Well, I guess the good news is the UCLA Bruins have won a basketball game again. So bully for that.
The Bruins are returning home following a 64-61 victory over the Washington Huskies, but it’s hard to feel confident about the rest of the season after the performance we saw today. Outside of one excellent performance and two solid supporting performance, UCLA could not figure things out on either end of the court, and continues to trend downward on the season.
This victory goes almost solely to Johnny Juzang, who was the only Bruin who seemed to have any sort of confidence in his ability throughout the game. Juzang was fantastic, putting up 32 points on an exceptional 12-23 shooting performance, including making five of his 12 three-point attempts, while adding seven rebounds and three assists. In a game that was marked by so many disinterested performances, Juzang was the only one to give a consistently good performance the entire game, and I will even go a step further and state that UCLA fans who are upset at the number of shots he takes should perhaps take a step back and reevaluate a few things about this roster.
Johnny would not have been able to win this game on his own, so it was fortunate that he received just enough help on both ends of the floor from Jules Bernard and Jaime Jaquez. Bernard had perhaps his best offensive game in a month, putting in 14 points on an efficient 5-9 shooting, including making both of his free-throw attempts (more on that particular stat in a moment), all of which went a long way to helping the UCLA offense. Seriously: the Bruins shot 47.1% from the field in this game, but if you take away Juzang and Bernard, that number falls by 10%, and takes away all but one made free throw. Jaime Jaquez was among the Bruins who struggled on the offensive end, but he made up for it with exceptional defense, putting up an 80.7 defensive rating in the game (the only Bruin in double-digits) while grabbing 10 rebounds. With Jaquez, I do find it interesting that he only had one shot attempt in the game, but considering he went 0-3 from the free-throw line, that likely speaks to a lack of confidence in his shooting ability at the moment.
Let’s zero in on that free-throw shooting because if the Bruins shot anywhere close to their season average of 73.5%, this game would not have been as close. But that’s not the reality we live in, because in this one the Bruins shot 33.3% (6-18) from the charity stripe. Cody Riley, who has improved from the line to the point that he is shooting 68.3% on the season, crashed back down to earth, only making one of his six attempts. Jaquez and Mac Etienne both missed all three of their attempts. The free-throw shooting was absolutely brutal in this game.
Also brutal in this game? Tyger Campbell, who could not defend and could not score at all in this one. Toss in only four assists, and it was the sort of game that reminds you of Campbell’s liabilities as a player at this level, and perhaps why so many UCLA fans were excited about the potential of Daishen Nix supplanting him this season. Cody Riley was equally brutal in this game, and you wonder both how healthy he truly is and if he’s putting extra pressure on himself with Jalen Hill still not with the team.
In the end, a win is a win is a win, and UCLA got the win. But the way in which it happened does not bode well for the final few weeks of the season.
Johnny Juzang led the Bruins with 32 points. Jaime Jaquez led the team with 10 rebounds, and tied Tyger Campbell for the team lead in assists with four. Marcus Tsohonis led the Huskies with 22 points.
Player of the Game: Johnny Juzang - The announce team started talking up Juzang as a potential contender for Pac-12 Player of the Week, and honestly you could see the case just based on how he’s played the last few games. Juzang was outscoring the Huskies at halftime, and unlike his last few ridiculous performances, he was given enough help for the Bruins to win. 32 points on 12-23 shooting is impressive, but throwing in seven rebounds was indicative of the kind of all-around brilliance he was putting on display.
Three-point defense: Still bad! - You may have read this article and thought to yourself “gee, Dimitri didn’t mention the three-point defense for once, so maybe it was good!” Well I am sorry to inform you that the three-point defense is still bad. The Huskies shot 47.6% from distance, including a blistering 8-12 in the second half, and it wasn’t like the Huskies were just hitting contested shots. Far too often, the Huskies were given open looks, especially Marcus Tsohonis, who routinely made the Bruins pay for leaving him open. Just a bad time all around here.
A game of runs - Neither team could really establish any sort of dominance for an extended period of this game, which is bad news if you’re a UCLA fan. For example, the Bruins jumped out to an 11-0 lead to start the game, before proceeding to score no points in a span of 9:15. And then for the rest of the game, every time UCLA would go on a run to pull ahead, they would invariably let the Huskies claw right back into it. Just not a good look for the Bruins against what has been the worst team in the conference this season.
The Bruins return home this week, taking on Arizona on Thursday.