By Morris Phillips
Really good teams don’t have just one method to land themselves in the win column. Whether it’s stifling defense, uncanny shot making or tabbing unlikely contributors, No. 7 UCLA has a full bag. Cal got a second look inside that bag on Thursday at Pauley Pavilion, and apparently they still haven’t digested what all’s in there.
Without leading scorer Johnny Juzang, who was placed in COVID protocols earlier in the day, UCLA was still downright offensive, routing Cal, 81-57, their 10th consecutive win in the series dating back to 2017.
UCLA managed just 60 points in their win on January 8 at Berkeley, but in front of their home crowd and with their kind Pauley rims, they zoomed to 81 points, shooting 53 percent from the floor.
“We have to find some answers,” coach Mark Fox said. “Our defense is absent right now, and we have to find it.”
Jamie Jaquez Jr. led the Bruins (15-2, 7-1) with 15 points, one of five players to score in double figures. Jake Kyman, a 6’7″ reserve took advantage of his increased playing time in Juzang’s absence, scoring in double figures (10 points) for the first time this season.
“We have a really deep team. When guys have opportunities, they step up,” Jaquez said. “Guys like Jake and David (Singleton) really stepped up and helped us get this W.”
The Bears (9-11, 2-7) dropped their sixth straight with a visit to equally formidable USC up next on Saturday. Cal made shots early, and finished the first half shooting 50 percent, but they couldn’t sustain it. Along with 14 turnovers–many on careless passes–the Bears failed to establish any interior scoring with Andre Kelly. That led to tough perimeter shots and just seven free throw attempts.
“We have to be able to make 3-point shots to open up the interior,” Fox conceded.
“We didn’t have eight blocks like the other night, but the 14 steals,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “Embracing trying to disrupt Cal’s offense. Play harder, run harder, talk more, be more physical, rebound harder. Those are the things that separate programs. Winners know why they win. Other teams blame their coaches, their teammates.”
Kelly was limited to four shot attempts and six points. Jordan Shepherd scored nine points, but missed eight shots. Grant Anticevich came off the bench due to his scoring slump. The change of scenery wasn’t much help, the super senior went scoreless in 19 minutes.
On the bright side, Fox liked that his freshman trio of Sam Alajiki, Marsalis Roberson and Obinna Anyanwu got valuable minutes and showed flashes. Don’t expect any of the three to land in the starting lineup anytime soon, although Alajiki started in place of Anticevich. Fox simply won’t tolerate the mental mistakes young players are likely to commit.
“They have length, and a level of athleticism that will really help us, but right now they can’t grow fast enough,” Fox said.