No. 7 UCLA goes defensive in win over Stanford
Mick Cronin took UCLA to a Final Four. He replenished the roster with talented players that complement those he inherited. He restored prestige to the Bruins brand.
One thing Cronin hadn’t done until Saturday: beat Stanford.
He ticked that off his to-do list thanks to the kind of stifling defense and sustained intensity that suggested his team was closing in on NCAA Tournament form six weeks before Sunday’s draft.
Playing their third game in five days, the seventh-ranked Bruins kept their momentum alive in a 66-43 win over the Cardinal at Pauley Pavilion in which they were particularly energetic on defense.
Using an all-court press in addition to active hands and effective double teams, the Bruins (16-2 overall, 8-1 Pac-12) forced 14 of Stanford’s 22 turnovers at halftime. UCLA finished the game with 11 interceptions and five blocks while also forcing shot clock and boundary violations.
There was a misfortune that spoiled the fun. Already shorthanded with top scorer Johnny Juzang (COVID-19 protocols) and top defenseman Jaylen Clark (concussion protocol), the Bruins lost junior guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. to an apparent right ankle injury in first half.
Jaquez briefly returned to the game, missing a three-pointer, before making a second trip to a coach’s table. He did not play again, putting on a T-shirt over his shirt and watching the second half from behind the baseline.
Guard Jules Bernard led the Bruins with 16 points and Jake Kyman added a season-high 15 in extended minutes off the bench, with Kyman highlights including a fake three-pointer and a pump that he followed up avoiding a defender for a jumper.
With Stanford compounding their inability to hold onto the ball with a terrible shot, the result was essentially decided at half-time. The Cardinal (12-7, 5-4) has made just five of 25 shots (20%) so far while missing all nine of his three-pointers.
Guard Isa Silva scored eight points to lead the Cardinal, who finished the game making 27.1% of his shots and 15% of his three-pointers.
It would have been a blast of epic proportions had the Bruins not endured their own shooting struggles. They hit 37.3% of their shots, including just four of 29 three-pointers (13.8%), but that wasn’t for lack of open looks in the middle of fastball movement.
Cronin had lost his first two games to Stanford since arriving at UCLA, so it’s not like it was some kind of extended streak, but the two losses were kind of sticking you like chewing gum on the bottom of your legs. sneakers.
When Stanford stomped on the Bruins in Cronin’s first season, the coach called his players after the game, calling them soft and selfish in what became a spark for the team’s rise to power in end of season. The Cardinal’s one-point victory over UCLA last season, on a last-second inbounds pass in overtime, was so infuriating that Bernard slammed the ball downfield as soon as it was finished.
Stanford came into Saturday’s game desperate to win to boost their chances of entering the NCAA Tournament as an all-around team. He did himself no favors.
At times struggling to get the ball through midfield and not looking much better once he entered his half-court attack, the Cardinal failed to hit double figures on the board edge until only 9:20 remained in the first half. It wasn’t much of a triumph considering they were trailing 23-10.
Stanford was locked on 10 points for nearly six minutes as UCLA slowly extended their cushion to 31-10. The Cardinal only broke through after UCLA forward Cody Riley went down and lost the ball, with Michael O’Connell converting the turnover into a layup in transition.
UCLA’s superior wing depth was needed, with Jaquez becoming the last player to go down. Juzang missed a second game in a row, the only glimpse fans got to see of him with his smiling face on the cover of the game’s program.
Clark was out for a third straight game, but there was a sign of progress. Clark returned to Pauley Pavilion for the first time since being sidelined, throwing hard passes to teammates during warm-ups while wearing a white protective wrap around his neck.
With Clark and Jaquez cheering from the bench, the rest of the Bruins persevered once again. UCLA won so comfortably that reserve guard Russell Stong was able to play nearly three minutes late in the game, his team so comfortably up front that he dribbled the final seconds instead of throwing a shot.
Cronin got the better of Stanford, leaving rival USC as the only Pac-12 team he didn’t conquer.