UCLA men’s basketball defeats Utah in 2nd Pac-12 game of season
In a back-and-forth affair during which both teams led by at least 10 points, redshirt sophomore guard Tyger Campbell chipped in 9 points and 10 assists for UCLA men’s basketball in the 72-70 Bruin victory. Campbell was 1 point shy of his second double-double of the season, after he scored 11 points and dishing out 12 assists in a Dec. 6 win against California. (Finn Chitwood/Daily Bruin)
By Jack Perez
Dec. 31, 2020 6:17 p.m.
This post was updated Dec. 31 at 7:27 p.m.
The Bruins squeaked past the Utes in the second Pac-12 game for both teams.
UCLA men’s basketball (6-2, 2-0 Pac-12) came out with a win over Utah (4-2, 1-1) 72-70 on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.
The Utes outscored the Bruins 38-31 in the second half but were unable to get off a shot on their final possession, allowing coach Mick Cronin to extend his team’s home winning streak to five games this season.
Junior guard Jules Bernard intercepted the ball with seconds left to ice the game and said he moved on from a previous bad defensive play to make the game-clinching steal.
“We had a great sort of defensive scheme set up for their last play, sort of walked into and make someone who we didn’t want to score get the ball,” Bernard said. “And he drove, and I got in the passing lane when he spun back and threw it. So I’m just trying to be in the right place at the right time.”
UCLA shot 10-of-20 from deep on the night, with every Bruin who attempted a 3-pointer making at least one.
Redshirt sophomore guard Tyger Campbell almost recorded a double-double, finishing the night with 9 points and 10 assists in a team-high 37 minutes.
Although Campbell also had four turnovers, Cronin said this was not normal for his starting point guard and does not expect the turnovers to persist.
“(Campbell) never turns the ball over,” Cronin said. “Most guys get 10 assists and four turnovers, that’s a regular game for them. He spoils us because if he gets more than one, it’s front-page news, but I think that’s an aberration for him.”
The Bruins pulled ahead and led 41-32 at halftime. The 9-point margin was the largest for UCLA in the opening period after Utah held a 12-point lead within the first five minutes.
Senior guard Chris Smith led the Bruins in scoring with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, but he was limited in the second half after picking up his fourth foul and only played 22 minutes.
Smith left the first half early after landing awkwardly, but he was able to start the second half before limping off the floor with 15 seconds left in the contest. Cronin said after the game that he had no update currently on Smith’s status, but UCLA announced that Smith had a bruise on his left knee.
Utah got off to a hot start, going up 16-4 with 15:41 left in the first half. UCLA responded with a 14-0 run, putting it in the lead, and the Bruins did not trail from 6:16 in the first half until 7:17 in the second.
Campbell said the Bruins’ slow start was not due to the team’s long layoff between games but rather the team’s lack of execution on defense.
“We just got to listen to what coach preaches,” Campbell said. “And he preaches defense and deflections. So defense and deflections are going to win the game, and until we start guarding like we need to and doing the things that coach needs us to do, we’re not gonna play as good as we could play.”
Guard Alfonso Plummer led the Utes with 22 points after averaging 14.8 in his first five games this year. He started 4-of-4 on 3-point shots and scored Utah’s first 14 points, but went cold in the second half and finished 7-of-16 overall while missing his last seven 3-point attempts.
UCLA will have New Year’s Day off before kicking off 2021 by hosting Colorado on Saturday. Cronin said his team needs to improve defensively in order to win games against teams like the Buffaloes.
“We’ve just got to have a better commitment to that because if your defense is based off of constantly bailing your teammate out, teams are going to find the open man when you’re playing good teams, so we’ve got to have a different mindset,” Cronin said. “This group of guys is trying to outscore their opponents because we shoot the ball better, and I think they believe in what we’re doing on offense. To me, that’s the mindset of the players, and that’s why we’re not where we need to be defensively.”