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UCLA men’s basketball secures victory, sweeps matchups against California

Junior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. protects the ball in No. 7 UCLA men’s basketball’s win over California on Thursday night. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)

Men’s basketball

No. 7 UCLA81

By Sam Settleman

Jan. 27, 2022 8:19 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 27 at 8:55 p.m.

A steal and a slam from Jaime Jaquez Jr. put the Bruins up 16.

It was the junior guard/forward’s fourth steal of the evening, equaling a career high – still with more than three minutes to go in the first half.

“I just try to keep that same mentality of going out there (and) trying to be a menace on defense,” Jaquez said.

On the heels of a three-block, two-steal performance in a win over No. 3 Arizona on Tuesday, Jaquez’s four steals contributed to a season-high 14 takeaways for No. 7 UCLA men’s basketball (15-2, 7-1 Pac-12) as the blue and gold powered past California (9-11, 2-7) by a score of 81-57 in Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night. The victory marked the Bruins’ fourth in the span of a week and 10th straight over the Golden Bears.

Jaquez’s fastbreak dunk off the Cal turnover forced a timeout from the opposition, but he came right back with a jumper out of the timeout to push UCLA’s lead to 18 late in the first half. 

“We didn’t have as many blocks as the other night (against Arizona), but we had 14 steals – embracing trying to disrupt Cal’s offense,” said coach Mick Cronin. “Play hard, run hard, talk more, be more physical, rebound harder – those are the things that separate programs.”

While Jaquez controlled the end of the frame, it was the Jules Bernard show early for the Bruins. The senior guard poured in eight points over a three-minute stretch earlier in the half that included a pair of made baskets from beyond the arc. UCLA shot 6-of-11 from distance in the first half and 18-of-32 from the field.

With just under eight minutes to go in the opening frame and the Bruins up by six, the home team kicked off an 8-0 run courtesy of a made jumper from redshirt senior forward Cody Riley. Cal ultimately put an end to the run with a pair of free throws before UCLA pushed the lead to 40-22 before the first-half buzzer sounded.

“It’s really, really hard to be a great team in a high-major league – you’ve got to show up every night,” Cronin said. “There are no off nights. You have an off night in a high-major league against big, strong bodies and good coaches, you get clipped.”

But Cal clawed back at the end of the half with a 5-0 personal run from guard Jordan Shepherd. Freshman guard/forward Peyton Watson’s 3-pointer on the final possession of the half gave UCLA a 14-point lead heading into the break.

Freshman guard/forward Peyton Watson takes a shot against Cal. Watson scored 12 points Thursday, the second highest mark of his career. (Sakshi Joglekar/Assistant Photo editor)

That double-digit lead would hold for the entirety of the final 20 minutes, as the Golden Bears never came within 12 points of the Bruins the rest of the way.

With the Bruins’ leading scorer on the season, junior guard Johnny Juzang, sidelined because of COVID-19 protocols, Jaquez’s 15 points led the way for UCLA. But five Bruins scored in double figures, including 12 points from Watson off the bench.

“I didn’t really get to play much in high school, so this is the most games I’ve ever played, most minutes I’ve ever played, most physical battles I’ve ever played,” Watson said. “So I’m enjoying it, I’m getting experience.”

Watson’s final bucket of the night put UCLA up 26 as the freshman hauled in an offensive rebound with one hand before finishing the second-chance opportunity to give him his second-highest scoring total of his career.

Junior guard/forward Jake Kyman also tallied double figures in the absence of Juzang and sophomore guard Jaylen Clark, totaling a season-high 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. 

“It was really just the next man up mentality,” Jaquez said. “We have a really deep team. When guys have opportunities, they step up. And as you saw, it happened tonight.”

After entering the game with under two minutes to play, senior guard Russell Stong capped off the Bruins’ win by knocking down a 3 that sent Pauley Pavilion into a frenzy and punctuated UCLA’s 24-point margin of victory.

“We know what (Kyman and Stong) can do,” Watson said. “It’s not a surprise to us. We’re just happy that everybody else gets to see it (and) we get to share that moment with them.”

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Sam Settleman | Sports editor
Settleman is currently an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, women's water polo and men's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman is currently an assistant Sports editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, women's water polo and men's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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