Men’s basketball secures 15-point victory over Utah, extends winning streak
Jules Bernard led UCLA men’s basketball in scoring with 19 points, as the Bruins extended their winning streak to four games. The junior guard added four rebounds and three assists in the victory over Utah. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)
By Jack Perez
Feb. 25, 2021 7:04 p.m.
This post was updated Feb. 25 at 7:52 p.m.
When the two teams met in Westwood to end 2020, the Bruins were pushed to the limit by the Utes, winning by two as they forced a turnover to seal the victory.
In the rematch in Salt Lake City, coach Mick Cronin’s team made sure it would not have to go through that again.
“(Utah is) a very good team,” Cronin said. “We made them look average tonight.”
UCLA men’s basketball (17-5, 13-3 Pac-12) ran away with a 76-61 win over Utah (9-11, 6-10) to extend its winning streak to four games.
The Bruins never trailed after the 13:12 mark in the first half, and they went into the locker room up eight following a 6-0 run in the last three minutes of the frame. The halftime margin was the largest by either team in the first 20 minutes.
Eighteen of the Bruins’ 35 first-half points came from deep, and the team shot 11-of-19 on 3-pointers in the contest – the most 3s made and the second-highest 3-point percentage by UCLA this year.
Sophomore guard Johnny Juzang said getting hot early helped the Bruins push through and secure the 15-point win.
“We came out strong,” Juzang said. “ I think that was big. We’ve had some days where we started off slow, so you know bring it from the jump, knocking down early I think was a big thing.”
The Bruins continued the momentum to start the second half, going on a 16-5 run to extend their lead to 19. Sophomore guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. gave his squad its largest lead of the night with a dunk with 12:31 left on the clock.
Two Utes – forward Timmy Allen and guard Alfonso Plummer – combined for 40 points last time out against the Bruins and were averaging over 30 points per game as a duo. However, they were held to 15 points on a combined 7-of-22 shooting night.
UCLA also did not allow Utah to get to the free-throw line a single time, the first time that’s happened in a Bruin game since 2005. Cronin said he had never seen that, but it helped contribute to the game’s short duration.
“No, I’ve never had that in a game,” Cronin said. “We only shot four. So I guess there’s plenty of time for everybody to get something to eat.”
Junior guard Jules Bernard and Juzang paced the Bruins with 19 and 18 points, respectively. The two both finished 4-of-6 from downtown, while Juzang also led UCLA in rebounds and plus/minus.
Bernard said the coaching staff’s words before games and in training have helped the players step up their offensive game.
“Just throughout practice, the coaches have been telling us to play with confidence, make the right plays, be aggressive,” Bernard said. “They’ve been really preaching confidence and I think that encouragement helps our team.”
The victory temporarily keeps UCLA tied with USC at the top of the Pac-12 standings. If the Bruins win the rest of their remaining conference games, they will clinch the regular-season title and the top seed at the Pac-12 Tournament.
This game was the first of the final three true road games for the Bruins this campaign. UCLA still has to travel to Boulder for a Saturday matchup with Colorado and Eugene on Wednesday for a matchup with Oregon.
While Cronin has not yet lost to the Buffaloes during his Bruin tenure, he expects a tough matchup in the Centennial State.
“You know, I think the last thing that’s going to happen is that we’ll sneak up on them,” Cronin said. “I do think that we’ll take their best shot for sure.”