Tyger Campbell propels UCLA men’s basketball to spot in Pac-12 championship game
Redshirt senior guard Tyger Campbell shoots a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line. Campbell scored a career-high 28 points Friday night, pouring in nine in a row at one point as part of a second-half surge that led No. 1 seed UCLA men’s basketball past No. 4 seed Oregon. (Joseph Jimenez/Assistant Photo editor)
|No. 1 seed UCLA||75|
|No. 4 seed Oregon||56|
By Jon Christon
March 10, 2023 8:29 p.m.
This post was updated March 10 at 9:45 p.m.
LAS VEGAS — Tyger Campbell stood eye to eye with Oregon’s Kel’el Ware.
Like a tiger stalking his prey, Tyger watched his mismatched opponent on the perimeter.
The redshirt senior guard had the hot hand, scoring seven straight points for the Bruins. He knew he could get separation against the 7-foot Ware, though he backed the ball out and waited for the Las Vegas crowd to get into it – milking every last ounce of momentum from the T-Mobile Arena fans.
Campbell slow-dribbled into the key before side-stepping to his right, creating more than enough space to cash in his ninth consecutive point. The UCLA bench erupted, and one thing was clear – the Bruins were heading to their second straight Pac-12 championship game.
“We were able to get the switch,” Campbell said. “So I got the shot that I wanted.”
A momentum-capturing seven-point swing from Campbell secured a 75-56 semifinal win for No. 1 seed UCLA men’s basketball (29-4, 18-2) over No. 4 seed Oregon (19-14, 12-8) on Friday night. Campbell led all scorers with a career-high 28 points in the victory, with 20 of them coming in the second half.
Tyger Campbell heat check gives UCLA its largest lead of the night. pic.twitter.com/F2GByRECP7
— Jon Christon (@JonChristonDB) March 11, 2023
Campbell took charge when Oregon was within four at the 11-minute mark of the second half. Up to that point, the game was a back-and-forth slugfest with March-level intensity.
The score was knotted eight times in the first half alone, as UCLA entered the halftime locker room up just 32-30. Campbell, to that point, had shot just 3-of-9 from the field.
Never once, though, did coach Mick Cronin think about taking the ball out of his point guard’s hands.
“The way they (the Ducks) were playing the pick and roll, we thought Tyger could have a big night,” Cronin said. “He was able to get enough shots where he was able to get in a great rhythm.”
Campbell overcame his first-half shooting woes with four early second-half points, but the game’s momentum seemingly switched when freshman forward Adem Bona hurt his left shoulder diving for a loose ball with just over 16 minutes left.
While Oregon quickly cut its deficit to as little as three with Bona sidelined, Campbell never wavered.
He calmly cashed in a pull-up jumper a few minutes later to make it 50-44, and on the very next possession, Campbell got a second-chance shot off a rebound from freshman guard/forward Abramo Canka.
Canka – playing his first significant minutes in the absence of junior guard Jaylen Clark – forced a missed dunk on the other end that found its way into Campbell’s hands yet again the ensuing possession.
Campbell, knowing he was hot, calmly drilled in a triple in transition.
“I believe in myself as a player,” Campbell said. “Any shot I take I feel like it’s going to go in.”
Campbell had Ware switched onto him the possession after his 3, all but ending the game early for the blue and gold. In less than three minutes, Campbell had given the Bruins an 11-point lead – up 57-46 – with all of the momentum on their side.
The fifth-year guard – evoking NBA greats Chris Paul and Steve Nash in his answer – said the pick-and-roll game plan made the difference Friday night.
“Our bigs were getting me open on our ball screens,” Campbell said. “I was really just trying to make anything happen.”
Campbell scored five more points the rest of the way to give him a career-high 28. He finished with an 11-of-21 shooting line from the field and a 4-of-8 mark from deep, adding six assists in 35 minutes of play.
UCLA outscored Oregon 25-12 from the start of Campbell’s run to the end of the game, winning the second half by 17 points. The Bruins have outscored opponents by a total of 29 points through two games in the Pac-12 tournament.
Senior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. – who finished Friday’s contest with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double – said UCLA’s experience shines through at the end of games, with Campbell front and center.
“He’s our closer,” Jaquez said.
As Campbell walked off the court for the final time with just over a minute left, the Bruin faithful serenaded him with a standing ovation.
He wasn’t focused on the crowd, however.
“It was more looking over at my teammates,” Campbell said. “Seeing them excited, that really gets me excited.”