No. 12 UCLA recovers form, gets needed win against Stanford

No 12 UCLA recovers form gets needed win against Stanford

It may not have been exactly according to plan, but it was close enough.

The plan, if UCLA could script its evening inside Maples Pavilion, was for this makeup game to take on a double meaning.

In the literal sense, the Bruins were playing a game against Stanford that had been postponed early last month by the pandemic’s ceaseless grip on college basketball.

But there was a lot more making up to do for a team that had turned in a pair of desert duds last week during losses to Arizona and Arizona State.

The uncharacteristic defensive lapses. The dubious late-game decision-making. The widening gulf between the Bruins and frontrunner Arizona in the Pac-12 Conference standings.

If UCLA was to have any chance of catching the Wildcats, it would need to start Tuesday night.

Johnny Juzang made sure his team got where it needed to go with a scoring spree reminiscent of his strong play in the last NCAA tournament, carrying the No. 12 Bruins to a 79-70 victory over the Cardinal.

Stanford had no counters for the onslaught that included a four-point play to go with a flurry of jumpers and driving layups. Juzang finished with 23 points, making 10 of 16 shots, in in a strong rebuttal to the cold stretch against Arizona State in which he had missed his last eight shots.

Juzang made two floaters and a jumper during the game’s pivotal stretch after Stanford had closed to within 58-51, sparking UCLA’s 10-2 run that gave the Bruins a 68-53 advantage with 6:43 left.

There was some late drama after Stanford closed to within 75-68 with 1:16 to go, but the Cardinal could get no closer.

In the final minute, a loud “U-C-L-A!” chant reverberated through the arena, making the Bruins almost feel as if they were back home.

Guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 16 points and guard Tyger Campbell had 12 points and seven assists for the Bruins (17-4 overall, 9-3 Pac-12), who took over sole possession of second place in the conference standings, 1½ games behind Arizona.

UCLA wasn’t exactly able to recapture the defense-first form it wanted, allowing the Cardinal (14-9, 7-6) to shoot 53.7%. Fortunately for the Bruins, they shot 54.8% in what felt like almost the reverse of the teams’ first meeting 10 days ago.

It had looked as if UCLA was on the way to a rout early in the second half when Juzang converted a steal by teammate Cody Riley into a layup and the Bruins led 52-37. But the Cardinal made six of seven shots to pull within 58-51, forcing UCLA coach Mick Cronin to burn a timeout.

Stanford made a quick push to start the second half, scoring the first six points to pull within 41-37. But Juzang completed a four-point play after draining a three-pointer while being fouled and Jaquez drove for a layup to quickly restore their team’s 10-point advantage.

The Bruins built a 41- 31 halftime lead courtesy of tightening defense and a 10-2 surge to end the half. After Campbell drove for a layup in the final seconds, an eight-clap broke out among a pocket of UCLA fans in the upper reaches of the arena.

This was the same Stanford team that UCLA had recently walloped by 23 points at home, holding the Cardinal to 43 points and winning handily despite some of the Bruins’ worst shooting of the season.

Both teams were significantly hotter to start the game Tuesday, largely canceling each other out by making four of their first five shots. Cronin went deep into his bench in the first half, even giving reserve guard Jake Kyman extended minutes, and the Bruins responded with some energetic play, including a jumper by Kyman. Stanford matched UCLA’s intensity level until steals by Jaquez and Juzang sparked UCLA’s late push, Jaquez adding a spin move for a layup that awed the crowd.

Bruins graduate transfer center Myles Johnson added some quality defense off the bench to go with eight rebounds—six on the offensive end—and four points, greatly aiding his team’s bid for the needed bounce-back.

The churn of injuries continued for the Bruins, freshman guard Peyton Watson sidelined Tuesday by a lower right leg bruise. But the team got back sophomore guard Jaylen Clark after a five-game absence while he was stuck in concussion protocol for the second time since this fall.

Clark checked in for the first time only 5½ minutes into the game and there were some quick mixed results. Stanford’s Harrison Ingram quickly rose for a baseline jumper over Clark, but Clark got the points back on a driving layup on the Bruins’ next possession.

Clark also helped the Bruins get a late defensive stop when he harassed Ingram into a traveling violation and added a dunk off an outlet pass from Campbell in the final moments.

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