UCLA Knocks Off BYU to Advance in NCAA Tournament, 73-62
The Bruins put on their most complete performance of the season to keep dancing.
Don’t look now, but the UCLA Bruins may have figured some things out at the exact perfect time.
The Bruins had their most complete performance of the season against a quality BYU Cougars squad, racing out to an 11-point halftime lead, and then showed that they can learn from their mistakes by showing a great amount of poise down the stretch, maintaining their lead, and ultimately winning by the final score of 73-62.
The Bruins played great basketball on both sides of the ball, but I’m going to start with the defense because we have rarely seen tis type of performance from UCLA this season. BYU shot 49% on 25-51 shooting, but the Cougars had to fight and scrap for every single one of those points thanks to an aggressive UCLA attack. For example, UCLA won the turnover battle 10-4 thanks to their aggressive rotations harassing BYU at the point of attack, and limited BYU’s strong outside shooting to an abysmal 17% from distance. To put that in perspective, Tyger Campbell shot threes at a better rate in this game than BYU did.
Credit should start with UCLA’s backcourt, who rose to the challenge of defending BYU’s wings with a level of intensity we’ve rarely seen this season. Tyger Campbell, Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard, and Jaime Jaquez all played exceptional defense, switching on everything and rarely letting the Cougars get behind them, which definitely helped a Bruin interior that had its hands full with 7-3 center Matt Haarms. And speaking of that interior, the combination of Cody Riley and Kenneth Nwuba deserve a ton of credit for limiting the big man on the inside, with Haarms limited to 11 points on 4-8 shooting. I want to highlight Nwuba in particular because played perhaps his best game of the season for the Bruins when Cody Riley left the first half with early foul trouble. Nwuba played solid defense and made BYU work for everything inside, and provided some great screens on the offensive end to free up UCLA’s shooters.
Speaking of those shooters, UCLA is starting to get hot at exactly the right moment. Johnny Juzang had one of his hot shooting nights, leading the Bruins with 27 points on 10-16 shooting and repeatedly coming up with huge plays down the stretch. Juzang was so hot that BYU changed their defense up at halftime to focus solely on stopping him, and that freed up the rest of UCLA’s attack to go to work. Jules Bernard had 16 points on the night while Jaime Jaquez chipped in 13, and the Bruins got key contributions from Tyger Campbell and David Singleton, who scored all seven and four of their points in the second half respectively.
The Bruins shot 42.1% on 8-19 shooting from three-point range in this game, but the Bruins did most of their work in the midrange. BYU wanted to pack the paint and prevent the Bruins from scoring on the interior (which worked - UCLA only had 26 points in the paint) which led to them playing back and giving UCLA’s shooters some space to operate from, and the Bruins repeatedly made the Cougars pay. I mentioned it on the Mighty Bruin Twitter (which you should totally follow if you’re not already), but when David Singleton is able to break down a defense and pull up at will, then you’re going to have a problem.
Simply put, the Bruins are getting hot at the exact right time, which is all you can truly ask for at this time of year. And with a date against #14 seed Abilene Christian now set for Monday, UCLA may end this snakebitten year with a legitimate shot at making the Sweet Sixteen. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
Johnny Juzang led the Bruins with 27 points. Jaime Jaquez led the team with eight rebounds, while Tyger Campbell had the team lead with five assists. Alex Barcello led the Cougars with 20 points.
Player of the Game: Johnny Juzang - One of the things that hurt the Bruins down the stretch of the regular season was a lack of a go-to scorer. That would have been Chris Smith, but his injury forced UCLA into a months-long search for someone they could ride when it matters. Well, Johnny Juzang has made a push to be that guy over the last few games, including tonight as he put up 27 points on 10-16 shooting. This was Juzang at his absolute best offensively, playing within the offense, not forcing shots, and being aggressive when it was called for. While his first half is what got him this spot, his second half was equally great, getting his way to the basket and drawing fouls down the stretch.
The J’s Continue to Get it Done - In March, you have to ride your best players, and the Bruins are getting exceptional performances from the J’s so far. I’ve already talked about Juzang, but Jaime Jaquez and Jules Bernard did exactly what they needed to in order to get the Bruins the win. Jaquez and Bernard had 13 and 16 points respectively, and combined that with excellent effort on the defensive end to get UCLA the victory. If the Bruins can get these three to continue their excellent play, it will be hard to count this team out.
Tyger Campbell’s Uneven Game - Tyger is going to get a lot of focus in the next couple days for another poor offensive game, but I will say he was improved in this one. BYU has a solid point guard in Brandon Averette, but Tyger kept him mostly in check on the defensive end, and hit some clutch shots late to put this game out of reach. I feel like he’s pressing more than others on the offensive end, especially because his lack-of outside shooting is causing defenses to sag off him to an extreme degree, but if he can play more of his game, the Bruins will really start to fly on offense.
The Bruins next play on Monday, taking on #14 Abilene Christian with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen on the line.
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Great win! Go Bruins!
What would their potential be if Smith didn't injure his ACL and Hill didn't bail? Final Four?