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UCLA men’s basketball overcomes 2nd half deficits to defeat Utah

Junior guard Johnny Juzang defends a shot during No. 9 UCLA men’s basketball’s win over No. 11 Villanova on Nov. 12. Juzang had 28 points Thursday night in the Bruins’ victory over Utah in Salt Lake City. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

men’s basketball


No. 9 UCLA63
Utah58

By Bryan Palmero

Jan. 20, 2022 10:49 p.m.

In his team’s last away game, Johnny Juzang scored a season-low nine points.

The junior guard matched that total in fewer than four minutes Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

Playing in the mountains for the first time this season, No. 9 UCLA men’s basketball (12-2, 4-1 Pac-12) defeated Utah (8-11, 1-8) on Thursday by a score of 63-58. Less than two weeks removed from a season-worst performance against California, Juzang finished the night with a season-high 28 points to help lead the Bruins to victory.

The junior got on the board first Thursday, popping in a two-point field goal to kick off his best offensive performance of the year. The junior guard would drill his next two shots – both makes from deep – bringing the Bruins their largest lead of the contest.

That nine-point advantage would be short-lived, however, as an 11-3 Utah run cut UCLA’s lead to one. Going scoreless for over four minutes, the blue and gold finally broke out of its deadlock once Juzang returned to the court with a jumper on his first possession.

Despite shooting 9-of-23 in the opening half, Utah kept up with the UCLA offense – which shot at a lower 9-of-25 clip – with six 3-point makes from six different Utes.

The Bruins were without sophomore guard Jaylen Clark and senior guard David Singleton for the game. The team felt the absence of their combined 11.7 points per contest as they finished with two total bench points in the first half. The Utes, by comparison, had 17 points from their supporting cast in the opening frame.

On the other side, Utah entered Thursday’s matchup without its leading scorer in center Branden Carlson. Out recovering from an appendectomy, Carlsen and his 13.5 scoring average were made up by a horde of Utes, as guards Lazar Stefanovic and Jaxon Brenchley set season-highs with 18 and eight points, respectively.

Down by one to open the second half, more Bruins were able to get into the scoring column. Redshirt junior guard Tyger Campbell knocked down a stepback jumper to knot the game at 37-all for his first score. Redshirt senior forward Cody Riley – playing in his fifth game back from injury – found the bottom of the net to give UCLA a lead with nine minutes remaining.

The five Bruin starters constituted all but one of UCLA’s 32 points in the half, but Juzang’s fingerprints were still all over the blue and gold’s offense. As the two teams kept the margin within two possessions throughout the half, the junior led UCLA in scoring and shooting percentage.

With over two minutes remaining in regulation, a Stefanovic 3-pointer – his fourth of the game – cut the Bruin lead to one. A pair of Juzang free throws pushed back the lead to three, only for Utah to respond with a point from the charity stripe. 

After some more back-and-forth in the scoring column in the final minute of the game, the Utes held the ball for the final active possession of the game down by three. But their last attempt to send the game into overtime proved futile, as two wide open looks from deep – including one from Stefanovic – couldn’t find the bottom of the net.

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Bryan Palmero | Assistant Sports editor
Palmero is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats. He previously served as a reporter on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats. He is a second-year mathematics and economics student at UCLA.
Palmero is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, beach volleyball, women's volleyball, men's volleyball and men's golf beats. He previously served as a reporter on the beach volleyball and women's volleyball beats. He is a second-year mathematics and economics student at UCLA.
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