This has been the most fun ride in the UCLA basketball regular season that I can remember. Sure, there have been great games, good wins, and more. But how often have I watched a UCLA Bruins game and said, “Well, who is going to win it for us tonight?”
Obviously, last night, it was Jaime Jaquez Jr. with the game winning shot to beat the Arizona State Sun Devils. Ben Bolch of the LA Times describes it:
Jaime Jaquez Jr. ran down the court, accompanied by his coach’s voice screaming at him to set a screen.
The UCLA freshman guard was supposed to be a complementary player with the score tied against Arizona State on the final play of a taut game matching the Pac-12 Conference’s most sizzling teams. The plan was for Bruins point guard Tyger Campbell to drive and get fouled or find an open teammate.
As Campbell repeatedly dribbled the ball between his legs on the perimeter, probing for an opportunity, Jaquez circled back behind him and picked up a screen from Campbell.
Suddenly freed from defenders, Jaquez rose for a three-pointer. He fell down after the ball left his hands, following its arc from his backside.
After the game, Jaquez said:
Something we work on every single day in practice [is] getting behind the guy driving—spacing. So, just practice. He drove, coming back around he passed me the ball. I shot it. It went in. It felt good. You know, a lot of shots I take, they all feel good. That one just went in. So yeah, it felt good coming off my hands. It looked good. That was it.
Maggie Vanoni of the Orange County Register focused part of her article on the hero of the first half, Jake Kyman.
UCLA was led by true freshman Jake Kyman with a career-high-tying 21 points (19 before halftime) and a career-high six rebounds. Campbell had a career-high 14 assists and 10 points, and Jalen Hill added 13 points for the Bruins.
The Bruins found themselves facing another double-digit deficit in the first half. But thanks to an explosive 3-point performance from Kyman to close the half, UCLA was able to come back and challenge the Sun Devils the rest of the way, forcing the game to come down to its final seconds. . . .
In his 12 minutes off the bench, Kyman went 5-of-7 from beyond the arc, including three consecutive 3-pointers, to push the Bruins on 20-5 run and a halftime lead of 41-35. He led all scorers at the intermission with 19 points.
Arizona State Coach Bobby Hurley described Kyman’s three-point shooting this way:
Jake looked like Larry Bird out there. I know I’m going way back.
Bruin Report Online Publisher Tracy Pierson is so giddy that he wrote an article to share his love of this team. He emphasizes that there were many heroes last night but we’ll choose one, Tyger Campbell. Pierson writes:
It was one of the best games played in Pauley Pavilion in years..
Remember the days – not so long ago – when UCLA games were just not watchable?
That was, to put it mildly, a very watchable game. That was college basketball at its best and most entertaining. . . .
While he didn’t necessarily have a specific heroic sequence, the most consistent player in the game – the glue that kept all the heroics together for the Bruins — was Campbell. UCLA started the game playing fairly strongly on both ends – but when Campbell came out of the game at about the 13-minute mark, Arizona State took control of it. By the time he came back in a couple of minutes later, ASU had gotten in a rhythm on offense and had shut down UCLA’s offense, mostly with smothering perimeter pressure. Campbell played 36 minutes and, as a point guard, being responsible for ball-handing and playmaking, and then defending Martin, that’s a pretty draining 36 minutes. Campbell’s offense, his ability to get in a lane and score on his floater, has become a huge part of UCLA’s attack in the last month, and without it, the offense stagnates. He truly is the only backcourt Bruin who can penetrate, and opposing defenses have to be prepared to collapse on him. Without him in the game, and providing the threat of penetration, defenses can extend out and pressure away from the ball, and it definitely contributed to ASU getting in that rhythm in the first half and building that 10-point lead.
Coach Cronin gets the last word and it’s worth repeating:
Tremendous win for our team. It was a tremendous win for our team.
Go Bruins! Beat the mildcats!