Mick Cronin's cornerstone search starts off rough as UCLA spirals to another loss

The search continues.

Saying he was trying to discover whom he could build a team around near the end of a maddening season, UCLA coach Mick Cronin did not unearth any surprises Saturday evening.

Point guard Dylan Andrews is likely to be a cornerstone going forward after he continued his late-season surge with another strong showing against Washington State.

Center Adem Bona may have no choice but to come back for another college season after committing more needless fouls that limited his effectiveness.

Guards Lazar Stefanovic and Sebastian Mack were pretty much as expected, the former player making a decent percentage of his jumpers and the latter combining steady offensive production with spotty defense.

Center Aday Mara unveiled some potential in spot minutes with a couple of baskets, a block and a nice touch pass.

Everybody else?

Hard to say. Nobody else did much, the Bruins collectively folding in the final minutes of a 77-65 defeat to the No. 19 Cougars at Beasley Coliseum that had appeared to be theirs for the taking.

UCLA guard Will McClendon made a strong case for more time on the bench after ending a scoreless performance in which he needlessly fouled a three-point shooter with an additional flagrant-2 foul for a hit to Isaac Jones’ groin. The play resulted in McClendon’s ejection with 7 minutes 23 seconds left in the game.

It was a huge turning point in the wrong direction for the Bruins (14-15 overall, 9-9 Pac-12) who quickly saw their three-point lead evaporate as Washington State (23-7, 14-5) commenced a 14-2 run that gave the Cougars a 69-60 advantage.

Andrews finished with 21 points but was part of back-to-back shot clock violations that doomed the Bruins’ comeback hopes on the way to their fourth consecutive defeat. Bona fouled out with 3:21 left, a fitting end to another frustrating performance in which he logged 10 points and one rebound in just 21 minutes. Mack and Stefanovic added 11 points apiece.

Forward Jaylen Wells scored 27 points for the Cougars, who outrebounded the Bruins, 39-24, and took 22 more free throws.

The Bruins were celebrating midway through the second half after Brandon Williams took a touch pass from Mara and drove for a dunk that caused Bona to triumphantly throw both arms into the air from the bench with his team ahead 54-51.

But even the Bruins’ small victories were offset by silly mistakes. After Bona started the second half aggressively with six quick points, he committed an unnecessary foul by lunging at a Washington State player while trying to get a rebound. He had to immediately leave the game considering it was his third foul.

Two days after giving up a season-worst 94 points, UCLA was completely locked in on both sides of the ball in the early going. The Bruins didn’t give up any easy baskets and generated plenty of offense off their crisp defense in taking a 19-6 lead.

But their defense began to sag, they had trouble grabbing rebounds and their offense cratered with the exception of Andrews, whose 14 points by halftime kept the Bruins from getting blown out. They also kept sending Washington State to the free-throw line as shown by the Cougars’ 15-2 advantage in free throws attempted.

Defensively, the Bruins struggled to stay with super quick Washington State freshman Myles Rice, who often beat not just Andrews but every defender behind him on the way to the basket.

In the toughness department, UCLA was outrebounded, 22-13, while giving up 10 offensive rebounds as the Cougars took a 40-32 halftime lead.

It never got any better for the Bruins.

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