March 6, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

UCLA’s hot shooting in second half leads them past Arizona

His shot betraying him five days after an epic scoring performance, UCLA guard Johnny Juzang scanned the court on a fast break and spotted Jaime Jaquez Jr. streaking toward the basket.

Juzang flung the outlet pass from the backcourt toward his waiting teammate, who corralled the ball and got his layup to drop after it spun wildly around the rim. Jaquez was fouled on the basket and pumped both arms in excitement as he walked back toward Juzang to celebrate the play.

A lengthy sophomore slump in which Jaquez had not been his usual tenacious self ended in glorious fashion against Arizona on Thursday night. Giving himself the ultimate birthday present on the day he turned 20, Jaquez deflected passes, ripped balls away from Wildcats counterparts and scored in a variety of ways en route to a career-high 25 points, powering the Bruins to a 74-60 victory at Pauley Pavilion.

“I was determined to make it a really happy birthday,” said Jaquez, who made 10 of 12 shots and scored nine points in a row for the Bruins (15-5 overall, 11-3 Pac-12 Conference) during one late stretch, helping his team remain within one game of first-place USC in the conference standings.

Nearly every shot UCLA took in the second half went in, the Bruins creating mismatches in the pick and roll and sinking 19 of 26 shots (73.1%) and four of five three-pointers. The numbers were especially agreeable for a team that shot only 38.2% in the first half while missing all 10 three-pointers.

“We used our spreading of the floor against their size and that was huge,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said.

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell, right, shoots against Arizona guard James Akinjo during the first half on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.

(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Jaquez’s big showing was just one of several bounce-back performances for UCLA. Coming off a quiet two-game stretch following an ankle injury, forward Cody Riley was strong with 10 points and four rebounds before stepping on a foot in the second half and briefly departing. Point guard Tyger Campbell was assertive with his floaters on the way to 13 points and guard Jake Kyman came off the bench to generate three steals in the first half and help set the defensive tone.

But no sight was as pleasing as Jaquez’s re-emergence. He had scored in single figures in five of his previous six games, bottoming out with three points against Washington on Saturday. Along the way, he ceded his designation as the team’s leading scorer to Juzang.

Jaquez was especially active in the pick and roll against Arizona, overpowering smaller players switched onto him or driving past bigger defenders for jumpers or layups.

His plans to celebrate afterward? Jaquez said he was going to play Super Smash Bros.

Juzang was much quieter than he had been while scoring a career-high 32 points against Washington. He managed nine points this time on four-for-11 shooting and got yanked briefly with 4:29 left after enraging Cronin by needlessly fouling Arizona’s James Akinjo on a three-point attempt.

Akinjo finished with 21 points for the Wildcats (14-8, 8-8), who faded over the final minutes after failing to match the Bruins’ grit. “I mean, the tougher team wins,” Jaquez said after supplementing his scoring outburst with five rebounds and three steals.

Cronin was particularly pleased that his team essentially matched the much bigger Wildcats in the rebounding department, pulling down only one fewer rebound. The Bruins also scored 18 points off Arizona’s 16 turnovers while committing only seven turnovers.

“Our guys showed a lot of heart on the backboard because we’re really undermanned with that right now,” Cronin said.

Cronin continued his dominance in the head-to-head rivalry with Arizona counterpart Sean Miller, having won all four games between the teams since joining the Bruins. It’s UCLA’s best stretch in the series since winning eight in a row from 2006-09.