UCLA Rides Solid Defensive Effort to a 57-52 Victory Over Oregon State
The Bruins' offense was nonexistent for most of this game, but the defense is starting to round into form.
There were questions on how the UCLA Bruins would respond to their first conference loss of the season last week, and those questions were left to dwell for an entire week once the game against the Oregon Ducks was postponed. The Bruins were finally able to answer that question on Saturday and put on an impressive defensive performance to put away the Oregon State Beavers 57-52, improving to 13-3 on the season and 9-1 in Pac-12 play.
UCLA needed a good defensive game in this one because the offense struggled all game. This wasn’t really a case of Oregon State playing great defense - UCLA was able to get whatever looks it wanted on offense. The Bruins simply struggled to hit their open shots. It happens sometimes, but it did put more pressure on what had been a struggling UCLA defense to step up, and that’s exactly what happened. Oregon State was able to put up a respectable 42.6% on their field goals for the night, but the Bruins forced 15 turnovers and got eight steals, which helped to limit opportunities for the Beavers. In addition, UCLA was much improved on the boards in this game, especially on the defensive end as they limited the Beavers to six offensive rebounds and only four second-chance points.
The Bruins got solid bounce-back games from a handful of sources. A week removed from his worst game of the season, Cody Riley was a force in this game, getting a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Jaime Jaquez seemed to really appreciate the time off, as he looked rejuvenated. He did not shoot great from the field, but he was active and did a great job of drawing fouls, going 7-9 from the free-throw line. Tyger Campbell was much improved from a nightmarish performance against Stanford, putting up nine points and four assists. This did help counterbalance a more earth-bound performance from Johnny Juzang, who struggled to seven points on 3-11 shooting.
A scary moment occurred midway through the first half when Jules Bernard went up for an offensive rebound and came down hard, landing on his right knee. Bernard had to be helped off the court, and there was a concern as to how bad the injury could be with Bernard holding his hip. Fortunately, Bernard was seen using the exercise bike on the sidelines to start the second half and would eventually return to the game, so the Bruins seemed to have dodged a major bullet.
This game was not very pretty, but sometimes it does not have to be pretty. Maybe, more importantly, UCLA looked like it was figuring some things out on the defensive end, and if they can keep that up, the Bruins could still have a chance to make some noise in the postseason.
Cody Riley led the Bruins with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Tyger Campbell led the Bruins with four assists. Ethan Thompson led the Beavers with 16 points.
Player of the Game: David Singleton - OH DID YOU THINK I HAD FORGOTTEN ABOUT HIM? Singleton was called upon to take the bulk of the minutes when Bernard went down with an injury, and he responded admirably, putting in nine points and grabbing five rebounds in 31 minutes. Singleton is not the type of player that will wow you with his play, but he’s dependable, and it shouldn’t take a scary injury to force that issue.
Area of concern: Late game rotations - Once again, Coach Mick Cronin chose to make a defense-offense switch late, bringing in Jaylen Clark, Jules Bernard, and Jalen Hill on a pivotal Oregon State possession. That’s not the problem. The problem was that Cronin left Tyger Campbell on the floor. Campbell is not a great defender - it was his lapse that led to the last-second basket by Stanford last week - yet Cronin keeps trusting him in these situations despite having better options. This feels like a bit of self-scouting that is continually tripping Cronin up.
Boring isn’t bad - Let’s get one thing straight: this was a boring game to watch. That doesn’t mean it was a bad game by any means, and UCLA has seemingly thrived in these kinds of games, but the viewing experience still left a lot to be desired. This especially goes for the Pac-12 Network broadcast, which refused to put any energy into this game. If you’re struggling to go to sleep tonight, go find a replay of this one; it’ll be as effective as a sleeping pill.
Thanks to COVID-19 hitting the Oregon basketball program, UCLA again has another week off and does not play again until next Saturday when they face Southern Cal.