Saturday, February 22, 2020

UCLA beats Utah in Salt Lake 69-58. Bruins now 16-11, 9-5. #18 Colorado looms.

from the Pac-12 Networks

UCLA men's basketball has now won four straight games and six of its last seven after beating Utah Thursday night in Salt Lake City. The Bruins also secured the season sweep of the Runnin' Utes for the first time since Utah joined the Pac-12. Jules Bernard led UCLA on the night with a team-high 16 points for a season-high in Pac-12 games.

27:14 min-worth of highlights from Matthew Loves Ball.

Bernard jump starts UCLA to 69-58 win over Utah

Feb 20 2020 from the AP via (link
SALT LAKE CITY -- Defense travels.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin has been drilling this mantra into his team since he arrived in Westwood and his players are responding.
"Defensively, we couldn't have played much better," Cronin said after his Bruins beat Utah 69-58 on Thursday night.
Jules Bernard scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half as UCLA Bruins staked an early lead.
"We were really tuned into the defensive plan and we were just playing physical," said Bernard, who believes that good defense leads to offensive opportunities.
"I got a steal and a dunk so that got my juices flowing. Then I got a wide-open shot off a great pass from Cody Riley. After that, I was just in the flow," he said.
Tyger Campbell had 13 points and steadied the Bruins when the Utes made a couple runs. Chris SmithDavid Singleton and Jaime Jaquez each had nine for the Bruins, who have won eight of 10.
"We're getting more confident, more comfortable. Knowing we have our defense to fall back on, that gives us a sort of comfortability," Bernard said.
Alfonso Plummer scored 16 points off the bench, Timmy Allen had 11 points while Branden Carlson scored 10 before fouling out in just 13 minutes of action for the Utes, who dropped to 10-2 at home.
"A this point it might be time to shake a few things up," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We just need to get a little dirty and nasty from time to time. Everybody needs to stay connected and I trust that there'll be some changes. It's not a threat, but something that needs to be evaluated."
The Bruins (16-11, 9-5 Pac-12) led by as many 20 after Campbell made a jumper with 11:28 left in the game.
"We got good shots and we weren't forcing anything. We were getting open shots and letting the game come to us," Campbell said.
The Utes (14-12, 5-9 Pac-12) began pressing full court and trimmed the lead to single digits in the final two minutes but couldn't make enough long-range shots -- Utah was 3 for 12 from 3-point range -- to truly threaten.
UCLA is now 15-0 this season when limiting the opposition to 73 points or fewer and remain within striking distance of the logjam at the top of the conference.
The Bruins set the tone early by making seven of its first eight shots and never trailing.
"Jules Bernard was a key to the win tonight. We had guys with fouls and when that happened Jules took over. Not only on offense, but his defense was tremendous all night," Cronin said.
UCLA has turned their season around by stopping the way offenses flowed freely on the Bruins early in the season. The key, say the team, is being able to defend in the interior.
"Our interior defense, being able to play better one-on-one defense, forces six-to-eight-foot contested shots and then we don't need to help off 3-point shooters," Cronin said.
There aren't any new concepts, just better execution.
"We haven't changed anything. We are just playing better and putting in more effort," Singleton said.
The focus and intensity shows Cronin that they have finally found an identity.
"We've slowly changed our DNA. We are a defensive team now and that's how we win," he said.
As poorly as the Utes have performed away from Salt Lake City, they have been potent at home. Against the Bruins switching defense, they couldn't find a rhythm and had 16 turnovers. They even had one of four shot clock violations out of a timeout.
Carlson was in foul trouble throughout the game and Kryskowiak was arguing with the officials all game long. He was whistled for a technical foul with 4:31 left in the first half and tip-toed around the topic of officiating in his post-game press conference since he has already been reprimanded by the Pac-12 Conference this season.
UCLA: The Bruins are peaking at the right time even though they struggled with turning the ball over (19) when the Utes applied pressure. The Bruins ran a deliberate offense against Utah's matchup zone and got high-percentage shots and then bolstered the attack with 11 offensive rebounds.
Utah: Carlson scored eight points early and supplied the Utah offense with a genuine low-post threat but once he sat with two fouls, the Utes struggled to get decent looks. As has happened throughout the year, the Utes had another long drought as almost eight minutes of the first half without a field goal.
UCLA: visits Colorado on Saturday.

