Men’s basketball extends winning streak with 30-point win over Washington State
Tyger Campbell eclipsed the 15-point mark for the second consecutive game in UCLA men’s basketball’s largest Pac-12 win under coach Mick Cronin. The redshirt sophomore guard scored 16 points on eight attempts while leading the Bruins with a game-high six assists. (Finn Chitwood/Daily Bruin)
By Jack Perez
Jan. 14, 2021 4:34 p.m.
This post was updated Jan. 14 at 5:14 p.m.
After starting 2021 with three straight games with a final margin of 6 points or less, the Bruins finally got a comfortable win.
UCLA men’s basketball (10-2, 6-0 Pac-12) extended its home winning streak to 14 with a 91-61 win over Washington State (9-3, 2-3) during an afternoon game at Pauley Pavilion. Coach Mick Cronin’s team scored 12 seconds into the matchup and never gave up the lead.
The victory takes the Bruins to 11 straight wins over the Cougars at home, with Washington State’s last win in Westwood being an 82-81 victory on Feb. 21, 2009.
UCLA finished the game shooting 56.3% from deep and 54.1% overall – both marking improvements over its respective season averages of 36.6% and 46.4% in those categories.
After coming into the game ranked 10th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive rankings, UCLA proceeded to put up its most points in a regulation game since Dec. 1, 2019 and its most in a Pac-12 game since a 93-88 win over USC on Feb. 28, 2019.
While the Bruins have excelled on the offensive end, their defense has not been as efficient, ranking 71st in KenPom’s adjusted defensive rankings before Thursday. Cronin said the team’s youth accounts for some of the problems and UCLA should get better as the season progresses.
“I just think we’re growing still,” Cronin said. “We made some adjustments strategically today with how we played the pick and roll for the most part and some of our post defense. … Getting upset with players is a waste of time – you have to make them better, you have to make adjustments, you have to teach them better and you have to maybe adjust your strategy a little bit.”
The Bruins continued to split the scoring load in the absence of last season’s leading scorer, senior guard Chris Smith. Five players scored in double digits, and no one played over 30 minutes in UCLA’s first of seven games between now and Feb. 1.
Sophomore guard/forward Jake Kyman and freshman guard Jaylen Clark – two players who have seen their minutes increase since Smith was ruled out for the season – pitched in with 17 combined points.
Kyman had been averaging 2.6 points per game before today. He said Cronin told him to forget his 23.8% 3-point percentage coming into the game and keep going at it from deep.
“My confidence, it obviously was getting low when I kept missing shots, but you’ve got to keep shooting,” Kyman said. “You know, shooters keep shooting and that’s what I’ve been doing. And then obviously, law of percentages, shots are going to go in eventually.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Tyger Campbell and Cougar guard Isaac Bonton were going back and forth for much of the contest. While Bonton finished with a game-high 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting, Campbell left the court with 16 points, six assists and the win.
While Campbell said the lack of fans in the stands is still tough to adjust to, he noted the team’s bond is helping the Bruins through games during the ongoing restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’d love to have the Den out there, and all the great fans that we have that would come out. We miss it,” Campbell said. “But we got to keep in mind (that) we’re basketball players, we love basketball, we work every day… We’re just trying to stay together and just play as a team right now.”
The 54 points scored by the Bruins in the first half are the most under Cronin and the highest scoring half for UCLA since a game against Oregon on Feb. 23, 2019.
Sophomore guard Johnny Juzang scored 17 points – setting a career high for the second game in a row – as he continues to gel with his new team after transferring from Kentucky before this season.
Juzang said he and Kyman talked after the game about how enjoyable it was to hit big shots early on in the game and carry the momentum throughout.
“That first half stretch where – just shots were dropping, and we’re hitting each other and screaming for each other, finding each other, it’s so much fun,” Juzang said. “It’s really awesome.”
UCLA currently sits in first place in the Pac-12 and will put its perfect conference record on the line Saturday against Washington.