UCLA men’s basketball maintains early lead to best Stanford by double digits
Junior guard/forward Jake Kyman dribbles past a defender in No. 7 UCLA men’s basketball’s win over Stanford on Saturday night. (Jason Zhu/Daily Bruin)
|No. 7 UCLA||66|
By Jon Christon
Jan. 29, 2022 9:13 p.m.
This post was updated Jan. 31 at 2:11 a.m.
For the third consecutive game, the Bruins held their opponent to under 60 points.
And for the third straight contest, the feat resulted in a double-digit conference win for the blue and gold.
No. 7 UCLA men’s basketball (16-2, 8-1 Pac-12) held Stanford (12-7, 5-4) to its lowest point total of the season in a 66-43 win Saturday night in Pauley Pavilion. The Cardinal’s scoring output also marked the lowest for a Bruin opponent so far this season.
“We’re really forcing teams out of their playstyle,” said senior guard Jules Bernard. “Playing with energy and playing with aggression on defense is helping us a lot.”
UCLA’s season-best defensive performance started with freshman guard/forward Peyton Watson’s substitution into the game. The first Bruin off the bench, Watson forced both a five-second call on a Cardinal inbounds and a Stanford backcourt violation minutes after checking into the game.
With the help of Watson’s ball pressure, the Bruins kept their opponent under double digits for the first 10 minutes of the game, as the visitors cracked the 10-point mark with 9:20 left in the half on a pair of free throws from forward Jaiden Delaire.
“Our pressure dictated the game,” said coach Mick Cronin.
UCLA’s clamps got even tighter on the ensuing defensive possessions. The Cardinal were held off the scoreboard for more than 5 1/2 minutes after Delaire’s free throws, and the Bruins expanded their lead by eight points to 31-10 – their largest advantage of the opening period.
In the first half alone, Stanford turned the ball over 14 times and shot 5-of-20 from the field, putting it on pace for its worst offensive performance of the season.
But with leading scorer junior guard Johnny Juzang out because of COVID-19 protocols, UCLA’s offense began to stall out as the half went on. After taking a 21-point lead, the Bruins went on to miss their next five attempts from the field – a stretch that resulted in a two-minute scoring drought.
However, back-to-back 3-pointers from junior guard/forward Jake Kyman and senior guard David Singleton put UCLA back on the board and up 19 entering the break. The advantage gave the Bruins their fourth straight double-digit halftime lead.
While Kyman’s triple marked his only make in nine attempts from beyond the arc, the junior added 15 points in a season-high 28 minutes in the win. Before Saturday, Kyman had never played more than 20 minutes in a game this season.
“I was just preaching to myself, ‘Stay in the gym, putting in work, things will happen when it’s your time,'” Kyman said. “It was my time to play tonight, and that’s what I did.”
The Cardinal was within 13 of the Bruins’ score in the second half – thanks in part to making three of their first four attempts from beyond the arc – but an and-1 by Bernard with 7:54 left ignited a 13-2 Bruin run that put the game out of reach.
Missing two of its three leading scorers in the second half – with junior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. injuring his ankle in the first half – Bernard was able to put up eight second-half points to lead the team with 16.
In addition to his scoring, Bernard added a season-high nine boards while Jaquez, UCLA’s leading rebounder, sat on the bench for the second half.
“Given Jaime’s position and what he brings to the table, I knew I had to get on the glass a little more and be a physical presence down there,” Bernard said.
Kyman and redshirt junior guard Tyger Campbell were the only other Bruins to crack double digits, as UCLA shot 37.3% from the field – its lowest mark of the last four games.
However, the Bruins were able to force the Cardinal to shoot more than 10 percentage points less at 27.1%, which was both the lowest percentage by Stanford this season and the lowest mark by a UCLA opponent on the campaign.
Two days after forcing 17 California turnovers in a 14-steal night, UCLA took the ball away from the visiting team 22 times Saturday, adding 11 steals and five blocks.
Cronin said the recent string of defensive performances is the culmination of an increased effort level from his team.
“When guys are defending because they want to, when guys are trying to tip passes because they want to, when guys are going after loose balls not because I’m making them, you can tell as a coach when a team’s just trying to win at all costs,” Cronin said.