UCLA Cruises Past UC Berkeley 81-57
The Bruins suffered a let-down game for about 5 minutes before turning on the jets.
The UCLA Bruins had every opportunity to turn this into a let-down game. The Bruins were coming off the beatdown of Arizona and were facing an outmatched UC Berkeley team, but then word came out prior to the game that Johnny Juzang would be out due to COVID protocols. Combined with Jaylen Clark still being out due to concussion symptoms, and you could easily envision UCLA struggling in this game.
The first five minutes did nothing to dissuade this notion. The Bruins and Golden Bears traded baskets in the early going before UCLA took a one-point lead at the 13:44 mark of the first half. And then that one-point lead became a four-point lead. And then a four-point lead became a six-point lead. And so on and so forth and then you looked up and realized that UCLA was up by 18 points. There would be no let-down game tonight.
Credit to the Bruins for focusing up and putting away this game early, allowing for some of the bench pieces to get increased run. Jake Kyman saw his first extended game action in what feels like forever and responded with an excellent 10 points on 4-7 shooting, which is hopefully a sign that he can become a sparkplug scorer off the bench going forward. Peyton Watson was given more leash against an outmatched UC Berkeley and responded with a solid 12 points on 4-7 shooting and team-leading six rebounds. Myles Johnson was perhaps the only Bruin with a bad game, only playing 13 minutes and getting into foul trouble.
With Juzang out due to COVID, David Singleton slid into the starting lineup, and while he did not put in a ton of points, Singleton had a solid game and looked fine in 30 minutes of action. Cody Riley had his best game back since returning from injury, putting in 14 points on 5-8 shooting and, critically, no fouls, which allowed him to stay on the court.
Tyger Campbell looked better but still looks to be working back to full health. He had five assists and was a bit more aggressive, but his shooting is still in a bit of a slump, likely due to that thumb injury he has been dealing with. Perhaps the best part of this game for him was the fact that he only had to play 21 minutes, and was able to rest for long stretches of this game.
The remaining members of the Killer Js were solid, which is a huge improvement from where they’d been prior to Tuesday. Jules Bernard put in 12 points on 3-7 shooting, but went 50% from deep and was aggressive with the ball, earning four free throws in the process. Jaime Jaquez had his best game in a long time, shouldering the offensive load normally carried by Juzang early and scoring a team-high 15 points on 7-12 shooting to go with five rebounds and two assists. A locked-in Jaime Jaquez is the most important member of this team, so it is a great sign to see him rounding back into form.
I spent a lot of time mentioning individual performances because, generally, this game was a nothing-burger for the most part. UC Berkeley is not close to the level of UCLA, and the Bruins got tired of toying with their food early. Saturday’s matchup with Stanford should prove a bigger test, especially as the Cardinal are desperate for a resume win (they are currently leading against Southern Cal as of this writing). I’m done talking about this one. On to the next.
Jaime Jaquez led the Bruins with 15 points. Peyton Watson led the team with six rebounds, while Tyger Campbell led the team in assists with five. Sam Alajiki led the Golden Bears with 11 points.
Player of the Game: Jaime Jaquez - With Johnny Juzang out, the Bruins needed someone to pick up the early offensive load while the rest of the team got into the rhythm of the game. That person turned out to be Mr. Dependable himself, who is starting to get back into form following the COVID pause. Jaquez had 15 points and five rebounds and was aggressive in looking for his shot early. That’s what the Bruins are going to need from him going forward, even when Juzang returns.
Cody Gets Right - This was a nothing game, but those are good things to have. Case in point: Cody Riley had his best game since returning from injury, and dominating the Golden Bears should help him build confidence going forward. Riley’s jumper from the extended elbow is becoming almost-automatic, but he was able to work closer to the basket here, which is a wrinkle that should give the Bruins a different wrinkle offensively that teams will have to account for.
Stong Scores - Human victory cigar Russell Stong saw action at the end of the game. Human victory cigar Russell Stong hit a three. The crowd went wild. Good night all around.
The Bruins will finish off the homestand on Saturday against Stanford. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 PM PT.