Jaime Jaquez Jr. dunks all over Sun Devils, leads UCLA men’s basketball to victory
Senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. throws down a dunk. Jaquez poured in 19 first-half points to keep No. 4 UCLA men’s basketball in the game before the Bruins ran away with the win in the second half. (Megan Cai/Assistant Photo editor)
|No. 4 UCLA||79|
By Francis Moon
March 2, 2023 8:31 p.m.
Minutes into their penultimate regular-season contest, the Bruins’ unblemished home record was already in jeopardy.
After scoring the opening bucket, the blue and gold allowed a 12-0 run from the visitors, missing five shots and turning the ball over four times in the next four minutes.
Jaime Jaquez Jr., however, was having none of it.
The senior guard/forward helped No. 4 UCLA men’s basketball (26-4, 17-2 Pac-12) recover from an early double-digit deficit before pulling away in the second half against Arizona State (20-10, 11-8) for a 79-61 victory Thursday night. Jaquez and redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell played 35 minutes each, combining for 44 points in what could be their second-to-last home game in Westwood to improve the blue and gold’s record in Pauley Pavilion to 16-0 on the season.
“We got down, and I was just upset at myself and the way we were playing,” Jaquez said. “I knew that I only got so many games left, I’m going to go down swinging.”
Fifth-year guard David Singleton ended the early drought soon after checking in with a layup while getting fouled, before Campbell drew a foul to bring the deficit down to 12-6. From there, it was all Jaquez in the first half.
The senior recorded the next 13 points for the Bruins, putting on a display of fadeaway jumpers, one-handed slams and pull-up jumpers to keep an otherwise sputtering team afloat on the offensive end. Jaquez recorded 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting in the opening period while also grabbing five rebounds and a steal, with the rest of the team shooting just 5-of-18 from the field.
Junior guard Jaylen Clark said the team was continuing to feed the hot hand as Jaquez showed zero signs of slowing down despite playing the entire first half.
“It’s just one of those things where I feel like if you play any type of basketball, someone rips off one, two, three, four, five, you got to keep going until they burn out. And he wasn’t burning out,” Clark said. “When I saw him sizing people up and playing around and shimmying, I was like, ‘Oh, he’s on another level right now.’”
Following a technical foul assessed to Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley inside the three-minute mark of the half, a free throw from Jaquez gave the blue and gold the lead for the first time since the opening minutes. After draining two more free throws himself, Campbell cashed in on a last-second 3-pointer to send UCLA to the locker room up 36-32 after 20 minutes of play.
After a bloodbath of a first half to erase an early hole, coach Mick Cronin emphasized that it would have all been for naught if the team didn’t keep up the intensity in the second period.
“The most irrelevant thing on the stat sheet is the halftime score,” Cronin said. “It’s a 40-minute game, and your effort and your commitment to doing winning things – defending, rebounding, taking care of the ball, getting good shots – you’ve got to be more committed than the other team for 40 minutes.”
Aside from Jaquez, just three other Bruins got on the scoreboard in the first 20 minutes, with Campbell and Singleton combining for 15 first-half points. Conversely, eight Sun Devils got on the board, with guard Desmond Cambridge Jr.’s eight points leading the way.
Early in the second period, Jaquez didn’t need to do as much heavy lifting as Campbell opened the scoring with a jumper, nailed another two possessions later and found freshman forward Adem Bona for an alley-oop dunk that gave UCLA a double-digit lead. Campbell then answered a 3-pointer with one of his own, forcing Hurley to call timeout.
After a relatively quiet start to the frame, Jaquez got the arena roaring with a driving dunk over two defenders, checking out for the first time all game to a standing ovation after the next play. Clark helped Campbell pick up the slack, following up a scoreless first half with a 15-point second period.
Jaquez said his flurry of dunks Thursday night represented a shift in mentality after dealing with ankle injuries a season ago.
“After last season, I kind of had a little PTSD about jumping, whether it be for rebounds or dunking – I didn’t really trust myself,” Jaquez said. “I was just scared I was going to come down and tweak something again. Finally I was like, ‘F it, I’m just going to try to dunk it.’”
A second-chance layup from Clark extended the team’s lead to 57-41 with just over 12 minutes remaining, and a long-range shot from the guard several minutes later stretched UCLA’s advantage to 20. The Bruins had an answer for every basket from the Sun Devils, as five consecutive points from Clark inside the five-minute mark nullified a 7-2 run by Arizona State.
Clark also grabbed 10 of his 11 rebounds in the second half, while Bona also put up all eight of his points in the latter frame and hauled in 11 boards of his own. Jaquez finished his night with 26 points and seven rebounds, while Campbell recorded 18 points and four assists. UCLA also won the rebounding battle 47-23, including 20 on the offensive end.
Cronin said he is using this final week as extra practice for the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments after having already claimed the regular-season conference title.
“We wrapped up the Pac-12, so I told them we’re going to approach tonight as a one-and-out game, we’re going to approach Saturday as a one-and-out game,” Cronin said. “A little practice.”