Coming off of a messy first half in which only one Bruin managed to find any hits on offense, the message for the rest of the night was crystal clear – power up Jaime Jaquez Jr.
They did just that, and the battered wing rocketed forward for the biggest night of his already packed career.
UCLA Men’s Basketball No. 17 (22-6, 14-5 Pac-12) was on course for its worst offense under coach Mick Cronin, down four points against Washington (14 -14, 9-9) at halftime. Jaquez had 13 points in 20 minutes – more than half of his team’s production – and he ended up collecting 17 more to set a new career high and lead the Bruins to a 77-66 road victory. .
On a micro level, Jaquez’s big night lifted a night of fire otherwise by the rest of his teammates. Beyond Monday night, however, the performance lifted Jaquez over 1,000 career points and also helped him take charge of the offense without Johnny Juzang and two ankle braces still physically restraining him.
As pretty as things are for Jaquez, however, it was a lousy game to start with.
The two teams were never separated by more than five points in the first half, but not because it was high-quality back-and-forth basketball. After making their first two shots of the night, the Bruins missed 13 of their next 14.
A 7-of-10 stretch seemingly snapped UCLA out of its early shooting funk, but there were so few possessions in an extended defensive first half that even that high efficiency didn’t result in too many points on the board. Washington was in the same boat – despite shooting 48% from the field in the first period, the Huskies were still on pace to finish with just 58 points.
There were a few key contributors who were able to create an ounce of momentum for Washington, while it was really only Jaquez who left his mark early on. Guard Tyger Campbell, guard Jules Bernard and forward Cody Riley, meanwhile, shot a combined 2 of 18 before heading to the locker room.
Amidst it all, there were nine lead changes and five draws, and it was Washington who came into the break 29-25.
A 9-0 run to open the second half was again led by Jaquez, completed by a pair of signature quick-breaking layups by guard Jaylen Clark. 15 of UCLA’s first 18 points in the second half came from this duo, with their only other bucket in the 7:30 of the first period on a 3-pointer from Bernard.
Campbell finally got in on the action too after missing his first eight shots of the night, putting the Bruins ahead by 12, then it was Jaquez who got two more to go in the paint – plus a few free throws – to reach 28 points and set a new career high with over nine minutes remaining in the contest.
The next six minutes were filled with a ton of free throws – 16 of the next 28 points scored by both teams came from the charity strip – and UCLA increased their lead to 22. After a few flagrant fouls and time dunks foul and hat-tricks by each team, the Bruins took the double-digit win.
Outside of Jaquez’s 30 rebounds and team-best nine rebounds, Bernard was the only other player to finish in double figures, with half of his 12 points coming from the free throw line. Clark had nine points and Riley and Singleton had seven each.
UCLA has one more game on its regular-season roster, returning to Westwood to host USC on Saturday. That game kicks off at 7 p.m. and the Bruins can secure the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament by beating the Trojans for the first time under Cronin.
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