UCLA Starts Strong, Holds On to Beat Colorado 71-65
The Bruins played ugly down the stretch but managed to get the Rocky Mountain Road Sweep.
Again, not really in the mood for a narrative breakdown like I usually do (there is a LOT of sports happening right now!) so let’s go through some highlights.
Riding the Horses
Coach Mick Cronin likely felt this was a must-win game for the Bruins because he really rode the starters in this one. Outside of Cody Riley, who had to sit out a lot due to early foul trouble, UCLA’s starters each played at least 32 minutes. It’s an interesting strategy considering this team is not that far removed from a major COVID break that seemingly caused a lot of the team to get out of basketball shape, especially on the second leg of the Rocky Mountain Road Trip, which is always a hard road trip because of the altitude.
The results were a little mixed. Johnny Juzang continued his excellent run of play by putting up 23 points on 9-18 shooting while also leading the team in rebounds. Jaime Jaquez is still not at his usual high level of play but was much improved, putting up 14 points while hitting two of his four three-point attempts. On the flip side, Jules Bernard continues to struggle from the field and seems to make a poor decision more often than not.
The worst performance remains that of Tyger Campbell, who has been miserable on offense for the most part since the team has come back from the pause. In this game, he was 1-8 from the field and only had one more assist (3) than turnovers (2) in the game. Combine it with his usual poor defense and this has been a nightmare run of play for the usually-stalwart point guard. Tyger has always been a big-game player, so the hope has to be that he will raise his level of play in time for Tuesday’s matchup with Arizona.
Still, it was an interesting choice considering the UCLA bench was back to full strength in this game. I’m going to guess that Coach Cronin felt Jaylen Clark was not back to 100% yet, because he played him for only 10 minutes and utilized him mostly as a defensive stopper. David Singleton returned from concussion protocol and had a decent run of play, but if he’s not scoring consistently then he can become a liability on the court. Weirdly, Peyton Watson only saw three minutes of action, an odd choice considering he had been looking much better of late. This is the exact game that you would think would necessitate more minutes from the bench, but that’s not what happened.
Riley Still Struggling
It’s not surprising that Cody Riley has been slow coming out of the gates. He lost a lot of time due to injury, and then when it looked like he was ready to come back, the team went into a COVID pause. But I don’t think it is a great sign that Riley is struggling to even stay on the floor at this point. This is the second game in the row where Riley picked up a foul within the first minute and had to be subbed out, meaning the Bruins are relying on increased minutes from Myles Johnson and occasionally Kenneth Nwuba.
The biggest issue is that Riley is picking up cheap fouls. Take his first foul in this one. Riley missed a layup and ended up going through the body of a Colorado defender to try for a rebound. On a night where the referees again struggled, this was an easy foul call for them to make, and one that Cody really should be smart enough to avoid. This has been a common thread for Riley in recent games, and if he can cut down on them, it might help him get into more of a rhythm.
Player of the Game: Johnny Juzang
Juzang is certainly re-establishing himself as one of the best pure scorers in college basketball with his recent stretch of play. Juzang again led the team in points and is doing so from a variety of shooting angles. It’s really unique, and not something that really has a comp at the next level. It’s also not something that I really think can translate at the next level, but right here now it works, and it works extremely well. The amount of shots he took in this game (18 of the team’s 58 total shots) speaks to the idea that Cronin is more willing to ride Juzang while the rest of the team gets back into shape.
Juzang led the team with 23 points and six rebounds. Jaime Jaquez led the team with four assists. Jabari Walker led Colorado with 19 points.
Big game on Tuesday, with the Arizona game rescheduled. Pauley Pavilion will be hosting fans again, so I imagine there will be a big push to #PackPauley in the next few days. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 PM PT.