Men’s basketball triumphs over Arizona with late push in home finale
Sophomore guard Jules Bernard finished UCLA men’s basketball’s home finale with five points in 12 minutes. Bernard’s lone field goal came on a transition 3-pointer that put the Bruins up 26-24 in the final minutes of the opening half.(Jintak Han/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Sam Connon
Feb. 29, 2020 10:16 p.m.
Tyger Campbell missed his first 10 shots Saturday night.
But on his 11th and final attempt of the game, the redshirt freshman guard gave the Bruins the lead and the victory.
“I think (Campbell) thinks I’m nuts, which he would be correct – I think I’ve been certified a while ago as crazy,” said coach Mick Cronin. “But I’m yelling at him to attack the guy, use his speed.”
UCLA men’s basketball (19-11, 12-5 Pac-12) dug itself out of a nine-point hole to take down Arizona (19-10, 9-7) 69-64 and win its 11th game in the last 13 outings. The Bruins cut the Wildcat lead down to one on four separate occasions in the second half, but they weren’t able to jump in front until Campbell’s eventual game-winner high off the glass with 49 seconds left gave them the lead.
The point guard did so with a hand injury he suffered in the final minutes of the game, according to redshirt sophomore forward Cody Riley, who said he was shocked by Campbell’s late-game heroics.
“I was super excited for him; I was happy,” Riley said. “Something happened with his hand or something, so he was a little injured; so I was just so surprised by that. But at the end of the day, we all had confidence in him.”
Campbell went 0-of-7 with three assists in the first half, but shot 1-of-4 with five assists in the second, fueling an 11-2 UCLA run to end the game.
And when the final buzzer sounded, the Bruins ran over to the far baseline to celebrate with the student section that had filled up over an hour before the opening tip.
The players joined The Den in the bleachers and were swarmed by fans after they extended their season-best winning streak to seven games, claiming sole possession of first place in the Pac-12.
“It was definitely a great way to cap off the season, first season here at UCLA getting to play in Pauley – it was great,” said freshman guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. “The crowd was there the entire time and it was fun to celebrate with them, and hopefully it was fun for them, too.”
UCLA led for a total of only 3:24 in its final home game of the season, and it emerged victorious despite trailing for the majority of the second half.
The Bruins jumped ahead after Campbell’s floater, but it was junior guard Chris Smith who took the biggest leap on offense after the opening frame.
Smith finished the first half with three points off 1-of-5 shooting to go along with four turnovers. In the second half, the Bruins’ leading scorer hit two 3-pointers early in the second en route to a 17-point performance, and he didn’t cough the ball up at all in the final 20 minutes.
UCLA only registered one turnover as a team in the second half – a shot clock violation that went to video review – after giving the ball away seven times in the first.
The Bruins were down by as many as seven in the first half, but a 10-0 run helped them take a 27-24 lead with 2:23 left in the opening frame. A block off the backboard by sophomore guard Jules Bernard led to a long rebound for UCLA, and Bernard’s transition 3 on the other end gave the team its second lead in nearly 17 minutes of game time.
UCLA opened the game 11-of-13 from the charity stripe, and Riley ended the game with a career-high seven free throws on eight attempts. Cronin said he was proud of the effort Riley has put in to improve his free throw shooting with assistant coach Michael Lewis, as he entered the game shooting a team-worst 48.6% from the line.
“I think we shoot around 71%, and the reason we don’t shoot over 75 was that (Riley) had struggled,” Cronin said. “But nobody on our team puts more time and effort on his free throw shooting than (Riley) – nobody, it’s not even close.”
The Bruins ultimately found a way to break through late, but Wildcat guard Nico Mannion kept his team in front for almost the entire night.
After scoring just five points in UCLA’s last matchup with Arizona on Feb. 8, Mannion finished with 19 points Saturday. He put up 11 of those points and four of his six assists in the second half, and both of his second-half 3s silenced the near-sellout crowd.
But the Pauley Pavilion crowd ended the night loud, as the Bruins wrapped up their home season with seven straight wins on their home floor and a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament.
“Even when we were 8-9, we believed that we could win games, and that’s what’s happening right now,” Smith said. “Just us staying together and believing in ourselves helped us get on this little win streak and made the NCAA (tournament) a possibility.”