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UCLA men’s basketball secures win over CSU Bakersfield in season opener

Junior guard Johnny Juzang shoots a 3-point jumper in the second half of No. 2 UCLA men’s basketball’s 37-point win over CSU Bakersfield on Tuesday night. Juzang co-led the Bruins with 19 points. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)

Men’s Basketball


CSU Bakersfield58
No. 2 UCLA95

By Jon Christon

Nov. 9, 2021 10:31 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 11 at 1:24 a.m.

The Bruins have started their 103rd all-time season with a familiar sight – a victory.

No. 2 UCLA men’s basketball (1-0) defeated CSU Bakersfield (0-1) by a score of 95-58 to secure its first win of the 2021-2022 campaign and its 1,934th win in program history. But even with the victory, the Bruins may have suffered a loss to their starting lineup.

In the first half of play, redshirt senior forward Cody Riley collided with CSU Bakersfield guard Grehlon Easter and fell to the floor grabbing his left knee. Riley did not return to the game after contributing three rebounds in four minutes.

Coach Mick Cronin said after the game he did not have an update on Riley’s status.

“He said it all happened so fast that he doesn’t even know what happened,” Cronin said. “When I asked him, he was like, ‘I don’t know, somebody ran me over,’ and that’s all I know. My thoughts are just praying for him. Hopefully, he’s OK and it’s not anything too serious.”

Redshirt senior forward Cody Riley lays down on the court after sustaining a left leg injury. Riley exited the game after four minutes with zero shot attempts for the Bruins. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)

Without Riley, Cronin alternated between redshirt senior Myles Johnson and redshirt junior Kenneth Nwuba at the center position. Johnson finished with two points in 18 minutes, and Nwuba had four points also in 18 minutes.

Senior guard Jules Bernard said seeing Riley go down was difficult but added that the coaching staff was able to rally the troops and keep the Bruins focused on the task at hand.

“​​Obviously, when we saw him, he was in pain. It was sort of tough to see and tough to intake,” Bernard said. “But our coaches got us in the huddle and said, ‘Refocus, we still have a lot of game left.’”

Before Riley’s injury, the Bruins started the night missing their first four shots before a 3-pointer by Bernard took the lid off of the basket. Redshirt junior guard Tyger Campbell and junior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. would follow it up with 3s of their own, giving the blue and gold nine points in a two-minute span.

The trio of Bernard, Campbell and Jaquez combined for all of UCLA’s 3-point makes in the first 20 minutes of play, as they shot 6-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Cronin said Bernard – who co-led the team with 19 points in 17 minutes – will improve again this season after consistent development in his first three years.

“​​He’s awesome,” Cronin said. “He works extremely hard, and he’s coachable, and he has talent. He’s just going to keep getting better. … I can tell you our program wouldn’t be where it’s at if it wasn’t for his development.”

Senior guard Jules Bernard drives in UCLA’s win over Bakersfield. Bernard co-led the team with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting in 17 minutes. (David Rimer/Assistant Photo editor)

The rest of the team beyond Bernard, Campbell and Jaquez, however, went 0-of-8 from 3-point range in the first half, with freshman guard/forward Peyton Watson accounting for half of the misses.

Along with the four missed 3s, Watson finished the first half with three turnovers and two fouls in his first official game donning the blue and gold. Watson was held scoreless through the first 13 minutes of the second half but scored his first bucket at the 6:58 mark and proceeded to tally six straight points for the Bruins.

The freshman finished his debut with seven points, five rebounds and two blocks. He was also one of seven Bruins who finished with seven points or more.

Cronin said the spread-out point distribution was the byproduct of having multiple players that could find ways to score but added that those opportunities will be harder to come by as the team plays better opponents.

“We have no problem with finding guys that can put it in the basket, but when you play real teams, you got to have guys that can get people open,” Cronin said. “We don’t lack for guys that can shoot, make open shots. We just got to make sure we’re creating the open shot.”

Like Watson, junior guard Johnny Juzang was also held without a 3 in the first half, but he opened the second period with makes on his first two shots – one from distance – to extend UCLA’s lead to 34 with 16:24 to play.

The advantage would hover around 30 from that point on, with the Roadrunners cutting the deficit to 29 or under multiple times in the first 10 minutes of second-half play. Each time, however, the Bruins responded with points of their own to re-extend the home team’s lead.

A dunk by CSU Bakersfield guard/forward Justin McCall made the score 68-39 with 11:20 to go in the game, but another string of consecutive scores by Juzang helped UCLA build a 36-point lead. Juzang would go on to finish the game with 19 points, 11 of which he scored in the second half on 4-of-5 shooting as the Bruins would finish the game with a 37-point advantage.

Juzang said even with the win, the Bruins are still in the process of rounding into form.

“Just working some little kinks out and whatnot, but we all feel ready to play, and we’ve got the energy and the effort,” Juzang said. “We’ll sharpen up a little bit.”

UCLA will stay at home for its next matchup, a top-five showdown against No. 4 Villanova on Friday.

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Jon Christon | Sports senior staff
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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