Tue, 24 May 2022

No. 9 UCLA hopes to extend Utah's slump

Field Level Media
19 Jan 2022, 17:19 GMT+10

Coming off a weekend split at home, No. 9 UCLA goes on the road for a pair of Pac-12 Conference games starting Thursday against Utah in Salt Lake City.

The Bruins (11-2, 3-1 Pac-12) regrouped from an 84-81 overtime loss Jan. 13 to Oregon with an 81-65 defeat of Oregon State on Saturday. After forcing the extra frame against the Ducks with a wild rally in the late second half, UCLA came out aggressive vs. the Beavers and trailed for less than a minute of total game time.

"We definitely refocused, made sure we were preparing to win," UCLA's Johnny Juzang said in Saturday's postgame press conference. "We were working on little things and intensity."

Juzang led four Bruins scoring in double figures with 24 points. Jules Bernard added 16 points, Tyger Campbell scored 13 and Jaylen Clark added 11.

Saturday marked just the third double-figure scoring performance for Clark this season, his first since Nov. 15. Another potential wing scorer emerging is a positive for the Bruins heading into the meat of conference play, particularly with 13.3-point-per-game scorer Jaime Jaquez Jr. nursing an ankle injury.

"We don't need him again until maybe Wednesday, so we might as well just give it some time," Bruins coach Mick Cronin said of resting Jaquez. "That is one of the nice things with the Pac-12, although we might have a lot of three-game weeks coming, so we better get him healthy for that."

UCLA also was without reserve David Singleton for much of the Oregon State game, the result of a crash into the bleachers, but Cronin said Singleton was sidelined only out of caution.

Perimeter scoring, including a 36.3 percent team 3-point shooting average, has buoyed UCLA to the top 20 in KenPom.com adjusted offensive efficiency. Four Bruins guards and wings -- Juzang, Jaquez, Bernard and Campbell -- average at least 12.6 points per game.

Utah (8-10, 1-7) welcomes UCLA to town while trying to rediscover its offense. The Utes dropped their sixth straight with a 64-62 decision Monday at Arizona State, Utah's fifth consecutive game failing to score 70 points. The Sun Devils hit the winning basket in the final seconds.

An ankle injury sidelining Branden Carlson -- Utah's 7-foot center and leading scorer at 13.3 points per game -- compounds the team's issues scoring from inside the 3-point arc.

The Utes are shooting just 47.9 percent from 2-point range, while opponents are making 49.5 percent of their attempts from inside the arc.

"We were a little bit undersized at the four and the five, giving up 36 points in the paint, and that is a hard thing to overcome," Utes coach Craig Smith said after the Arizona State game, according to the Deseret News.

Guard Rollie Worster said via the Deseret News, "We miss Branden on both ends of the floor. He's a great player."

UCLA recently regained its own interior presence, Cody Riley, from an injury hiatus. Riley is averaging 9.3 points in his four appearances since returning from a sprained left MCL sustained in the season opener.

--Field Level Media

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