Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 24 points, and UCLA withstood a second-half push from Northwestern to return to the Sweet 16 with a 68-63 victory Saturday night.
The second-seeded Bruins (31-5) turned up the defensive intensity late, holding the seventh-seeded Wildcats to 1-of-12 shooting during a key stretch late in the game to seal the win.
The victory was marred when David Singleton went down in extreme pain from a right leg injury with 20.3 seconds remaining. He stayed on the court for a few minutes before his teammates helped him and he headed straight for the locker room. There was no immediate word on the extent of the injury.
UCLA reached a third consecutive Sweet 16 for the first time in 15 years. The Bruins will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Gonzaga and TCU in the West Region semifinals in Las Vegas on Thursday night.
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Amari Bailey added 14 points and Tyger Campbell scored 12 for UCLA.
Boo Buie scored 18 points to lead Northwestern (22-12), Matthew Nicholson added 17 and Chase Audige scored his 16 points in the second half.
The Wildcats ended their second trip to the tournament the same way as their first six years ago, losing in the second round.
They put up a good fight against the more tournament tested Bruins and had a chance until they went cold from the field late in the game.
The key moment came in the final two minutes when Adem Bona blocked a drive from Audige, sending UCLA into transition. David Singleton hit the 3-pointer that put the Bruins up 62-56 with 1:50 to play.
UCLA controlled the game early on, contesting nearly every shot and neutralizing Northwestern’s high-scoring backcourt of Buie and Audige.
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Jaquez fueled a 12-2 run midway through the half to build an 11-point lead, getting a steal and a dunk, followed by another dunk in transition after a blocked shot by Kenneth Nwuba.
Buie finally made his first basket of the game on a drive just before the buzzer to cut UCLA’s lead to 35-25 at halftime.
Audige got going in the second half with 14 points in the first eight minutes after going scoreless before halftime. The Wildcats tied it at 45 when Buie was credited with a basket on a goaltender call midway through the half.
The match remained even from there until the end.
Northwest: The Wildcats followed up their first tournament appearance with losing records over the next five seasons. Coach Chris Collins moved them back to second in the Big Ten in the regular season and now looks to build from there.
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UCLA: Bona returned after missing the last two games with a left shoulder injury. He compounded the injury with a dunk in the second half and went to the bench immediately, but returned to the game and blocked the key late. His presence will be key next weekend.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
UCLA is two wins away from its 20th Final Four appearance.