Dylan Andrews' hot shooting lifts UCLA to a Pac-12 tournament win over Oregon State

UCLA guard Dylan Andrews jumps and shoots over Oregon State's Jordan Pope during the Pac-12 tournament
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 disparaged as not being a true point guard.

Find somebody else to run UCLA’s offense, the criticism went. Get busy in the transfer portal.

Dylan Andrews offered his rebuttal with feathery jumpers and precise passes, even if it wasn’t enough to satisfy some observers. Left off the Pac-12’s first and second teams, Andrews continued to make his case for being perhaps the conference’s most overlooked player Wednesday afternoon.

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.

Burying one big shot after another, Andrews finished with a career-high 31 points while adding to his late-season haul of highlights. He made 11 of 15 shots, including seven of nine three-pointers, every one of them needed on a day that fellow starters Lazar Stefanovic and Sebastian Mack combined for only six points.

Read more: Keeping it in the UCLA family, Adem Bona wins Pac-12 defensive player of the year

“It was good to have the offense come,” Andrews said, ‘but our main focus was stopping Jordan Pope and [Tyler] Bilodeau.”

The Bruins prevailed in that category as well. Pope scored 16 points but made only six of 16 shots, and Bilodeau scored most of his 13 points as part of a futile comeback after being a nonfactor in the first half with foul trouble.

UCLA (16-16) advanced to face fourth-seeded Oregon in a quarterfinal on Thursday afternoon. The teams split their two meetings in the regular season, each winning on its home court.

The Bruins would be headed home were it not for Andrews.

With UCLA teetering midway through the second half, a onetime 15-point lead down to seven, Oregon State had the ball and a chance to make things even tighter. That’s when Andrews came up with a steal that he followed with a three-pointer that restored the Bruins’ advantage to double figures.

Later, after the Beavers had pulled to within 46-42 on back-to-back three-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 issue in the final Pac-12 game for Oregon State (13-19), which is bound for the West Coast Conference alongside Washington State 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 sustain Mick Cronin's NCAA tournament streak

UCLA coach Mick Cronin credited Andrews for persevering 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 a veteran transfer who could have lessened the need for him to log 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 he can be him instead of Tyger — and just getting used to playing a lot of minutes,” Cronin said. “And he's gotten really comfortable in the last month, outside of the USC game [when Andrews was held scoreless].”

Said Andrews of the challenges he’s faced: “It's different being the point guard at UCLA. You're going to go through adversity. But Coach trusts me, my teammates trust me, and I trust them.”

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

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

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

But Bona also flashed dual dominance by driving past Oregon State counterpart Michael Rataj for a dunk and forcing a five-second violation with relentless defense on Dexter Akanno.

Andrews also continued to be a two-way force, making five of seven shots on the way to 13 points by halftime while also holding Pope to five points on two-for-seven shooting.

His best was yet to come for a team that needed every bit of it.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.