Men’s basketball discusses Tyger Campbell’s offensive improvements, upcoming games
Redshirt junior guard Tyger Campbell takes a jump shot during No. 3 UCLA men’s basketball’s winning game against Long Beach State on Nov. 15. Campbell – the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week – will match up against Oregon and Oregon State on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. (Jeremy Chen/Daily Bruin staff)
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
By Jared Tay
Jan. 12, 2022 5:14 p.m.
As seconds on the Pauley Pavilion scoreboard ticked away, the Bruins’ opponent made a late-game push to overcome a double-digit deficit.
It was nearly a week ago that UCLA faced off against Long Beach State in the blue and gold’s first game in 26 days. The Beach were on a 9-4 run, cutting an 18-point Bruin lead to 13.
On UCLA’s next possession with six minutes to play, redshirt junior guard Tyger Campbell received a pass on the left wing. Uncovered, Campbell pulled up for a 3-pointer.
With a swish, the shot fell and put an end to the run, effectively sealing the game for the Bruins. It was Campbell’s third 3-pointer of the night.
Two days later and deep into the second half against California, Campbell again found himself wide-open behind the arc off a pick-and-roll. From the left wing, he pulled up.
“We hope they don’t guard him,” said coach Mick Cronin before the Bruins’ practice Tuesday. “You’ve got to give Tyger all the credit. It’s been huge for our team from an offensive standpoint.”
Coming off the two games in which Campbell has averaged 61.1% shooting from the floor and 62.5% from deep, the 5-foot-11 point guard and reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week will lead No. 3 UCLA men’s basketball (10-1, 2-0 Pac-12) into home matchups against Oregon (9-6, 2-2) and Oregon State (3-11, 1-3) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
“He’s just reaping the benefits,” Cronin said. “When you work on something the right way, it’s like putting money in the bank – you’re going to get to take it out later.”
The uptick in scoring stands in stark contrast to his offensive numbers from a season ago, when Campbell converted on 25% of his 3-point shots. From the floor, he was the Bruins’ third-worst shooter out of those who logged a field goal.
On the improvement of his jump shot, Campbell said he spent hours in the gym working on his form over the summer. Outside of practice, he would often stay late working with a basketball gun, putting up as many shots as he could.
This season, he’s leading the Bruins’ shooting from deep at a clip of 50% and shooting 48% from the field.
He has also found his open teammates more often and the arms of the opposition less. In comparison to a 2.9 assist to turnover ratio in 2020-2021, Campbell leads the Pac-12 in that category this year with 52 assists and 12 turnovers.
“I know I had a lot of things that I had to work on from last year, not just my shooting but playmaking ability,” Campbell said. “I took what coach told me to do, and I tried to just get better for it and add it to my game for this year.”
With UCLA headed back into the full swing of Pac-12 play after its hiatus, Cronin described Campbell’s improved shooting as a difficult dilemma for the visiting Oregon schools – either cover the point guard more closely and allow the other Bruins’ shooters more space or risk another high offensive output.
“You’ve got to pick your poison,” Cronin said.
Campbell’s shooting threat also opens up space down low for the Bruins’ big men: redshirt senior forward Cody Riley and redshirt senior center Myles Johnson.
Riley, who had been sidelined with a knee injury for most of the season, shot 3-of-8 against the Golden Bears last weekend.
“(Campbell’s shooting is) another opportunity to spread the floor,” Riley said. “That just helps us in every way offensively.”
Thursday’s matchup with Oregon will be the first time the Ducks have visited Pauley Pavilion since Cronin became the Bruins’ coach in 2019. UCLA is also yet to beat Oregon in the Cronin era, losing once in each of the last two seasons.
But this season, the Ducks have 10 new players on their roster.
“They’ve struggled to score,” Cronin said. “They have a lot of new parts, and this year it’s taken them some time.”
Conversely, UCLA is 2-0 against Oregon State in the regular season with Cronin.
In postseason play, the Beavers knocked the Bruins out of the quarterfinals round of the Pac-12 tournament last year before making an Elite Eight run in the NCAA tournament. However, Oregon State hasn’t seen the same success this year, winning three of its first 14 games, with losses to Samford, Princeton and UC Davis.
Tipoff against Oregon is Thursday at 6:30 p.m., and Oregon State will face UCLA on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.