UCLA Shows Off Full Strength in Victory Over San Diego, 83-56
The Bruins welcomed back Johnny Juzang, and the early returns are promising.
These past few games of basketball have started to bleed together for the UCLA Bruins. They start with a sloppy opening, followed by the Bruins ratcheting up the defensive pressure, racing out to a double-digit lead, and finish with the Bruins cruising through a largely-uneventful second half. In this particular case, the opponent was the San Diego Toreros, and the end result was an 83-56 victory.
This isn’t a bad thing, by the way. It is objectively good that UCLA is putting outmatched opponents away early and not letting them claw back into the game. That was the standard operating procedure under Steve Alford, so it’s good to see Mick Cronin has seemingly broken the team of some bad habits in this regard. I assume it’s also helpful when your calling card is your defense, as you can have a cold shooting night and still rely on a strong defensive effort to keep you in games.
And, to be fair, it was a bit dishonest to pretend there was nothing of real note in this game, because we got the UCLA debut of Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang. Juzang had been out the past few weeks due to a stress fracture in his foot, but he made his return tonight and looked good doing so. In 19 minutes of game time, Juzang put up 10 points on 4-6 shooting, including going 1-2 from distance. Juzang was moving well on the court, getting to his spots and showing off an ability to create off the catch, and his ability to score and create feels very welcome for a team that can struggle with that aspect at times.
Juzang’s return allowed Coach Cronin to experiment with the lineups a bit, which was welcome to see in a game that UCLA controlled fairly quickly. In particular, Cronin rolled with a lineup of Tyger Campbell-Juzang-Jake Kyman-Chris Smith-Jaylen Hill that seems pretty intriguing going forward. Juzang and Kyman are excellent sharpshooters who provide good kick-out options for Campbell and Smith on drives (Smith also being an excellent deep threat as well) while Hill is great at cleaning things up on the boards. On the flip side, the group is surprisingly solid defensively, which is all you need with that level of offensive potential. The Bruins later ran the same lineup with David Singleton taking the place of Campbell, which gave UCLA their best outside shooting lineup without sacrificing anything defensively, and that’s a lineup I’d like to see UCLA run more often as a change-up.
Overall, this was another easy win that kept UCLA’s momentum rolling. Now come the bigger games, starting with Marquette this Friday.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. led the Bruins with 17 points. Cody Riley and Jaylen Hill tied for the team lead in rebounds with 10, while Tyger Campbell led the team with five assists. Joey Calcaterra led the Toreros with 18 points.
Player of the Game: Jaime Jaquez Jr. - Much like the UC Berkeley game was important for seeing Chris Smith return to form, this was a great time for Jaquez to get things rolling again. Jaquez got his 17 points on an efficient 6-9 shooting night, including 3-4 from distance, but he also picked up four blocks. Jaquez is a huge cog in what UCLA does on both sides of the court, and getting him back into form is a big step for UCLA going forward.
Efficient Offensive Attack - Every UCLA player that saw meaningful minutes in this game (read: did not come in to end the game) scored in this game, and was rather efficient at doing so. The Bruins had five players in double figures, including Cody Riley who had a double-double, and shot 46.2% from the field. They dominated in the paint (34 points) and from outside (6-13 from distance). If UCLA can continue to have this level of offensive output, they could do some heavy damage going forward.
More Cody Riley - I like looking over the game analytics afterwards just to see if the numbers line up with what I’m seeing. In many cases, they do (hey Jaylen Hill once-again leading the team defensively) but I wanted to shout out Riley for having a great game on defense as well. Riley put up an impressive 67.5 defensive rating for this game, and while San Diego did not really have much to threaten UCLA with inside, it’s still a good sign that Riley can put up this level of performance against an outmatched opponent. Hopefully this gives him something to build on going forward.
UCLA next plays on Friday, when they host Marquette.