Having drawn a double team near the basket late in the first half, UCLA’s Adem Bona threw an over-the-head pass to David Singleton beyond the top of the three-point arc. Singleton swung the ball to an open Dylan Andrews on the wing before Andrews flipped it to an even more open Abramo Canka in the corner.
Three passes. Two seconds. One wide-open shooter.
The sequence illustrated the zippy ball movement that the No. 19 Bruins used to withstand another impressive offensive display during an 81-60 victory over Bellarmine on Sunday evening at Pauley Pavilion.
With one pass after another accompanied by continuous movement off the ball, the Knights generated plenty of open looks. The shorthanded Bruins were even better.
Missing junior guard Jaylen Clark, who was home with what coach Mick Cronin described as “the chills,” UCLA tallied a season-high 26 assists on its 31 baskets. The primary beneficiary of all those passes was senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr., who scored 27 points on 13-for-17 shooting while missing only one shot inside the three-point arc.
“We’re starting to realize that the more you move the ball,” Jaquez said, “the more easy buckets that you’re allowed to get.”
Point guard Tyger Campbell notched a season-high 10 assists as part of a double-double in which he also scored 10 points to become the eighth player in UCLA history to collect at least 1,000 points and 500 assists. Freshman guard Amari Bailey added a career-high eight assists to go with his 12 points and four steals for the Bruins (5-2).
“Our passing was off the charts,” said Cronin, whose team shot 60.8%. “Part of the reason I like to play coach [Scott] Davenport’s team is because you get to teach your guys what it’s like to watch a team that passes the ball. And if we would ever pass the ball and continue to get 26 assists, we’ll continue to shoot 61%. Our passing was awesome.”
Bona also benefited from having so many teammates in facilitator mode, snatching three lobs for dunks to thrill a crowd that included former Bruin and current Lakers guard Russell Westbrook.
“It was amazing,” said Bona, who scored a career-high 16 points while adding five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal. “I’ve been waiting for that all year and it happened today.”
Ben Johnson scored 18 points to lead Bellarmine, which is in the final stretch of a four-game, nine-day road odyssey that will end with a game at Kentucky on Tuesday.
The Knights (2-5) struggled against the Bruins’ full-court press that generated a few steals in the first half before rallying largely as a result of sustained open looks from long range. Bellarmine made 11 of 32 three-pointers (34.4%) and pulled to within 60-50 with less than eight minutes left.
Then Bailey found Campbell for a three-pointer, sparking a 7-0 run that helped the Bruins retake control. Afterward, Cronin was asked about the difference between the way his team played Sunday versus other times when it wasn’t in as sharing a mood.
“I blame myself,” Cronin said. “We got a lot of freshmen, but nobody wants to hear that stuff. Nobody wants to hear it. In fact, I don’t wanna hear it. You know, it’s like you got to get the job done. That’s what they pay us for. You want to be a high-efficiency team that shoots a high percentage, you’re gonna have to pass the ball because the good teams aren’t going to give you a layup early in the clock.
“Gotta teach guys how to move without the ball and get off the ball, shoot it, pass it or drove. It’s the hardest thing to do by far.”