Assuming he was among the handful of people with access to the Pac-12 Network, Mick Cronin couldn’t have liked what he was seeing Thursday night.
The UCLA coach who was home sick with COVID-19 watched his Bruins get outplayed on their home court for long stretches by UC Riverside, a team from the Big West Conference with a losing record.
There were plenty of reasons for Cronin to throw his remote control or consider changing the channel.
Star big man Adem Bona was in early foul trouble. The Bruins repeatedly gave up open shots and struggled making baskets from long range.
It somehow got worse.
Freshman forward Berke Buyuktuncel, providing a humongous spark with his intensity, went down with what appeared to be a foot or ankle injury, immediately signaling to the bench that he needed to come out. Buyuktuncel tried to limp off the court but couldn’t, taking a seat before requiring help to reach the trainer’s table.
Bona eventually fouled out and UCLA trailed by one point with 10 seconds left, putting the nation’s longest active home winning streak in jeopardy as the Bruins inbounded the ball underneath their basket.
Sophomore guard Dylan Andrews dribbled into the paint and rose for a floating runner that he banked in with 3.2 seconds left to retake the lead.
Given one final chance, UC Riverside’s Barrington Hargress lost the ball before he could get off a shot near the three-point line. The Bruins had persevered for a 66-65 victory, giving their coach a get-well card while extending their home winning streak to 29 games.
It was a painful victory. Literally.
Freshman guard Sebastian Mack was hurt on the final play and had to be helped off the court, leading to a subdued celebration for the Bruins (5-2).
Eight days after the worst shooting performance of his college career, Andrews bounced back in a big way with 17 points while making seven of 12 shots, including three of eight from beyond the arc.
Those numbers were far more palatable than the two-for-15 showing Andrews put up in a loss to Gonzaga during the Maui Invitational.
Will McClendon added 11 points while making three of four three-pointers, shooting with confidence a year after he went a dreadful two for 28 from long range.
Buyuktuncel was unable to return after getting hurt late in the first half. He contributed in a variety of ways in his 10 minutes, scoring six points, grabbing three offensive rebounds and taking two charges.
Isaiah Moses had 21 points for UC Riverside (3-5), which stayed in the game largely on the strength of making 14 of 32 three-pointers.
In the good news department for the Bruins, they don’t play again until facing Villanova on Dec. 9, potentially giving them enough time to get back their coach in addition to Buyuktuncel and Mack.