For the first time since 2017, UCLA has advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins defeated the BYU Cougars 73-62 Saturday at Hinkle Fieldhouse as their Cinderella story extends for at least two more days.
The Bruins started off like a team that was warmed up for the tournament, the benefit of having to start early with the First Four on Thursday. They went up 12-5 while BYU missed its first six shots and first two free throws.
That momentum carried through the first half, as UCLA shot 50 percent from the field. Johnny Juzang, who looked like he might not be available after injuring his right ankle against Michigan State, was instead unconscious to begin the game. He scored 19 points in the first half, and Jaime Jaquez added another eight, including a beautiful drive and dunk to get the Bruins up 11, thanks to a generous clear out from David Singleton.
UCLA went up 14 early in the second half, but the Cougars made a tactical adjustment to deny Juzang the ball at all costs and allow the Bruins to play 4-on-4 in the half court. BYU took advantage of UCLA’s confusion and indecisiveness to pull within four. In response, Jules Bernard reeled off five points, and his threat as a scorer forced the Cougars to recalibrate, freeing Juzang on the offensive end.
The trio of Juzang, Jaquez, and Bernard kept the pressure up, the lone three UCLA scorers in double digits. They finished with 56 of the team’s 73 points while shooting 58 percent from the field and making half of their 12 3-pointers. The Bruins entered the game 15-3 on the season when they made six or more threes, and they made seven in the first half.
At the end of round one, all five of the teams in the Pac-12 are still alive, a remarkable achievement considering the conference had four total wins over the last two NCAA Tournaments. UCLA will now play the winner of Texas vs. Abilene Christian in the second round.