One Half of Basketball Enough for UCLA to Beat UC Berkeley, 61-57
The Bruins are making a bad habit of needing second-half comebacks of late.
It appears the UCLA Bruins are in a bit of a rut.
Let’s start with the basics. UCLA had an uneven first half against the California Golden Bears, rounded into form in the second half, and eventually held on down the stretch to win 61-57. The Bruins did not necessarily play bad basketball, and in fact, they were quite good in the second half, but they struggled to put away an inferior team.
If one were to look at the scoresheet, you’d start to question how exactly UCLA let UC Berkeley stick around so long. The Bruins absolutely dominated the Bears on the glass, to the tune of 38-23. The Bruin defense held the Bears to 39.6% shooting, including an exceptional 31.0% in the second half, while they themselves shot 46.2%. But then you dig a little deeper, and you start to notice that the Bruins actually lost the turnover battle, and ended up with fewer assists than UC Berkeley, and on and on until you realize that the Bruins really struggled in so many aspects of this game.
Case in point, UCLA really did not have any players who were exceptional in this game. Only two Bruins broke double figures on the night, while the rest of the Bruins ended up with some head-scratching stat lines. Tyger Campbell, for example, did not shoot at near the same volume he had in recent games and ended the game with a 3:2 assist to turnover ratio, well below his season average. Jaime Jaquez played all but two minutes in this game, yet he scored a pedestrian seven points on 3-8 shooting. Coach Mick Cronin must be committed to having Johnny Juzang shoot his way out of his slump because it’s the only way I can justify having him go 3-12 from the field and play 30 minutes, especially when Jake Kyman actually had a solid shooting night. Jalen Hill had perhaps his best game in weeks, which is a positive, but it feels like he’s still not at the level he should be at.
UCLA did have two players who were able to rise above the general malaise that plagued the team, and it was the same two that have been consistently good down this recent stretch: Cody Riley and Jules Bernard. Riley was once-again a force down low, bullying his way to a team-high 13 points while playing solid interior defense yet again. Jules Bernard was equally good, putting in 11 points on 3-6 shooting, including a crucial three in the final few minutes that extended the lead.
Finally, a word on the defense. If you want one actual stat that points out exactly why UC Berkeley was able to stick around in this game, all you would need to do is look at their three-point shooting. The Bears were 10-22 from three-point range, and three-point shots comprised 42% of their total shots. I’ve pointed out in recent weeks that UCLA’s perimeter defense is lacking, but the Bears seemed to recognize that it was the weak spot of the Bruin defense and gave their shooters the green light. In the end, the Bears had as many three-point makes as the Bruins had three-point attempts, and that amount allowed UC Berkeley to easily overcome the offense gap between the two squads.
I mentioned in the preview that this felt very much like a “get right” game for the Bruins, and in some aspect I was right. Coach Mick Cronin clearly gave some players a longer leash in order to try and let them play their way out of their various funks. The problem is that I’m not sure they were able to.
Cody Riley led the Bruins with 13 points. Tyger Campbell led the team with six assists, while Jalen Hill led the team with eight rebounds. Grant Anticevich led the Golden Bears with 21 points.
Player of the Game: Jules Bernard - Really, Bernard and Riley were neck and neck here, so I’ll go with Bernard simply for the clutch three late in the game. Either way, it continues to be great watching Bernard’s resurgence this season.
Area of concern: three-point defense - The last two games have featured opponents that have taken at least 40% of their total shots from behind the arc and made at least 43% of those shots. That’s not good, especially considering the quality of those two opponents. Most teams preach an inside-out attack on offense, but against UCLA the opposite has proven true; if you can hit a few outside shots early, UCLA’s defensive integrity seemingly crumbles.
A Time for Benching? - Coach Cronin seemed reluctant to bench various starters in this game, and I can respect it given the quality of the opponent, but we may be fast approaching a point where some message benchings may be needed to help various players. At the very least, a benching might get the message across to guys like Jaquez and Juzang that their level of play has not been great recently.
UCLA plays again this Saturday when they take on Stanford.