UCLA’s defense holds against Utah for fourth consecutive win

UCLA was making it troublesome to score, jamming passing lanes, staying in front of everyone and switching crisply on screens.
Looking lost for long stretches, Utah used a full-length timeout to plan its attack early in the second half. The Utes passed and passed and passed, probing for an opening. None arose.
Finally, Both Gach rose for a three-pointer but it was too late. The buzzer went off, signaling a shot-clock violation. Already restless fans booed inside the Huntsman Center.
The frustration mounted against a defense that was in lockdown mode, UCLA continually stifling the Utes on the way to a 69-58 victory Thursday night that extended the Bruins’ winning streak to four games.
“Defensively, we couldn’t play much better,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said after his team held Utah without a three-pointer until 10 minutes left in the game.
The Bruins (16-11, 9-5 Pac-12 Conference) were so good defensively that they could be forgiven for a sloppy stretch late in the game that allowed the Utes (14-12, 5-9) to shave what had been a 20-point deficit to seven. Freshman point guard Tyger Campbell committed back-to-back turnovers in the backcourt and the fans who remained started to make a stir.
“I told Dave [Singleton] and Tyger, ‘Are you guys trying to put me in the hospital?’” Cronin said with a smile. “Sometimes you either laugh or cry, and I decided to laugh.”
UCLA sophomore guard Jules Bernard came off the bench and delivered perhaps his finest performance of the season with teammates Chris Smith and Jaime Jaquez Jr. in early foul trouble. Bernard scored 14 of his game-high 16 points in the first half and played ferocious defense.
Bernard said the Bruins executed their plan of hectoring Utah’s top three-point shooters, funneling them into the paint for contested shots. The Utes finished the game making only three of 12 three-pointers.
“Our bigs have been playing physical and we know we’ve rebounded the ball really well,” Bernard said, “so if we forced them into tough shots into the paint, we had a great opportunity to get the rebound.”
Campbell turned in a strong all-around effort, logging 13 points and four assists to go with his two late turnovers. UCLA committed 19 turnovers to Utah’s 16, perhaps the only factor that kept the Utes somewhat competitive.
“If it wasn’t for that,” Cronin said, “we win by 30.”
After leading by 12 at the break, UCLA made its first four shots in the second half, eventually extending its advantage to 51-31 on a Campbell jumper before the Utes commenced a run.
UCLA assumed sole possession of fifth place in the Pac-12 standings. Everything has revolved around defense for a team that has won eight of its last 10 games, holding opponents to an average of 59.1 points in those victories.
“We’ve slowly changed our DNA,” Cronin said. “That’s been the biggest key. But we had to go through what we had to go through for them to realize we’re going to change our DNA or we’re not going to win.”
The rest of UCLA’s schedule presents opportunities for more quality wins. The Bruins will face No. 18 Colorado on Saturday at the CU Events Center, which basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy has deemed the best homecourt advantage in college basketball mostly because it’s 5,345 feet above sea level.
Then come home games against Arizona State, whose bevy of quick guards present a nightmare matchup for the Bruins, and No. 24 Arizona, which will be eager for payback after UCLA smacked the Wildcats this month in Tucson. UCLA’s final game before the Pac-12 tournament will be at USC, which handled the Bruins with ease last month at Pauley Pavilion but has gone into a late-season tailspin.
“Obviously, the situation we’re in, we need to play the four teams we finish with for a resume [building] chance,” Cronin said, “but it’s also good for our growth. When you play better teams, it forces you to look in the mirror on what you’ve got to do to get where you want to go.”

