also matched last year’s 16-2 start and remain the only undefeated team in the Pac-12.

They won this one despite shooting 38% from the field and 4 of 19 from 3-point range, with the defense holding Colorado (11-8, 3-5 Pac-12) to 31% shooting and to just one field goal in the last 10 minutes.

During a timeout, Jaquez told his teammates: The shots are going to fall.

“They were in and out on every shot,” Jaquez said. “Once I saw they were all going in and out and they weren’t just bricks, I knew that we were going to be fine.”

Trailing 44-35, UCLA put the clamps on Colorado, forcing turnover after turnover and began making some of the good looks it had been missing earlier in the game. A steal by Jaquez set up two free throws by David Singleton to give the Bruins a 45-44 lead. Adem Bona made an impact in the paint, with seven points during the 17-0 stretch. He finished with nine points, four rebounds and three blocks.

A three, followed by two free throws by Jaylen Clark gave the Bruins a double-digit lead for the first time with under fives minutes to go.

Clark’s first three cut the lead to one – the first 3-pointer of the game for UCLA. He finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.

“I was just like, ‘F it, I’m finna pull it,” Clark said. “He kind of contested it, but I didn’t give a damn. It was gone. And then a lot more went in after that.”

It was like a switch had gone off for the typically high-octane Bruins.

UCLA made its first shot of the second half, but then missed its next 14 attempts. Tyger Campbell, coming off a 17-point performance against Utah, was 4-of-15 with 11 points.

On one possession, Singleton missed three consecutive open 3-pointers. When a diving Jaquez set up a fourth straight opportunity for the Bruins, a floater by Clark rimmed out.

A layup by Jaquez finally gave the Bruins their second field goal of the half at the 12-minute mark.

“What happens when things aren’t going your way on offense, sometimes your mind wanders,” Cronin said. “You start feeling sorry for yourself, or you try to do too much on defense.”

After an overplay by Jaquez led to a basket on an out-of-bounds play, Cronin told his team in the timeout: “I don’t need heroes. I need soldiers.”

“In sports, heroes get you beat,” Cronin said. “You’ve got to be a soldier and keep doing your job — and eventually the worm turns and if it doesn’t, you’ve still got to do your job, play the right way and you’ll win the next one.”

The Bruins’ first half struggles on offense included shooting under 40 percent, missing all seven of their 3-point attempts and over half their free throws.

Defense and hustle kept UCLA in the game, though. It was led by Jaquez, who had 12 points, six rebounds, three blocks and a steal in the first 20 minutes. And it is defense, according to Jaquez, that is keying the win streak.

“You play defense, you give yourself a chance,” Jaquez said. “And we’re giving ourselves a lot of chances.”

The Bruins forced the Buffaloes into 23 turnovers. UCLA also had 14 second-chance points to one for Colorado.

KJ Simpson led Colorado with 17 points.

Saturday’s game marked UCLA’s final home game of the month. The Bruins head on the road for three straight beginning next week, playing Arizona State, Arizona and USC.

Cronin said it’s unfortunate the team can’t bring the student body with them on the road. But the Bruins can bring their defense.

“Teams that only defend when the ball goes in are in the NIT,” Cronin said. “Real programs win when things aren’t going their way. They find a way to make it go their way.”

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