UCLA routs UNC Asheville to open NCAA tournament

SACRAMENTO —  The one nervous moments got here a number of hours earlier than tipoff.A slew of huge upsets put UCLA on excessive alert towards one other Cinderella in search of a sprinkling of March magic.None could be discovered after an early Bruins blitz of baskets eased any lingering fears. UCLA wouldn’t go the best way of Arizona or Virginia and get eradicated on the NCAA event’s opening day.The massive query dealing with the second-seeded Bruins throughout an 86-53 first-round rout of Fifteenth-seeded North Carolina Asheville on Thursday on the Golden 1 Heart was how a lot relaxation the starters would get.Everybody moreover David Singleton was given the ultimate 5 minutes 46 seconds off.The victory was so comfy that the Bruins didn’t want to make use of freshman heart Adem Bona, who was cleared to return from the left shoulder harm that had sidelined him since a Pac-12 event semifinal towards Oregon.He’ll doubtless play Saturday when UCLA (30-5) faces seventh-seeded Northwestern within the second spherical in a high-stakes preview of future Huge Ten rivals.There was no want for Bona on Thursday given his group’s dominance in each aspect whereas constructing a 21-point halftime lead that it stretched to 33 factors within the second half.“It doesn’t shock me as a result of we misplaced our final recreation and we don’t take shedding flippantly,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin stated, including that senior ahead Jaime Jaquez Jr. was as upset as he had ever seen him after the group’s setback towards Arizona within the Pac-12 championship. “We play to win at UCLA. It’s not OK to lose. Once we misplaced Saturday, I wasn’t comfortable, however I knew it was going to assist us.”One other big help got here from huge man Kenneth Nwuba. With two dunks and a layup, the fifth-year senior logged his profession excessive for factors in solely 41/2 minutes. He was so efficient that his teammates stored feeding him passes on the best way to 10 factors on four-for-four capturing to go together with 4 rebounds and two blocks.“What does that really feel like? Superb,” Nwuba stated of contributing so closely alongside fellow reserve huge man Mac Etienne, who scored 10 factors on five-for-five capturing.The overmatched Bulldogs had been additionally powerless to cease Jaquez. The Pac-12 participant of the 12 months made one artful transfer after one other, ending with 17 factors and eight rebounds whereas making all 5 of his career-high 5 steals within the first half.“I feel we’re enjoying lots for Jaylen this event,” Jaquez stated, referring to teammate Jaylen Clark, who’s out with a lower-leg harm. “I took a web page out of J-Rock’s guide, attempting to get steals, attempting to be lively with my arms, attempt to do it for him.” UCLA’s Dylan Andrews drives previous UNC Asheville’s Tajion Jones to attain a basket within the first half of the primary spherical of the NCAA event in Sacramento on Thursday.(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Instances) The Bruins additionally bought a lift from freshman guard Amari Bailey (17 factors, six assists), senior guard Tyger Campbell (seven factors, 10 assists) and Singleton, who scored 11 factors lower than every week after going scoreless towards Arizona.The second regarded awfully huge for Asheville (27-8) within the opening minutes. UCLA ran its offense prefer it was going 5 on zero whereas the Bulldogs regarded fully rattled on each ends of the courtroom. The Bruins scored the sport’s first 14 factors, Singleton capping the run with a three-pointer and a fist pump as Asheville referred to as timeout.It didn’t get any higher for the Bulldogs, who shortly fell behind by 23 factors. Their finest gamers, Drew Pember and Tajion Jones, each airballed three-pointers and Pember (13 factors) didn’t rating till greater than 10 minutes had handed.UCLA dominated in each class, forcing 16 turnovers whereas committing solely eight, outrebounding the Bulldogs by 15 and outshooting them, 54% to 37.3%. The Bruins additionally pulverized Asheville, 56-24, in factors within the paint.“That’s what you bought to do in video games like that,” Cronin stated. “In case you don’t, your measurement and athleticism isn’t an element, then it doesn’t matter for those who’re a high-major or mid-major. You’ve bought to high-major them, and we did tonight bodily.”Possibly none of it ought to have come as a shock provided that the Bruins confirmed up right here free and able to grasp the second.Jaquez walked into UCLA’s media session Wednesday sporting a blue-and-gold beanie and holding up his telephone to report the scene. He answered one query in Spanish — “rusty,” was the evaluation of the Spanish-speaking reporter he indulged — and defined his pondering behind the varied hairdos he’s sported over his 4 years on the faculty.“I attempt to undergo my hair, I deal with it just like the phoenix,” he stated. “I let it develop, I lower all of it off simply to be born once more.”What about these upsets earlier within the day? Cronin stated that they had no bearing on his group.“We don’t consider in false motivation,” Cronin stated, “so we don’t consider that you simply want your private home crowd to win. We don’t consider you want two starters to win. We consider that you simply want toughness and togetherness, enjoying exhausting and sensible. There’s all the time a option to win.”Generally, like Thursday, it comes simpler than anticipated.