Sebastian Mack helps UCLA survive Colorado surge and extend its winning streak

Sebastian Mack pounded his chest, pumped his arm and tilted his body in celebration.

It was fun to be in Pauley Pavilion again.

Mack, UCLA’s freshman guard, ensured the Bruins’ late-season joyride continued Thursday night with a flurry of points, including a driving layup with a little more than two minutes left.

The basket completed a needed push for UCLA after Colorado had tied the score and helped nudge the Bruins to a 64-60 victory that required a breathless finish.

After Mack’s basket put the Bruins up by seven points, Colorado pulled to within three with a chance to tie. But Tristan da Silva’s driving layup was off the mark and a scrum of bodies fell on the floor to chase the ball, resulting in a held ball that went to UCLA with 3.3 seconds left.

Colorado fouled Lazar Stefanovic on the inbounds pass and he swished the second free throw after missing the first to put the game out of reach, giving the Bruins (14-11 overall, 9-5 Pac-12) their sixth consecutive victory and seventh in their last eight games.

Mack’s basket completed a 9-2 run for UCLA after the home crowd had grown silent, fearing the Bruins might suffer their first setback in nearly a month when the Buffaloes pulled into a 54-54 tie. Instead, Mack banked in a driving layup and Stefanovic picked an excellent time to score his first points with a jumper from the free-throw line.

After Colorado’s Eddie Lampkin Jr. made two free throws, Stefanovic took a great pass from teammate Dylan Andrews on the wing and made a three-pointer. Mack followed with his driving layup and display of emotion after the Bruins had taken a 63-56 advantage.

Andrews’ lockdown defense on Colorado’s K.J. Simpson, whose four points on one-for-seven shooting were far below his average of 19.4 points, was the primary reason the Bruins sustained their winning streak.

Mack finished with 19 points and Adem Bona had 14 for the Bruins, who committed nine fewer turnovers than the Buffaloes. Cody Williams led Colorado (16-9, 7-7) with 18 points.

The Bruins looked like they might win in a runway after Andrews buried a midrange jumper to put them up 45-32 early in the second half.

Then their offense went into a prolonged stall and Colorado’s dormant offense sprung to life. Lampkin threw a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to J’Vonne Hadley for a layup. A cutting Williams took a pass for a dunk. By the time Da Silva took a bounce pass and drove for a dunk with 6:52 left, the Buffaloes had tied the score at 51-51.

UCLA’s 38-29 halftime lead came despite some statistical anomalies, the Bruins allowing the Buffaloes to shoot 57.1% and make three of five three-pointers. Almost every other number tilted heavily in UCLA’s favor. Colorado committed eight more turnovers than the Bruins and grabbed two fewer rebounds.

After some listless early defense that led to a quick benching for Stefanovic, the Bruins started getting deflections and forcing turnovers. There was also a rare blistering start on offense, UCLA making its first six shots as the teams combined to make their first 11.

The crowd’s biggest roars came courtesy of Bona’s dual brilliance. After blocking a shot by Hadley, the ball bouncing off Hadley’s head, Bona took a bounce pass in transition from Will McClendon for a two-handed dunk.

There was more fun to come.

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