UCLA Loses to Short-handed Stanford in Overtime, 73-72
The Bruins continued their trend of poor play, and it finally caught up to them.
We talk a lot about how you are supposed to talk about the team in a win. In general, we’ve fallen on the side of being honest with the positives and negatives, especially because the bad habits that can show up in a win are the same ones that can cost you in a loss.
Unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what happened today. The UCLA Bruins have had a streak of games where they’ve played poorly at the start and had a number of key players put up absolute stinkers, and it finally caught up to them, as the Stanford Cardinal were able to hit a last-second layup to knock off the Bruins in overtime, 73-72.
Let me be clear: this was a bad loss for the Bruins. Stanford was playing without three starters, including prospective top draft pick Ziaire Williams, yet at no point did it feel like the Bruins were the better team. If anything, so much of this game felt like Stanford was on the verge of running away with the game before the Bruins would stage a furious comeback. And unlike the previous games against Washington and UC Berkeley, Stanford has good players who can take advantage of your mistakes, of which there were plenty.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, but let’s start with the coach. I’m of the opinion that you should always go after the coach first because he is the one paid millions of dollars to get things right, and there’s so much that he got wrong in this game. The rotations, which have been questionable in recent games, became even harder to justify in this one, especially at the center spot. Cody Riley was a complete non-factor in this game, getting his first point (on a free-throw) at the 5:24 mark of the second half, and not recording a rebound until the 5:45 mark of the second half, yet he managed to play 26 minutes. Jalen Hill, who could at least play good defense against Stanford’s athletic frontcourt, managed only 19 minutes by comparison. There are other examples, like Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell seeing so much of the court despite poor play while Jules Bernard was repeatedly pulled the second he made a mistake, but you get the idea.
The general effort level at the start of this game also falls on Cronin. If it happens once, then you brush it off and move on. Twice, you make a note of it. But UCLA has now started poorly for the third game in a row. Whatever Cronin is doing before the game, it needs to change, because UCLA really can’t afford to dig itself out of a hole every game.
Turning to the players, and there’s a lot of blame to go around. Cody Riley I’ve mentioned, but Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell were both a mess. Their heroics in OT only served to mask over the fact that Jaquez had only seven points on 3-10 shooting in regulation, while Campbell had eight points on 3-11 shooting. Their defense left much to be desired, with Campbell’s being so bad that Cronin was forced to go to Jaylen Clark for long stretches of this game just to staunch the bleeding. If you want to point out where UCLA struggled in this game, just look at this trifecta and you’d end up with a simple answer.
There was one Bruin who did show up, and it’s honestly a shame that they wasted his performance because Johnny Juzang was the UCLA offense for most of this game. Juzang finished with 27 points on 11-19 shooting and was absolutely unconscious for a good stretch of the game. At one point, Juzang scored 16 straight points for the Bruins, bringing them back from an 11-point deficit in the process. That scoring run was only broken up when Jake Kyman, who himself had an excellent game, hit a three.
You can take some positives away from this game if you want. Beyond Juzang’s breakout performance, maybe you feel this loss is a good thing, that it can act as a wake-up call for a team that desperately needs it. But that would be a fools’ errand. The reality is this: the UCLA Bruins are a team that operates with small margins, and if enough things don’t go right, then they’re in for a bad time.
Johnny Juzang led the Bruins with 27 points. Juzang, Jules Bernard, Jaime Jaquez, and Jaylen Clark tied for the team lead with four rebounds each. Tyger Campbell led the Bruins with four assists. Oscar da Silva led the Cardinal with 26 points.
Player of the Game: Johnny Juzang - I don’t really have much more to add. Juzang was unconscious for most of this game, and hopefully this is a sign of his ability going forward, because if the Bruins had just one other player helping with any sort of consistency on offense, then things could get much better.
Area of Concern: The Starting Unit - Again, this is three games in a row where the Bruins have gotten off to a poor start, and four of the five starters had poor games. Something needs to change, even if it’s as simple as switching Cody Riley with Jalen Hill, but this can’t continue going forward.
Referees Were Bad, Water is Wet - It was a bit of a small subplot to this game, but Stanford was able to disrupt much of UCLA’s offense simply by playing physical, especially because the Bruins were not afforded the same luxury. Stanford was able to shoot 10 more free-throws thanks to some questionable officiating, which does help explain the loss, but shouldn’t be used as an excuse.
The Bruins will need to regroup quickly, as they host Oregon on Thursday in a battle for the top of the conference.