Men’s basketball extends winning streak to five with narrow victory over Marquette
Sophomore guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. led the Bruins in scoring for the second straight game as UCLA men’s basketball continued its perfect home record this season with a win over Marquette. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)
By Taiyo Keilin
Dec. 11, 2020 9:21 p.m.
This post was updated Dec. 11 at 9:58 p.m.
In their first matchup since 1964, history repeated itself between the Bruins and the Golden Eagles.
Playing at Pauley Pavilion for the fourth game in a row, UCLA men’s basketball (5-1, 1-0 Pac-12) defeated Marquette (4-2) 69-60 in a back-and-forth contest Friday night.
Coach Mick Cronin said the victory was the Bruins’ best so far, but that is subject to change and what is instead more important is the improvement from month to month.
“I think every win’s our best win of the season because what I realize, in our business, nobody cares about your last win,” Cronin said. “The key in college basketball (is) you have to get better in December than you were in November and just continue that in January, February because other teams … eliminate mistakes, they play smarter.”
Despite never leading by more than seven points until the final minute of the game, the Bruins were ahead for most of the contest including the last 6:48 of the first half, when redshirt sophomore guard Tyger Campbell scored to give UCLA a 27-26 lead.
Those two points accounted for half of Campbell’s total as the guard ended the night with four points on 2-of-3 shooting in 35 minutes. The Pac-12’s leading assister dished out nine dimes Friday – the only Bruin to record more than one assist. His nine assists were also over twice as many as the leading Eagle.
Sophomore guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. finished the night with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting and also racked up six boards for a Bruins’ roster which was outrebounded by a half dozen.
Jaquez said UCLA’s ability to close out tight games is due, in part, to the end of its 2019-2020 season.
“At the end of last year, we were put in tough games like this one that we just played,” Jaquez said. “We kept our composure and got the W.”
Marquette outshot UCLA from the field 42% to 41%, but the Bruins sank two more 3-pointers than the Eagles and converted five more free throws off of six more attempts.
UCLA led for the first seven minutes of the half, but Marquette recovered to tie at 44 with 12:56 left to play. After the teams traded baskets for four minutes, the Eagles took their final lead of the night at the 8:37 mark, going up 54-52.
Junior guard Jules Bernard tied the game back up as the Bruins went on a 15-6 run to close out the game, including holding the Eagles scoreless for almost three minutes.
Bernard did not start for the first time this season, but he came off the bench and played 26 minutes, scoring 15 points – good for second-highest on the team. He added seven rebounds – tied for the team lead – and two steals.
Bernard said regardless of not getting the start, he was ready to get his chance against a good opponent in Marquette.
“Whether I start or, like tonight, come off the bench, I was excited to play this game,” Bernard said. “Obviously they beat (then-No. 4 Wisconsin) on a tip-in so we knew we had a tough test tonight. I just wanted to come out and be myself – play aggressive, make plays for the team.”
Senior guard Chris Smith – who entered the game as the Bruins’ scoring leader – did not score from the floor Friday and did not score at all until the 5:54 mark when he nailed a free throw. Smith ended the night with four points – his lowest scoring output of the season – converting two-thirds of his charity stripe appearances.
Cronin said despite Smith’s lack of scoring, he was impressed by the guard’s ability to mentally stay in the game and earn the Bruins important scores from the free-throw line.
“I thought he showed a lot of maturity tonight because he could have hung his head (but) he went and got himself to the foul line, got us some big points and had a huge block, and got a couple of big-time rebounds down the stretch,” Cronin said.
UCLA will conclude its five-game homestand Tuesday when it takes on Long Beach State at 6 p.m. – a game that had to be rescheduled because of COVID-19 protocols within Long Beach State’s program.