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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: An Unlikely Star in an Unlikely 66-64 Bruin Win

Jake Kyman Scores More in a Game Than So Far This Season

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington
Kyman was a step ahead of Washington all game
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After the worst UCLA loss in the history of the KenPom rankings, UCLA had its best win of the season and one of its better road wins ever against University of Washington. Keep in mind even Ben Howland’s best teams could not win at UW. With that in mind, let’s start this roundup with the Seattle Post Intelligencer‘s take on the game.

Thursday night at Hec-Ed, an epic showdown ended in a biting letdown. The near sold-out crowd used every inch of its collective larynx, but left with nothing to celebrate.

Everything was in place for the Huskies to start league play in the most emphatic of fashions. But like so many possessions Thursday, they let it slip away.

UCLA’s 66-64 win over Washington was a study in one team savoring opportunities and the other one squandering them. The Bruins weren’t the more talented team in the building, but they were the more tenacious and disciplined one.

After outrebounding Washington 38-27 and staving off UW run after UW run, UCLA was victorious while the Huskies were vexed. How did they let this happen?

Putting aside the arrogance in this take, UCLA was the underdog. Of course, in sum, the underdog won because of the play of the ultimate underdog. The Daily Bruin’s Sam Connon wrote:

Jake Kyman’s career night kept the Bruins alive, but it was his final attempt with eight seconds to go that saved the game.

Down by one with 24 seconds to play, the Bruins took the ball up the court and eventually swung the ball around to Kyman, who knocked down the wide open game-winner from the wing.

UCLA men’s basketball (8-6, 1-0 Pac-12) upset Washington (10-4, 0-1) on the road Thursday, snapping a three-game losing streak in its Pac-12 opener. Kyman led the way with a team-high 21 points, all of which came from beyond the arc.

The freshman forward had 18 total points in nonconference play, shooting 30.8% from deep across his nine previous appearances. Kyman hit two triples in the first half, helping the Bruins enter the break with a 10-point lead, but it was his five second-half 3-pointers that helped stave off a Husky comeback.

In the post-game interview on Fox Sports, Coach Cronin could joke about it:

Obviously Jake Kyman. If we had a better coach, we’d be playing him more.

More seriously, in the postgame presser he said:

I told him after the North Carolina game, ‘you’ve gotta make me play you.’ I think Jake loves UCLA so much the way he grew up with his Mom being a great volleyball player at UCLA. Part of Jake’s plan was he might get in as a freshman, he might not. We don’t have that luxury writes i, we need someone who can shoot the ball. His effort and his energy in practice has been great and it showed tonight. Gotta give him credit, he believes he’s making every shot.

Cronin worked to inspire not just Kyman, but the whole team. Ben Bolch writes in the LA Times:

Cronin had stripped the UCLA logo off players’ and coaches’ tank tops and shorts in practice this week since the loss to Cal State Fullerton, sending a message that the Bruins needed to earn the right to wear the school’s letters.

They found someone worthy in Kyman, whose mother, Michelle, won a national championship at UCLA in 1991 while playing for the women’s volleyball team.

Kyman was a zone buster early in the game after his two three-pointers off the bench gave UCLA a 21-16 lead the Bruins eventually extended to as many as 11 points. UCLA moved the ball with relative ease against the Huskies and put together perhaps its most tenacious defense of the season on the way to a 34-24 halftime lead.

“That last loss was embarrassing, but we have to really learn from this,” Kyman said. “We all had a pact in the locker room, we were all talking to each other, like this can’t happen anymore. It’s time for this to end, we have to figure something out and we really stuck to that.”

While Jake Kyman was the biggest star, the last word goes to Chris Smith. Smith was the one who dove for the final loose ball:

I was telling the guys, since this is my third year, that conference is basically a new season. No matter what happens in non-conference, league is totally different. It’s guys that we’re going to see the rest of the season, and they’re games we can win. It’s the most competitive part of the season other than postseason, obviously. It was great. It was the best feeling I’ve had since I got here other than the Oregon comeback.

That was one hell of a comeback from a horrid non-conference loss to what was an excellent conference win in a hostile environment.

Go Bruins!