Future Big Ten Conference counterparts No. 16 UCLA and No. 20 Maryland will meet Wednesday in College Park, Md., for a nonconference showdown.
The Bruins (8-2) carry a five-game winning streak to meet an opponent that beginning in 2024-25 will be a league foe. Until then, the Terrapins (8-2) are the first of UCLA’s final three nonconference opponents before diving into the heart of Pac-12 play.
UCLA’s final nonleague stretch sends it to the East Coast for a pair of high-profile dates this week, with a Saturday matchup against Kentucky at Madison Square Garden looming. The trip to Maryland marks just the second true road game for the Bruins, who won their first and only road game Dec. 1 at Stanford.
That Pac-12 victory came amid UCLA’s ongoing winning streak, which extended with Saturday’s 87-64 blowout of Denver. The Bruins doubled their halftime lead from nine to 18 points less than two minutes into the second half, taking control and never looking back.
“I was really unhappy with our energy when the shots don’t go in. We’ve got to rebound the ball, and our leaders, particularly our guards, can’t look like they lost their dog when their shots don’t go in,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said in his postgame press conference. “You’ve got to go play harder, which is what Dylan (Andrews) and Dave (Singleton) do, and that’s why they started the second half. And you saw what happened.”
Singleton, who has played a key role for UCLA primarily coming off the bench, finished with six points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals on Saturday. The veteran guard is averaging a shade below 10 points per game with 9.9 and shooting 46.8 percent from 3-point range.
The performance of freshman reserve Andrews, however, is a more recent development solidifying the Bruins’ depth. Andrews hit for a career-high 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, one game removed from notching six points on 3-of-6 shooting in the Dec. 4 conference defeat of Oregon.
“One thing about me is I try to bring high energy off the bench with 1,000 percent effort,” Andrews said following Saturday’s win.
As UCLA comes into Wednesday’s matchup looking to continue a win streak, Maryland welcomes in the Bruins with designs on snapping a skid.
The Terps opened the season 8-0, including winning the first game in a challenging four-game run over then-No. 16 Illinois 71-66 on Dec. 2.
Since then, Maryland dropped consecutive defensive grinders: first 64-59 at Wisconsin on Dec. 6, then 56-53 against Tennessee on Dec. 11 after nearly completing a 21-point comeback at the Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center.
With Wisconsin since ascending into the Top 25, UCLA marks Maryland’s fourth straight ranked opponent.
“This team is resilient,” Terps coach Kevin Willard told reporters following the Tennessee loss. “The biggest thing we’ve got to work on is, obviously, end-of-game kind of stuff. I think we have to get better at that and just clean up what we want to do and how we want to do it.”
Maryland ranks 30th nationally in points allowed at 60.8 points per game, thanks in part to the rim protecting Donta Scott and Julian Reese provide (1.2 blocks per game apiece). The Terps are holding opponents to 27.6 percent shooting from 3-point range, which could be a challenge to UCLA’s 36.6 percent 3-point shooting.
The Bruins’ shooting fuels an 81.3 ppg average.
–Field Level Media