UCLA Defeats Utah, 69-58, in Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY – The UCLA men's basketball team never trailed en route to a 69-58 victory against Utah on Thursday evening in a Pac-12 game before 9,815 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

Sophomore Jules Bernard scored 16 points to lead the Bruins (16-11, 9-5 Pac-12), who have won eight of their past 10 games. Bernard scored 14 points in the first half, while freshman Tyger Campbell finished with 13 points and four assists.

"I thought, defensively, we couldn't play much better than we played," said Mick Cronin, the Michael Price Family UCLA Head Basketball Coach. "And then I would say Jules Bernard was a key to the win tonight because Chris [Smith] and Jaime [Jaquez Jr.] got the fouls, and when that happened, Jules took over. And not just offensively, when we needed him with those guys out, his defense was tremendous all night."

The Utes (14-12, 5-9) were led by Alfonso Plummer, who scored 14 of 16 points during the second half. Timmy Allen added 11 points and seven rebounds, while Branden Carlson scored 10 points.

Utah entered the game with a 10-1 record at home this season, but the Runnin' Utes made just seven of 18 field goal attempts (38.9 percent) in the first half. UCLA built a double-digit advantage that swelled to 20 points in the second half.

The Bruins knocked down seven of their first eight shot attempts, establishing an 18-10 lead with 13:18 to go in the first half. Bernard scored 12 of the team's 14 points during one first-half stretch, and UCLA entered the locker room at the intermission ahead, 33-21.

UCLA carried its momentum into the second half, scoring the first six points after halftime. David Singleton, who made three 3-pointers on the night, knocked down his second triple with 15:03 remaining, to push UCLA's cushion to 49-29.

Utah reduced its deficit to seven points with 1:44 to play. UCLA made its final six free throws to help seal the Pac-12 road win.

The Bruins will conclude their road trip on Saturday at No. 18 Colorado. UCLA's game at the CU Events Center (Boulder, Colo.) will begin at 1 p.m. PT (2 p.m. MT). The game will be nationally televised on CBS.

Postgame Quotes - UCLA at Utah

UCLA 69, Utah 58
Salt Lake City, Utah (Jon M. Huntsman Center)
February 20, 2020

Mick Cronin, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach

on winning at Utah
“Yeah, I thought, defensively, we couldn’t play much better than we played. [Assistant coach] Mike Lewis did a great job with the scouting report. Kids did a great job following it. They’ve now learned how important it is to follow the game plan. And we’ve got guys that have improved as individual defenders, which helps your strategy as a coach. You can have all the strategy you want, but in particular, our interior defense being able to play better one-on-one defense, force six-to-eight-foot contested shots where we don’t have to help off 3-point shooters – which killed us early in the season because we couldn’t guard anybody inside – we’ve gotten better in that area. And then I would say Jules Bernard was a key to the win tonight because Chris [Smith] and Jaime [Jaquez] got the fouls, and when that happened, Jules took over. And not just offensively, when we needed him with those guys out, his defense was tremendous all night.”

on Utah being uncomfortable, offensively
“Well, like I said, when you don’t have breakdowns, your strategy looks better. It’s not rocket science. When you have breakdowns, then your strategy – ‘What the hell’s he doing? What’s the coach doing?’ We’ve improved with just being solid in our coverage and staying between our man and the basket. We’ve really improved in that area.”

on role of defense in winning eight of 10 games
“Huge. You can’t win on the road if you don’t defend. It’s fool’s gold to think you’re going on the road and putting up massive amounts of points on teams. Maybe if you get three lottery picks it’d be a different story, but that’s not who we are right now. We’ve got guys that are developing in their career, but defense travels.”

on if team has taken on new identity
“Oh, yeah, we’ve slowly changed our DNA. That’s been the biggest key, I think. But we had to go through what we had to go through for them to realize that you’re going to change our DNA or we’re not going to win.”

