Commanding defense powers No. 8 UCLA past Long Beach State

The Bruins are known for their defense. And they showed it against the Beach.

The UCLA Bruins showed off their identity, which starts on defense. 

When Kenneth Nwuba swatted down a layup attempt with 7:48 left in the first half, cheers erupted from his standing teammates and fans. Then, Amari Bailey cashed in on the play with a transition layup. 

Defensive prowess highlighted the Bruins’ comfortable 93-69 victory against the Long Beach State Beach, as they beat the familiar foe for the ninth consecutive time. 

After an early wave of offense put the Beach ahead 8-2, the Bruins relied on their defensive mastery to block the resistance. They exhibited active hands when challenged with screens and consistently sought deflections to create transition buckets.

Jaylen Clark modeled the effort by energetically forcing turnovers, continuing a trend he began during Monday’s matchup against the Sacramento State Hornets, where he accumulated seven steals. 

Clark finished the game against the Beach with four steals while displaying offensive ability. He scored 16 points on 50% shooting from the floor. 

Teamwide, the Bruins racked up ten steals and four blocks, many of which sparked their first-half offense, featuring 13 points off turnovers. However, their defensive aggression became a double-edged sword, as Adem Bona fell into foul trouble early. 

Bona, a former five-star recruit, made his Bruins debut after an NCAA ruling forced him to sit out the season opener. Despite quick fouls, he still played 18 minutes after starting the game, scoring eight points while displaying soft touch around the rim. He also grabbed eight rebounds.

The usual contributors, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Campbell, also chipped in, scoring 12 and 18 points, respectively. Jaquez contributed to an early offensive effort with a few scores but was ineffective later, finishing the game 4-for-14 from the floor. Campbell was more productive than Jaquez, making half his field goals. 

Another team veteran, David Singleton, made his presence felt on offense, scoring 14 points, 12 of which came off three-pointers. Freshman Amari Bailey also added 14 points, improving from his debut performance on Monday.

The Bruins’ dominant performance let fan favorite Russell Stong enter the game with 1:29 left, signaling the end of the matchup. However, he may not always check-in for the Bruins this season as they soon match up with more highly-regarded opponents.

On Nov. 18, they will face the No. 23 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini in Las Vegas, an opportunity to exhibit their defense against a ranked opponent. Before, though, they will play the Norfolk State Spartans on Nov. 14 at home.

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