CHICAGO — Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 24 points and UCLA withstood a second-half push from Northwestern to return to the Sweet 16 with a 68-63 win Saturday night.
The second-seeded Bruins (31-5) stepped up defensive intensity late in the game, holding off the seventh-seeded Wildcats to 1-of-12 shooting during a late-game key stretch to seal victory.
The win was marred when David Singleton went down in excruciating pain with a right foot injury with 20.3 seconds remaining. He remained on the pitch for several minutes before being assisted by his team-mates and making his way straight to the locker room. There was no immediate word on the extent of the injury.
UCLA made it to its third straight 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 Western Conference semifinals in Las Vegas, on Thursday night.
Amari Bailey added 14 points and Tyger Campbell scored 12 for UCLA.
Boo Buie scored 18 points to lead Northwestern (22-12), Matthew Nicholson added 17 and Chase Audige scored all of his 16 points in the second half.
The Wildcats ended their second trip to the tournament in much the same fashion as their first six years ago, losing in the second round.
They put up a good fight against the more tournament-tested Bruins and had a chance to go cold off the court late in the game.
The key moment came in the final two minutes when Adem Bona blocked a drive by Audige, sending UCLA out in transition. David Singleton hit a 3-pointer that put the Bruins up 62-56 with 1:50 left.
UCLA took control of the game early on, contesting almost every shot and neutralizing Northwestern's high-scoring backfields Buie and Audige.
Jaquez sparked a 12-2 run midway through the half to build an 11-point lead, earning a steal and a dunk followed by another dunk in transition following a shot blocked by Kenneth Nwuba.
Buie finally scored his first goal of the game with a drive just before the bell to cut UCLA's lead to 35-25 at the break.
Audige started the second half with 14 points in the first eight minutes after being held scoreless before the break. The Wildcats tied it in the 45th minute when Buie was credited with a basket on a touchdown call midway through the first half.
The game stays close from there to the end.
Northwestern: Wildcats followed up their first tournament appearance with a losing record in their next five seasons. Coach Chris Collins brought them back to second in the Big Ten in the regular season and now looks to build from there.
UCLA: Bona returns after missing the last two games with a left shoulder injury. He aggravated the injury on a dunk in the second half and immediately went to the bench but came back into the game and hit a late key block. His presence will be key next weekend.
UCLA is two wins short of its 20th Final Four appearance.