This post was updated Oct. 31 at 6:57 p.m.
Tyger Campbell didn’t register a single point in the second half, but the Pauley Pavilion crowd gave the redshirt freshman guard a standing ovation when he subbed out of the game for the final time.
Campbell – who missed the entire 2018-2019 season with a torn ACL – picked up 14 points and six assists in the first half of UCLA men’s basketball’s 87-57 exhibition win over Stanislaus State on Wednesday. Campbell went 0-of-3 from the field in the second half, but he dished out five assists in the frame to finish with an 11-assist double-double.
“My teammates really did it all, they just got open,” Campbell said. “I was really just hitting the open person. It was really just my team.”
The 5-foot-11-inch guard attempted eight 3s, was perfect from the free-throw line and shot 2-of-3 from 2, capping off the first half with a buzzer-beater over a 6-foot-6-inch defender.
“Certain guys play better in practice,” said coach Mick Cronin. “I’ve got a feeling (Campbell’s) one of those guys that plays better in games – which is a good thing.”
But Campbell wasn’t the only Bruin making his return from injury Wednesday night.
Both Campbell and fellow redshirt freshman Shareef O’Neal played in UCLA’s preseason showcase Oct. 23, but Wednesday marked their first game action against another team.
“Physical rehab is a lot harder than people know – having gone through it myself – but the mental part is a big hurdle for (Campbell) and (O’Neal),” Cronin said. “Obviously, (O’Neal) is a lot more serious from the fact that it was his heart, but it’s great to see those guys back on the floor.”
O’Neal did not hit a shot until the second half, but he was able to finish with six points and five boards on a perfect 3-of-3 night from the field. The forward scored all six of his points on the fastbreak, with four coming off dunks.
The two freshmen may have combined for 20 points, but Cronin said junior guard Chris Smith was one of the players who impressed him the most.
“We’re trying to work hard to get (Smith) an identity as a player,” Cronin said. “I told him if I had his size and athleticism, my identity would be deflections, defense, blocked shots, rebounds. Scoring will come in time; he can do that.”
Smith accounted for seven of the Bruins’ 44 deflections in the game in addition to his 13 points and nine rebounds. When UCLA was down 16-12 in the first half, a 3-pointer and midrange jumper by Smith helped kickstart a 22-6 run that gave the Bruins the lead for good.
While Smith’s scoring helped UCLA overcome an early hole, he said he credited his performance to the active defensive mindset Cronin had taught him.
“It was all just hustle for me and using my length,” Smith said. “(Cronin) always says that effort is something that you can control – it’s the only thing that you can always control. I made sure I controlled my effort and gave it my all every time the ball was in the air.”
Both of the Bruins’ fifth-year seniors – guard Prince Ali and forward Alex Olesinski – were part of the starting lineup and combined for 11 points and 11 rebounds on the night.
Olesinski said the Bruins’ solid ball movement and communication helped them recover from the early deficit.
“We got better progressively through the game,” Olesinski said. “I think, overall, we talked well, we moved the ball on offense, which was big – no one was standing and dribbling the whole time, so that was good.”
Midway through the second half, however, Ali hobbled to the end of the bench with an apparent leg injury. Cronin said he was unsure of its severity, and that the training staff wouldn’t know until Thursday.
The Bruins will return to Pauley Pavilion for their official 2019-2020 season opener Nov. 6 against Long Beach State.