UCLA Gets Back in Win Column, Defeats Stanford 79-70
Juzang got going. The defense is still a question.
There’s an easy way to look at this most recent game against the Stanford Cardinal: after a nightmare week in the Arizona desert, there was no way the UCLA Bruins were going to lose this game, and that played out as the Bruins went back and forth for a bit before ultimately creating a cushion that would carry them to a 79-70 victory.
That’s simplistic and ultimately true, but it also leaves out a few key points.
For one, Jaylen Clark is back! The sophomore has been out for a few weeks after suffering concussion symptoms, but he had a solid return outing tonight, putting in six points while playing his usual solid defense. He only played 11 minutes, likely due to not being 100% yet, but those 11 minutes were a solid reminder of what he brings on the floor.
I will also highlight his defensive partner Myles Johnson, who continues a recent surge in solid play that is reigniting a debate revolving around minutes distribution for him and Cody Riley. Riley again played the most minutes in this game, but was ineffective, with no points and only two rebounds in 21 minutes of play. Johnson, meanwhile, had four points and a team-high eight rebounds and generally looked much more comfortable against Stanford’s size than Riley did. Coach Mick Cronin has had some questionable rotation choices in recent games, but the choices on minutes in the interior have been the most puzzling.
Before shifting to the starters, I would like to point out we got a good stretch of Jake Kyman in this game thanks to Jules Bernard being in foul trouble and Peyton Watson being unavailable due to injury, and Kyman performed admirably in his limited work. Kyman played solid defense and moved the ball offensively, which is all you could want from him. David Singleton had another 20+ minute outing, again due to Bernard’s foul trouble, and did his usual yeoman’s work, hitting two of his four three-point attempts.
Perhaps the best news from this game is the general play of some of the starters. Jaime Jaquez continued his solid play from last week, but he was joined by Johnny Juzang and Tyger Campbell, who were much improved from their performances against Arizona State. Juzang scored a team-high 23 points on 10-16 shooting, while Campbell put up a ridiculous seven assists while also scoring 14 points on 5-10 shooting. UCLA realistically did not need excellent performances from the starters to put away Stanford, but it was a good sign to get some of these guys back on the right track.
We’ll finish with a discussion of the defense, which was not nearly as good as it was when these two teams faced off a few weeks ago. Maybe that has to do with home/road splits, especially as Stanford is a much better home team, but it does, unfortunately, follow a recent trend where the Bruins are struggling to put together consistent defensive effort on the road compared to their home games. The Cardinal were able to shoot 53.7% from the field and really excelled at getting the Bruins out of position for easy looks. Once again, the Bruins looked sluggish on rotations for long stretches of the game, which feels like an effort issue but may still be a lingering side-effect of a team that lost a month of play to COVID.
Oh well, a win is a win. Time to rest up for Southern Cal.
Johnny Juzang led the Bruins with 23 points. Myles Johnson led the team with eight rebounds, while Tyger Campbell led the team with seven assists. Spencer Jones led the Cardinal with 22 points.
Player of the Game: Johnny Juzang - Great scorers have a preternatural ability to move on when they have a poor shooting night, and that’s exactly what happened for Juzang in this one. Johnny was 10-16 from the field for 23 points while chipping in five rebounds, but the best sign was the point in the middle of the second half when Juzang went on a personal mini-run to answer a Stanford comeback attempt. What was also a good sign was Juzang scoring at all levels; he was 2-6 from three, but was driving for his patented midrange and hit a few floaters closer to the basket. If Juzang can continue this level of play, it will allow some of the other players time to build back up to their high level of play.
Cody or Myles? - For what feels like the third-straight game, Myles Johnson was the best interior option the Bruins had yet played less than Cody Riley. It’s a conundrum entirely of Coach Mick Cronin’s making. If Riley is not scoring, then he really hurts the team on the floor because his defense and rebounding efforts are not at the same level as Johnson.
Return of the Clark - Jaylen Clark made his long-awaited return to the lineup today, and though he played only 11 minutes, it was a great reminder of what he brings to this team, namely excellent defense and timely rebounding. The Bruins want him as close to ready as possible for the matchup Saturday against Southern Cal, so this was a positive step forward.
Next up is Southern Cal. Yes, it may be JustSC, but the Trojans feel pretty established as the third-best team in the conference and have length that can give the Bruins trouble. The Bruins have lost four straight to the Trojans, so you know they are looking for some revenge here. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM PT.