It was the last Thursday of the 2022-2023 MMB season at Pauley Pavilion.
The student section is packed. Like, literally all filled.
With this being the last Thursday game at Pauley of the season, the emotions begin to sink in for seniors Russell Strong IV (#43), Jaime Jaquez Jr. (#24), Tyger Campbell (#10), David Singleton (#34), and Kenneth Nwuba (#14). A packed crowd ready for some 8-claps was the personification of unity, mirroring that of the UCLA Men’s Basketball team.
Although they had a rough start with a 2-12 score at 15:21 in the first quarter, the Bruins persevered. If shots weren’t going in, the players adjusted in order to bring more points to their side of the scoreboard. Whether this meant Mac Etienne (#12) catching Jaquez’s offensive rebound and making a layup, or Dylan Andrews (#2) gaining possession of the ball and assisting #24 to a slam dunk, the Bruins were getting it together, slowly bridging the score gap.
The first half ended in a score of 36-32 favoring UCLA. In the tunnel, as the players make their way back to the court, glum looks are plastered on their faces. The energy seems a little sad; perhaps Coach Mick Cronin just finished yelling at them. Cronin proclaims, “The halftime score’s irrelevant. It’s a 40-minute game.” Once they started the 2nd half, the Bruins did not let go of the lead, ending the game with a win against Arizona State (79-61). These points consisted of multiple dunks by #24, which were rarely seen this season due to “PTSD about jumping, whether it be for rebounds or dunking,” according to Jaquez, due to some ankle injuries that took place during this season and in the previous season. Jaylen Clark (#0) and Adem Bona each brought thirteen defensive rebounds and nine offensive rebounds in total.
Saturday March 5th. UCLA v Arizona.
Students were lined up since 2 AM for the 7 PM game against Arizona in Pauley Pavilion.
Not only did the Bruins play against the 2nd best team in the Pac-12 regular season, but it was Senior Night, and the two big contenders for the Player of the Year Award were going head-to-head. Jaylen Clark remarked, “It’s for a number one seed in the West, it’s for an undefeated home record. A lot of the marbles are sitting on the table.” With a sold-out crowd, the starting senior line-up—Tyger Campbell, Russell Stong IV, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Kenneth Nwuba, and David Singleton—were greeted with cheers as they were commemorated for their contributions to the MBB team.
Possession of the ball was held by Tyger for most of the game, bringing in a total of 21 points in addition to making 11-12 free throws, four assists, and four defensive rebounds. Singleton’s 17 points were made up of five three-pointers (56% accuracy) and two free throws granted after a personal foul by Arizona’s Kerr Kriisa.
Completing the 25 home-game win-streak, The Den (UCLA’s student section) roared with immensely high energy, chanting “MVP! MVP! MVP!” This summoned Jaquez, who was then engulfed by his fellow schoolmates.
Here’s where the MBB story ends at Pauley, reaching the top of one mountain to then find the bottom of another. All of the hard work in the regular season has won Coach Cronin the John R. Wooden Coach of the Year, Jaime Jaquez Jr. Pac-12 Player of the Year, Jaylen Clark Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and Adem Bona Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Year awards.
Yet, the endurance must continue into the rest of March as March Madness nears.
“It’s one step towards our real goal …to cut the nets down.” – David Singleton