UCLA delays Northwestern return to earn Sweet 16 ride

Jaime Jaques Jr. scored 24 points as UCLA weathered the Northwest’s onslaught in the second half to return to the top spot. Sweet 16 with a 68-63 win on Saturday night.

Bruins, second seed (31-5) turned up the intensity of the defense late, holding the seventh-seeded Wildcats to 1-of-12 shots during a key late game to seal the win.

The victory was overshadowed when David Singleton went down in severe pain with a right leg injury with 20.3 seconds left. He stayed on the court for several minutes before being helped by his teammates and he headed straight for the dressing room. The extent of the injury was not immediately reported.

UCLA made it to the 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.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS ADS ON FOXNEWS.COM

No. 2 Dylan Andrews of the UCLA Bruins reacts to a second-half three-point shot against the Northwestern Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Golden 1 Center on March 18, 2023 in Sacramento, California.

No. 2 Dylan Andrews of the UCLA Bruins reacts to a second-half three-point shot against the Northwestern Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Golden 1 Center on March 18, 2023 in Sacramento, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Amari Bailey added 14 points and Tiger Campbell added 12 points for UCLA.

Boo Buie scored 18 points to lead the Northwest (22-12), Matthew Nicholson added 17 and Chase Odidge scored all 16 points in the second half.

The Wildcats ended their second trip to the tournament in the same way they did their first six years ago, losing in the second round.

They fought well against the more established Bruins tournaments and had a chance until they retired from the field at the end of the game.

The key moment came in the final two minutes when Adem Bona blocked the Audige’s traffic, sending UCLA into the crosswalk. David Singleton hit a 3-pointer to give the Bruins a 62–56 lead with 1:50 left in the game.

UCLA controlled the game early, contesting almost every shot and neutralizing the Northwestern’s scoring backcourt of Buie and Audige.

UCLA players celebrate winning the first round of their college basketball game against UNC Asheville at the NCAA Men's Tournament in Sacramento, California, Thursday, March 16, 2023.

UCLA players celebrate winning the first round of their college basketball game against UNC Asheville at the NCAA Men’s Tournament in Sacramento, California, Thursday, March 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Randall Benton)

FAIRLEY DIKINSON’S EXPLICIT ABBREVIATION DRIVES THE INTERNET CRAZY AFTER THE MARCH MADNESS

Jacquez started the streak 12-2 midway through the half to extend his 11-point lead with an interception and a dunk, followed by another dunk in the transition from a blocked shot from Kenneth Nwuba.

Buie finally hit his first basket of the game, making a dash just before the buzzer sounded to cut UCLA’s lead to 35–25 by halftime.

Odij started the second half with 14 points in the first eight minutes after being unscored before half-time. The Wildcats tied the game at 45 when Buje credited a goal basket midway through the half.

From that moment on, the game remained closed until the very end.

BIG PICTURE

Northwest: Wildcats his first appearance in the tournament was followed by losses over the next five seasons. Coach Chris Collins brought them back to second place in the Big Ten in the regular season, and now he’s looking forward to it.

Amari Bailey #5 and Jaime Jacques Jr.  The No. 24 UCLA Bruins react after a second-half goal against the Northwestern Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Golden 1 Center on March 18, 2023 in Sacramento, California.

Amari Bailey #5 and Jaime Jacques Jr. The No. 24 UCLA Bruins react after a second-half goal against the Northwestern Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Golden 1 Center on March 18, 2023 in Sacramento, California. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

UCLA: Bona is back after missing the last two games with a left shoulder injury. He aggravated the injury with a dunk in the second half and immediately went to the bench, but returned to the game and blocked a key block late. His presence will be key next weekend.

NEXT

UCLA was two wins short of its 20th Final Four appearance.