UCLA men’s basketball bounces back with double-digit win over Oregon State
Sophomore guard Jaylen Clark reaches for the ball in No. 3 UCLA men’s basketball’s victory over Oregon State on Saturday night. Clark notched a career-high 11 points for the win. (Antonio Martinez/Daily Bruin staff)
|No. 3 UCLA
By Jared Tay
Jan. 15, 2022 10:03 p.m.
This post was updated Jan. 17 at 7:32 p.m.
Jaylen Clark was said to have a little Cincinnati Bearcat written on him.
He had first garnered that praise from coach Mick Cronin after the Bruins’ win over then-No. 4 Villanova on Nov. 12, as the sophomore guard’s defense prevented a last-minute layup to send the game to overtime. The UCLA coach said Clark’s scrappy play embodied the culture of Cronin-led teams of old.
“Real teams win when the ball doesn’t go in,” Cronin said. “They win with toughness, togetherness, defense, hustle. Jaylen Clark is great at all of those things.”
His defense was on display again when his two steals completed a late-game comeback and forced overtime in UCLA’s game against Oregon on Thursday.
But two days later in his first career start, it was his ability to score the ball that helped No. 3 UCLA men’s basketball (11-2, 3-1 Pac-12) to an 81-65 win over Oregon State (3-13, 1-5). Clark started in place of junior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr., who was out with a left ankle injury. Clark scored a career-high 11 points, missing just one shot.
Though Jaquez had played Thursday against Oregon and had practiced normally, the Bruins’ second-leading scorer woke up with a swollen ankle, according to Cronin.
In the first 10 minutes, Clark was 4-of-4 shooting and had accounted for nine of the Bruins’ first 19 points. On the Bruins’ third possession of the game, senior guard Jules Bernard found Clark in the corner, and he buried the 3-pointer to give UCLA a quick 9-4 lead.
“What happened to Jaime was unfortunate, but it gave me the opportunity to go out there and show them what I can do,” Clark said. “I know people know I can defend the ball. Today, I was put in spots where I can score where I normally wouldn’t have, so I just tried to make the most out of it.”
Midway through the first half, redshirt senior forward Cody Riley spotted Clark under the basket with an inside bounce pass that set him up for his fourth basket of the night.
And though he was kept quiet for most of the remaining period, Clark converted on another bucket after slashing in from the right key with 1:11 left in the first half. The ensuing layup pushed his scoring total to 11 points, setting a new career-high for the second-year guard.
With contributions from Bernard and redshirt junior guard Tyger Campbell, the Bruins shot 69.6% from the floor, including 22 points in the paint.
The Beavers, for much of the first half, shot at a similar clip.
For the first ten minutes, the visiting team was shooting above 70%. But as the first-half clock ticked past five minutes, the Bruins started to get stops.
Junior guard Johnny Juzang said UCLA’s preparation in practice – after conceding 84 points to Oregon on Thursday – helped solidify the Bruins defensively.
“Sometimes, you can scout teams and run through their plays, or you can scout teams to disrupt their plays,” Juzang said. “I think that was a good adjustment for us.”
After Clark had checked back in, this time at center, UCLA went on a 14-9 run that helped it jump out to an eight-point lead at the halftime buzzer. In addition to his defensive work, Clark did not miss a shot in the entire opening frame, shooting 5-of-5, and he received a round of applause from the Bruin families in attendance as he was subbed off for the final time in the half.
“(Clark) hasn’t played that many game minutes,” Cronin said. “But I thought he played great.”
The lead only continued to grow after the teams returned to the floor. Juzang – who had scored five points on 1-of-3 shooting in the first half – began to find his stroke. On UCLA’s first possession of the final period, he swished a turnaround jumper to get the offense started.
Three minutes later, a Juzang 3-pointer made the UCLA lead 14 points. He cashed in twice more before the clock hit 10:00. Juzang would shoot 6-8 in the second half, and he scored 22 of his 24 points in the second half.
On the other side of the ball, the Beavers’ 50% shooting didn’t last. Oregon State was outscored by UCLA 38-30 in the last 20 minutes and shot 4-of-12 from deep after making four in eight tries in the first half. Twice, the Beavers endured scoring droughts over two minutes, and they managed two baskets in the final 4 1/2 minutes.
UCLA has five days to prepare for its next set of conference games, when it will hit the road to face Utah and Colorado. With that turnaround and Clark’s career-high performance, Cronin left the media room with one parting tease toward Jaquez.
“Jaime better hurry back,” Cronin said. “Or he’s in trouble.”