No. 19 UCLA will be seeking its fifth straight victory when Denver visits Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon.
The Pac-12’s Bruins defeated Oregon 65-56 on Sunday before undergoing a week of final exams.
Jaime Jaquez Jr., Jaylen Clark and Tyger Campbell lead the way for coach Mick Cronin and the Bruins (7-2, 2-0 Pac-12) .
Jaquez is averaging a team-high 17.3 points while also grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game. Clark is contributing 14.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and Campbell is chipping in with 13.9 points and 4.9 assists.
Jaquez and Campbell, both seniors, are averaging nearly 31 minutes — something Cronin admitted could be a concern against tough opponents.
“When you have to play tired players, your defense always takes a hit, and that’s also when you turn the ball over,” Cronin said.
Campbell this season has been asked to be more aggressive offensively to help compensate for the loss of Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard, two of last season’s starters.
“There’s growing pains when you go from a guy running a team to a guy that’s one of the best scorers on the team,” Cronin said of Campbell. “And he’s got the ball a lot, so there’s a balance that goes with it.”
Campbell, who averaged 11.9 points and 4.3 assists last season, said the key for him will be staying confident, even when the shots aren’t falling.
“I just gotta keep watching film and just try to make the best play for my team every time, whether that’s me scoring or assisting or just even getting off the ball and getting out of the way and letting someone else work,” he said.
Guard Amari Bailey (11.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg), center Adem Bona (7.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and reserve David Singleton (10.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg) also play significant minutes for UCLA.
Freshman guards Mac Etienne and Will McClendon are expected to see action against Denver. McClendon missed last season with a torn ACL, which came after not playing as a high school senior due to his school’s season being canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Will hasn’t played organized basketball for over two years. That’s tough,” Cronin said. “My opinion of Will as a player is extremely high. The career I think he’s going to have here I’m very confident in.”
The Summit League’s Pioneers (8-2, 0-0) had a six-game winning streak snapped with Wednesday night’s 87-85 overtime loss at Sacramento State.
“We lost our identity a little bit. We made some mistakes,” Denver coach Jeff Wulbrun said after the game. “We’ve prided ourselves on being efficient. We forced some shots. We’ll use it and grow from it (the loss).”
Tommy Bruner, who’s scoring 15.6 points per game, leads six Pioneers averaging double-figure scoring. Tyree Corbett is pulling down 9.6 rebounds per game to go along with 12.3 points.
The Pioneers’ two losses of the season both have been to Sacramento State, which was beaten 76-50 by UCLA on Nov. 7.
The Bruins lead the all-time series 11-1 after winning the most recent meeting, 81-62, on Dec. 8, 2019.
–Field Level Media