UCLA Cruises Past Washington State, 91-61
The Bruins put up their most complete performance of the season.
I’ll admit that I was pretty annoyed with the 2:00 PM start time for this one. It was inconvenient and meant I was forced into watching what I could during work breaks (and before anyone asks I was done with actual work when I started writing this).
Thankfully, the start time wasn’t inconvenient for the UCLA Bruins, as they quickly raced out to a double-digit lead they would never relinquish, ultimately defeating the Washington State Cougars 91-61 to improve to 10-2 on the season, 6-0 in conference play.
This was as close to a complete effort as we’ve seen from UCLA this season. On offense, everything was working for the Bruins as they shot 54.1% from the field, including a blistering 56.3% (9-16) from three-point range. Five Bruins players ended the game with double-digit points, a rarity for a squad that tends to ride the hot hand. Washington State simply had no answer for anything UCLA wanted to do offensively, whether it was thumping away on the interior with Cody Riley (12 points) to watching Johnny Juzang and Jake Kyman light it up from the outside (a combined 5-9 from three). Tyger Campbell was able to do whatever he wanted with the ball in his hands, putting up 16 points and six assists, while Jaime Jaquez continued his recent resurgence with a solid 16 points. The Bruins straight-up bullied the Cougars on the glass - in fact, the Bruins almost had as many offensive rebounds (13) as the Cougars had defensive rebounds (16).
On defense, things were a bit shakier in the first half, which was at least understandable since the Bruins were absolutely unconscious on the offensive end. Coach Mick Cronin did seem to notice, however, because the defensive intensity certainly picked up in the second half. Washington State shot 46% from the field in this game, but they were held to 33.3% in the second half. Cody Riley again had a great defensive game from an analytics standpoint, joined by a nice bounce-back game on the defensive end from Jalen Hill. The unsung hero here was Jaylen Clark, who played 16 minutes of exceptional basketball on the defensive end and was rewarded for his efforts on offense.
Honestly, it’s hard to really write about this one. UCLA dominated in every statistical category, which is something we should expect when playing a team as young as Washington State. But this was an impressive victory in part because the temptation to relax after last week’s successful road trip was extremely obvious, yet the Bruins never gave in. This team is out to prove they are still one of the best in the conference and are backing up that belief with their play.
You can’t ask for much more than that.
Johnny Juzang led the Bruins with 17 points. Jalen Hill led the team with seven rebounds, while Tyger Campbell led the team with six assists. Isaac Bonton led the Cougars with 23 points.
Player of the Game: Uhh, let’s go with Tyger Campbell - You could go with a host of players for various reasons, but I’ll stick with Campbell for the second game in a row simply for how much he dominated the game when he was on the floor. I was honestly shocked he only ended the game with six assists because it felt like he was getting one every time the Bruins went down the court. But I will say that Campbell’s unselfish nature was clearly contagious in this one - UCLA had 20 assists in this game, with six players notching at least two. That’s taking after the leader, and Campbell is starting to step up.
The Outside Shooting Arrives - The one aspect of UCLA’s offense that had not come online for the Bruins was the outside shot. Sure Jaime Jaquez was doing great, and David Singleton was doing well in limited playtime, but the Bruins went into the season believing that the combination of Johnny Juzang and Jake Kyman would give opposing defenses fits, and that just hasn’t been the case. Well, that may be changing - Juzang had his second great scoring night in a row, putting up 17 points including 3-6 from deep, while Kyman had a season-high 10 points including 2-3 from deep. UCLA has had a really good offense despite these two playing poorly, so to have them rounding into form as the meat of the conference season arrives is a really good sign going forward.
The Curious Case of Jules Bernard - Everything has been rounding into form for UCLA recently….except for Jules Bernard. Bernard has had a rather pedestrian stretch over the past three games, culminating tonight where he only managed six points on 2-6 shooting. Bernard did a lot of the heavy lifting earlier in the season, so it’s good that the Bruins are able to win convincingly without him, but Bernard’s dip in play is still concerning. Still, he has two more get-right games ahead against weak opponents in Washington and UC Berkeley to figure things out, so I’m not hitting the panic button yet.
UCLA next plays on Saturday against Washington.