Dylan Andrews’ quick shooting carries UCLA to a Pac-12 tournament victory over Oregon State

By | March 14, 2024

UCLA guard Dylan Andrews shoots over Oregon State’s Jordan Pope during the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday. The Bruins defeated the Beavers 67-57. (David Becker/Getty Images)

For half a season he was discredited for not being a true point guard.

Find someone else to lead UCLA’s offense, the criticism went. Get started in the transfer portal.

Dylan Andrews countered with airy jumpers and accurate passes, even if that wasn’t enough to satisfy some observers. After leaving the Pac-12’s first and second teams, Andrews continued to make a case Wednesday afternoon for perhaps the conference’s most overlooked player.

The sophomore was a sight to behold every time the fifth-seeded Bruins needed him during a 67-57 victory over 12th-seeded Oregon State at T-Mobile Arena.

Andrews buried one big player after another, finishing with a career-high 31 points while adding to his late-season highs. He made 11 of 15 shots, including seven of nine 3-pointers, all of which were needed on a day when fellow starters Lazar Stefanovic and Sebastian Mack combined for just six points.

Read more: Adem Bona stays in the UCLA family and wins Pac-12 defensive player of the year

“It was good that the offense came,” Andrews said, “but our main focus was stopping Jordan Pope and [Tyler] Bilodeau.”

The Bruins also had the upper hand in that category. Pope scored 16 points but made just six of 16 shots, and Bilodeau scored most of his 13 points as part of a futile comeback after being a non-factor in the first half with foul trouble.

UCLA (16-16) advanced to play fourth-seeded Oregon in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon. The teams split their two meetings in the regular season, each winning on their home field.

The Bruins would be going home if not for Andrews.

With UCLA reeling midway through the second half, a one-time lead from fifteen points to seven, Oregon State had the ball and a chance to spice things up. That’s when Andrews came up with a steal that he followed with a three-pointer that restored the Bruins’ advantage to double digits.

Later, after the Beavers pulled to within 46-42 with back-to-back 3-pointers, Andrews countered with one of his own.

Center Adem Bona added 17 points and six rebounds for the Bruins, while also freeing Andrews for open jumpers as the focus of an Oregon State defense that fouled him 10 times.

Defense was the big problem in the final Pac-12 game for Oregon State (13-19), which will join Washington State in the West Coast Conference next season. The Beavers allowed the Bruins to make 52.2% of their shots, including nine of 15 three-pointers (60%).

Read more: UCLA faces long odds in Las Vegas to continue Mick Cronin’s NCAA tournament streak

UCLA coach Mick Cronin credited Andrews for his perseverance during his first season as the team’s full-time point guard after playing sparingly behind Tyger Campbell as a freshman. Cronin also lamented his inability to surround Andrews with an experienced transfer, who could have reduced the need for him to handle a heavy workload, as he did against the Beavers, when Andrews played 39 minutes.

“He and I have been on a journey all year to replace Tyger and figure out how to be him instead of Tyger — and we just have to get used to playing a lot of minutes,” Cronin said. “And he’s been very comfortable over the last month, outside of the USC game [when Andrews was held scoreless].”

Andrews said of the challenges he faced: “It’s different being a point guard at UCLA. You will go through setbacks. But the Coach trusts me, my teammates trust me, and I trust them.”

UCLA is trying to create a different ending on the field where not much has gone right. About the only highlight here was a win over Ohio State during the Lonzo Ball season, the rest of the memories were not for any scrapbook. The Bruins have not won a Pac-12 tournament title here, while also suffering losses to North Carolina, Illinois and Baylor.

There was also a somber blowout against Gonzaga in November 2021, before the heartbreaker against the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16 last year.

The first half was a study in contrasts for Bona, who scored five goals while struggling against the Beavers’ 2-3 zone. Bona was so frustrated after dribbling off his body for his fifth ball that he placed both hands on his head before doubling over in fear. Stefanovic came over to console him with a pat on the back before a timeout.

But Bona also showed dual dominance, driving past Oregon State counterpart Michael Rataj for a dunk and forcing a five-second foul with ferocious defense on Dexter Akanno.

Andrews also remained a two-way force, making five of seven shots en route to 13 points at halftime, while also holding Pope to five points on two-on-seven shooting.

His best was yet to come for a team that needed everything.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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