As detailed in the postgame article last night, the UCLA Bruins’ star of the game against a not-very-good San Jose State team was Jaime Jaquez Jr. But the news of the game may have came in the postgame comments from Coach Mick Cronin not included on the official postgame quotes.
In response to a question about playing Tyger Campbell and David Singleton together, Coach Mick Cronin responded:
It’s tough because of their defense. Neither one of them are going to win any defensive awards. And that does not mean they’re not trying. It’s just size, lack of quickness, neither one of them is a great ball hawk on the ball. So it’s tough for us to play those two together defensively.
This comment is fascinating because it answers the biggest question of Bruin fans right now: Why has sharpshooter David Singleton not played more? To some, the other part may be a shock too. However, on Tyger, I kept repeating that the question will always be can Tyger play defense at a Pac-12 level? But Singleton is a bit of a surprise. He was the second-best defender last year. He has looked slow this year, but I figured it was getting into game shape. Apparently, he’s gone from second-best defender on an Alford-Bartow team on effort alone to not good enough on a Cronin team.
Okay, let’s move on to the game itself. The LA Times and Orange County Register both put Jaime Jaquez in their headlines. Jaime is becoming the fan’s favorite. New OCR beat writer Maggie Vanoni writes:
When the UCLA men’s basketball starters were introduced ahead of their Sunday evening game against San Jose State, it was freshman Jaime Jaquez Jr. — in just his second start of his Bruin career — who got the loudest cheers from the crowd.
The game hadn’t even started yet, but already the audience around him felt the energy.
Less than five minutes later, he showed the crowd he felt it too by intercepting a pass from the Spartans and sprinting the ball down the court for a monster dunk. And a minute later, he repeated the play to conclude a 9-0 UCLA run and an 11-point lead for the Bruins. . . .
Jaquez Jr. ended the game with a career-high 18 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals in his 20 minutes. He, alone, went on a 7-0 run at the start of the second half to help UCLA build a 21-point lead at 56-35. Every time he was subbed out of the game, the crowd erupted in applause as he was met with an appropriate first-bump from Cronin on his way to the bench.
Jaime was an incredible plus 40 in the plus/minus stat. I think it is safe to say that Jaime will be starting for the foreseeable future. After the game, Cronin stated:
Well, he didn’t turn the ball over. He doesn’t take bad shots. He doesn’t get beat on defense. He’s engaged, mentally. He’s a great building block for us.
While one player was the star of the night, it was really a team effort. Some walk-ons got their first minutes of the season but more importantly this is a team that regularly plays eleven players. Ben Bolch writes over for the LA Times:
UCLA coach Mick Cronin, recently assessing a team stocked mostly with freshmen and sophomores, noted that the Bruins could set a record for the number of players who set career highs in points. . . .
Jaquez is among 11 UCLA players who have set or tied their career highs in points this season, thanks largely to an influx of newcomers and other players moving into bigger roles.
I don’t think Bolch has the number correct as, for example, I don’t think Singleton has tied his career-high. But the bottom line is the win over San Jose State was nice and, more importantly, UCLA found a building block for many seasons to come in new fan favorite Jaime Jaquez. It will be interesting to see how last year’s fan favorite, David Singleton, fits into that future as well.