UCLA Enjoys Cupcake, Defeats North Florida 98-63
The Bruins got to work out some kinks against an outmatched opponent.
I will be upfront with you guys: at about the five-minute mark of the first half, I started to mentally check out of this game.
This is not to say that I stopped watching the game because I watched every minute. But between Kenneth Nwuba hitting a jumper and Jaime Jaquez hitting a fast-break dunk, it became clear that the game was about to be put away, and I was right! Those two plays came in the middle of a 15-point run that essentially ended the game before halftime, pushing the lead out to 21 and ultimately leading to a 98-63 victory for the UCLA Bruins over the North Florida Ospreys.
There isn’t really much to talk about in this one. This was, in every sense of the phrase, a cupcake game that allowed the Bruins to rest everyone (Tyger Campbell was the only Bruin to play more than 24 minutes) and gave some of the struggling players like Myles Johnson and Peyton Watson a runway to play through their problems. For Johnson, the Ospreys were exactly the opponent he needed to get back into the swing of things; he had another rough first half but really locked it down in the second en route to a ridiculous 78.1 defensive rating on the game. The Ospreys didn’t have a floor-spacing big and weren’t trying to draw Johnson away from the basket, which played to his strengths and he responded in kind.
Watson similarly was given leash to work through his offensive struggles and looked more comfortable as the game went on. Where he shined was on the defensive end, where similarly posted a ridiculous 80.1 defensive rating. Watson is going to make the biggest impact on the defensive end to start this season, but we got some tantalizing glimpses of the type of playmaker he can eventually become as he snagged four assists.
The star of the game was Tyger Campbell. Campbell had his fingerprints all over this game both offensively and defensively. On the offensive end, Tyger again got to showcase his improved three-point shooting by hitting on all four of his attempts. I don’t believe he will remain a 50% three-point shooter the rest of the season, but the fact that he now has a more-consistent outside shot completely changes how opposing defenses have to try and defend him, especially because his craftiness has not been lost in the process. Defensively, Tyger actually posted the third-best defensive rating in this game, and his speed and smarts were too much for the Ospreys to handle.
Jaime Jaquez was a machine, as per usual. Bernard had a strong game and the shoulder did not seem to be an issue like it appeared it might be near the end of the Long Beach State game. Johnny Juzang got his points, but I love that Mick Cronin used the bench as a teaching moment by sitting Juzang to start the second half because of his poor defensive effort. Juzang was better in the second, and this is the kind of stuff that makes a team better come March.
David Singleton was diving after loose balls with two minutes left in a 30-point blowout and then hit a breakaway slam dunk. This team is winning a national championship easily.
Anyway, good development win, now to get some rest and practice before the big Vegas trip next week.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. led the Bruins with 20 points. Myles Johnson led the team with 13 rebounds, while Tyger Campbell led the team with five assists. Carter Hendricksen led North Florida with 11 points.
Player of the Game: Tyger Campbell - This was mostly to highlight his improved outside shooting, but Campbell really was the driving force for the offense. If Campbell can continue playing near this level for the rest of the season, the Bruins should coast to a Pac-12 title easily.
Small Lineup Breaks it Open Again - I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the game was once-again broken open with the small lineup on the court. Mick Cronin has rolled out the small-ball lineup a few times these past three games to devastating results. Putting Jaylen Clark at the 5 doesn’t hurt the Bruins as much as you would assume, as he’s a tenacious defender and between him and Jaquez the Bruins don’t give up much in the rebounding department. Then you surround them with a bunch of long, capable shooters and watch the magic happen. UCLA doesn’t have a “Death Lineup” like the dynasty Golden State Warriors did, but the small-ball lineup has the makings of being that.
Longer Leash in Season Three - Remember Cronin’s first season, where if a player made a mistake he got benched quickly? It’s very clear that Cronin was doing that to break this program of the bad habits that had formed under Steve Alford, but now that the team is completely dialed in to what he wants, the leash has been lengthened and guys are playing with extra confidence that one mistake won’t put them on the bench. Cronin isn’t afraid to use the bench as a teaching tool (see: Juzang tonight) but he’s now allowing guys to play through ruts in games that he knows won’t be close, and that can go a long way in the development of someone like Peyton Watson.
The Bruins get some well-deserved time off after playing three games in six days. They will then head off to Vegas for a Monday tilt against Bellarmine before Tuesday’s big matchup with Gonzaga. Monday tip-off is tentatively scheduled for 5:00 PM Pacific Time.