UCLA men’s basketball soars past Concordia despite slow shooting start
Redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell drives against Concordia University Irvine guard Kobe Sanders. Campbell tied for a team-high 25 points in UCLA men’s basketball’s home exhibition victory over the Golden Eagles on Wednesday night. (Jason Zhu/Daily Bruin staff)
|Concordia University Irvine||63|
|No. 8 UCLA||93|
By Jon Christon
Nov. 2, 2022 9:30 p.m.
This post was updated Nov. 3 at 10:48 p.m.
Tyger Campbell unofficially began the Bruins’ campaign with a missed layup off the opening tip.
It was followed by misses of all varieties – 3s, free throws, more layups and even dunks.
A lid, seemingly, lay atop the west rim of Pauley Pavilion.
But Wednesday’s contest was only an exhibition. If nothing else, exhibitions exist to shake off the rust of the offseason – and shake off rust the Bruins did.
No. 8 UCLA men’s basketball overcame a slow shooting start to beat Concordia University Irvine 93-63 in a home exhibition victory. The win marks the Bruins’ first and only public tuneup game before officially opening the season next week.
“We’re rusty,” said coach Mick Cronin. “We haven’t been able to play much five-on-five due to injuries. … We’re not in the greatest shape. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Campbell made up for his inaugural miss, making four of his next five attempts to carry UCLA’s offense out of its early funk. The redshirt senior guard scored nine of the Bruins’ first 14 points.
Outside of Campbell, though, it was slim pickings for UCLA. As a team, the Bruins opened the night shooting 1-of-10 from the field with misses on shots both far and short.
But try as they might, the Bruins could not hide their talent advantage forever.
Fast break runout layups from junior guard Jaylen Clark and fifth-year guard David Singleton bookended five straight points from senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr., and suddenly, UCLA’s four-point lead ballooned to double-digits with just under five minutes left in the opening frame.
Cronin said the team was able to get out in transition thanks to better activity defensively. However, the fourth-year coach added that the team’s increased deflection totals were more a result of getting beat off the dribble initially than anything else.
“Our pick-and-roll defense and our stance on the ball left a lot to be desired,” Cronin said. “We were bad today.”
The quick burst of scoring highlighted the Bruins’ 25-12 run that ended the first half, with the home team entering the halftime locker room up 17 against its Division II opponents.
UCLA’s athleticism again took center stage after the break, with the blue and gold running wild and taking the ball to the rim at will. The Bruins scored 18 points in the first six minutes of the second half, with all nine of its field goals coming from inside the paint. In fact, it wasn’t until freshman guard Dylan Andrews’ midrange jumper at the 12-minute mark that UCLA attempted a shot outside of the lane.
Concordia kept the game relatively close the rest of the way, never falling behind by more than 30 until the last minute of the contest thanks in part to hot shooting from behind the arc. While the Bruins faltered from deep, shooting 5-of-23, the Golden Eagles connected on 37.5% of their 3-point attempts.
“We’re bigger than them, (so) they’re going to play inside out, get it in the paint and kick it out,” Campbell said. “So coming into the game, we knew that was kind of going to be their game plan, but they just got hot.”
Jaquez and Campbell paced UCLA with 25 points apiece. Clark scored 11 and Singleton tallied 10, with four of the Bruins’ highest returning scorers all scoring in double digits.
Four scholarship newcomers took the court for the blue and gold, headlined by freshman guard Amari Bailey and freshman forward Adem Bona. Both struggled from the field in their unofficial debuts, combining for eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Despite the up-and-down shooting, Cronin said Bona and his five blocks – to go with 15 deflections – were a lone defensive bright spot for the Bruins.
“We have one really good defender,” Cronin said. “I don’t really think it’s a secret who that is.”
Jaquez said having a coach like Cronin, who wasn’t satisfied despite the 30-point victory, elevates the team’s ceiling.
“What makes him so great is he doesn’t take any plays off, any night off,” Jaquez said. “We’re going against a Division II team, … and he’s still on us like it’s a Pac-12 game, so we really appreciate him for trying to bring the best out of all of us.”
UCLA will officially begin its 2022-2023 campaign with a home contest against Sacramento State on Monday.