The UCLA Bruins started off powering inside on offense. If Jalen Hill was not double teamed, he seemingly could score at will. When Hill went to the bench, Jaime Jaquez Jr. had some nice inside drives. But the Utah Utes were also able to score inside on the Bruins. Ten of their first 13 points came inside. At the Under 12 timeout, the score was 18-13 with most of the points by both teams in the paint.
UCLA started pressing at the 11 minute mark. They promptly went on a 8-0 run over the next four minutes to go up 26-13.
While UCLA’s defense was impressive in the first half, its offense was again ugly. The biggest culprit may be Jules Bernard. He is still out of control. Twice, he got trapped and just forced ugly shots. Along with Prince Ali, he loves to bring the ball up. The offense is clearly better when it is Tyger Campbell’s hands to start. More than once, the offense threw the ball to a running Hill. That’s not a good idea. When Hill and Chris Smith got in foul trouble, the Bruins went on a six-minute scoring drought, but still led by seven at the end of it. It ended, not surprisingly, when UCLA put the ball in Campbell’s hands.
For the half, Utah only had 21 points. They shot 8% from three and 33% overall. If UCLA was not stone cold on offense, going just 1 of their last 12), the Bruins will have more than doubled Utah’s score. As it was, they led 32-21 at the break.
In the second half, the Utes found the range from three. Working the ball around for open threes, especially from their big stretch four Riley Baten, who hit multiple open threes. The game changed from a defensive struggle to more of an offensive back and forth with Utah gaining. UCLA went back to the bad habit of double- or triple-teaming a player at the free throw line, who would kick out for an open three.
However, the offense was able to keep pace. When Tyger Campbell runs the offense, it looks like an offense. When Tyger is off the ball or out the game, the offense is very stagnant and individualized. That can work with Smith sometime but, otherwise, this game really drove home the importance of a point guard. Tyger had his best game as a Bruin with a career high 22 points with 8 assists.
- Player of the game: Jaime Jaquez Jr. I wanted to give this to Tyger. But, while Tyger was key to the offense, Jaime was great on both sides of the ball. His steal of an inbounds pass that resulted in an intentional foul was the play that sealed the win. Jaime’s stat line was impressive: 4 of 7 (2 of 2 from three) and 8 of 8 from the line. He had four rebounds, three steals, three assists, and one block.
- The problem with the offense: the bench. When the starting five are on the floor in this order, Hill, Smith, Jaquez, Tyger Campbell and David Singleton, the offense is solid. It’s not great, but decent. When you take away Hill and Smith as happened in the first half, it is U-G-L-Y. Three out of the four bench players are capable of destroying the offensive flow. The bench went 4 of 15.
- Lavin stupidity. He can’t say Utah’s coaches name so he calls him “Coach K of the West.” He credits Ali with clutch minutes in the victory over Colorado when, really, Ali hit threes in the first half and had a number of ugly sequences at the end. He confused Jules Bernard and Jaquez, hilariously saying Jaquez went to the bench when he was not in the game after a Bernard shot. But the worst of all is saying the incredibly obvious like UCLA wants to keep the run going and Utah wants to stop it. Since it is Lavin, he adds about 10 adjectives and one stupid saying. Here’s a typical dumb quote: “They put on uniforms and sneakers to beat you.” Please, Fox, no more Steve Lavin on UCLA games.
A winning record halfway through the conference season is a pleasant surprise.