UCLA Has an Absolute Stinker, Loses a Bad Game to Arizona State 87-84
An absolute sickos game from the Bruins.
I refuse to do much in the way of a recap for this one. I had to sit through three overtimes of an absolutely atrocious game that does not deserve that sort of effort.
UCLA lost to an Arizona State team that last won a game before Christmas. They shot 37.2% from the field, struggled to defend the three-point line, and looked out of sorts for the entirety of the game. It was a miserable game to watch, and it went to three overtimes before Arizona State was eventually able to put it away 87-84.
If you want to focus on the players missing shots, sure, you could do that. No one exemplified it more than Johnny Juzang, who missed his final eight shots I believe before ultimately fouling out. If it was more or less than that, I don’t particularly care and I’m not going to bother looking it up after the fact. Jules Bernard went 2-10 while Tyger Campbell was 5-13. If you want a true bellwether of the shooting woes, consider that David Singleton went 1-5 shooting, and was front-rimming shots late.
You could also focus on defensive effort, which was lackluster for most of the game. UCLA was sluggish on rotations and looked like me during a pick-up game: uninterested in closing out on shooters. Arizona State is not a great shooting team on the season, but if you’re left open long enough you will eventually hit your shots, and that’s exactly what happened.
But really, most of the blame in this game should fall on Coach Mick Cronin, who put on a masterclass on poor tactical decisions throughout this game. The bench rotation was questionable at best, with the Bruins riding a six-man rotation for most of the second half and overtime, and even that is being generous as Cody Riley saw the majority of the minutes while Myles Johnson was a rare defensive sub. Riley was ineffective throughout this game, while Johnson was impactful defensively when he was in, so there should be questions about why Riley ended up playing 38 minutes while Johnson only played 17. Campbell, Juzang, and Jaime Jaquez all played over 50 minutes, while fellow starter Jules Bernard only saw 26, ceding most of his minutes over to David Singleton who had 36. Peyton Watson only saw four minutes on the floor; Jake Kyman only saw the floor on the doomed final three attempt. UCLA had tired legs throughout this game, and I would assume part of the problem was Cronin going to an extremely-short rotation. Oh, and UCLA has to travel to Stanford on Tuesday, so that should be fun.
Tactically, I think this is the type of game where you have to question UCLA’s offensive strategy. I understand and even agree with it in a lot of situations; UCLA tries to isolate the weakest defender on the opposing team and then attacks them relentlessly. This works in part because UCLA has a cadre of players who excel in one-on-one situations and are great in the midrange. The problem is if those shots stop falling, UCLA does not appear to have a solid offensive system to fall back on. Too often in this game, offensive possessions just turned into isolations for an ice-cold Juzang, or featured a lot of useless dribbling on the outside before Jaquez was given the ball and asked to create something. The lack of movement stands out in games like this, and really should be something the coaching staff looks at moving forward.
(My secret hot take is that the Bruins are giving Cody Riley the ball too much at this point for how little he is producing offensively, but that’s just a minor issue in a larger point.)
Make no mistake: this is a bad loss, and one that should safely remove UCLA from the conversation for a #1 seed. It might even be enough to knock them off the #2 seed line for good if we are being honest.
But it also might be the catalyst for this team to finally lock-in and play to the level they are capable of every single game. Only time will tell there.
Jaime Jaquez led the Bruins with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Tyger Campbell led the team with five assists. Marreon Jackson led the Sun Devils with 24 points.
Player of the Game: Me, for sitting through this stupid game and writing more than five words about it - Give me my medal now.
Actual Player of the Game: Jaime Jaquez - In all seriousness, it is both clear that Jaquez is not completely at 100%, and also that he was by far the only Bruin who had any idea of what to do as this game went on. Jaquez worked his way inside and got rewarded with trips to the line, where he ultimately went 10-13 (the last one was a purposeful miss, so we’ll go 10-12 to be fair). Jaquez also ended up with the best defensive analytics numbers among the Bruins in the non-Myles Johnson division, so it was nice to see someone caring here.
This game was stupid and I want to complain about something completely different - I don’t want to write about this game anymore, so did you know that NBC is bankrolling an American version of Eurovision? This upsets me as a person who actually enjoys the ridiculousness of Eurovision and knows for a fact that the American version will just turn it into another American Idol knock-off. I can’t wait for everyone to do earnest sad songs and a real lack of singing babushkas or an awesome ska song or Jedward. This news has made me retroactively appreciate Jedward! This sucks. Next game please.
UCLA will need to regroup in a hurry, as they will head off to a make-up game up in Palo Alto against Stanford on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 PM PT.