on momentum
“That helps. Yeah, I think our confidence is – and, for me, I’m happy for the kids because it’s tough to be, especially at UCLA, being in the spotlight, have people talk about you. They work hard, so like a guy, Jules Bernard, he’s still a young player. For him to have a night like this was huge for him and for all of them. It’s good to see them happy.”

on if turnovers are biggest concern
“Yeah, if it wasn’t for that, we win by 30. We’re still a young team at times. It shows a little bit. And Tyger [Campbell] plays a lot of minutes for a freshman.”

on facing Colorado on the road this Saturday
“I think it’s great that we’ve put ourselves in a situation to play in a meaningful game. This was, tonight. People have them still in the discussion. I don’t know what their NET [ranking] is. If it’s 74, it’s a Quad-1 win, as a road win. They’re 10-1 at home. We, obviously, the situation we’re in, we need to play the four teams we finish with, obviously, for a résumé chance. But it’s also good for our growth. When you play better teams, it forces you to look in the mirror, what you’ve got to do to get where you want to go.”

on if any particular player has sparked team’s success
“I think Dave’s [Singleton] insertion into the lineup has probably been a big thing for us here. Dave’s a guy, he can make shots, obviously, but he’s so willing to buy in to defense and hustle, the way he practices, the way he talks during film sessions. He takes everything as serious as our other guys need to take it. It’s just the maturing process. Dave’s mature. He’s more serious. Fun-loving young guys are good, but there’s a time you’ve got to be able to be focused. Dave has a senior’s mentality, I guess is what I’m trying to say. That’s helped us a lot.”

UCLA sophomore guard David Singleton
on if he noticed Utah’s offense being off
“You don’t really think about the other team’s offense. We care about our defense. Are we playing solid defense? Because, you know, some players make hard shots, some players miss open shots. That’s just how the game goes, so we have to worry about our defense [and] make sure we’re solid.”

on what it takes to play good defense
“You just stay in front of your man, hand up, don’t run by the closeout. We have to talk and you have to work on communication with each other. That’s the main key, main focus for our defense.”

of if team has changed anything, defensively
“We haven’t changed anything. We’re just doing it better. We got used to [Coach] Cronin’s style. To be honest, we started playing harder. We’re putting in more effort on defense, every game.”

on how big of a boost Jules Bernard’s performance was
“It was a big boost. Jules, he’s my brother. I saw him working in the gym all week for this moment. I just talked to him. I knew he was going to have a good game. He’s been locked in all week for this.”

on importance of getting off to good start
“Getting off to a good start is always good on the road. It doesn’t give the other team momentum, so we always want to get a good lead on the road, or every game for that matter.”

on what team needs to do going into Saturday’s game at Colorado
“We’ve just got to talk on defense, communicate and it’s going to be a rebounding war. Colorado’s a very physical team. We have to keep them off the glass and then we have to stay solid and not turn the ball over.”

on if it feels like a new season
“We don’t have that mindset. It’s still the same season. We still look at the losses we had non-conference because it reminds us [of] the mistakes, it reminds us what loses and it reminds us what wins games. So, no, it’s not a new season. Still the same season. We’re just playing harder.”

on if he feels they have momentum
“We take it one game at a time. Obviously, winning’s great, but we don’t really look back on our wins. We’ve got to focus on the next game because this game’s over. It doesn’t matter anymore in terms of playing for the next game, getting ready for the next game.”

UCLA freshman guard Tyger Campbell
on winning at Utah
“We just had a good game prep. Coach talked a lot about how they’re 10-1, they’re a different team at home, and we just tried to lock in and focus. Our main thing was stopping transition buckets and we did a good job of that in the first half and we kind of let up a little bit in the second half. Our main focus was just defense, keeping everybody contained.”

on offense
“We just were getting good shots. I would think, I don’t remember exactly what shots we took at the beginning of the game, but I’m pretty sure they were open and they were the shots we wanted to get. So, we just weren’t forcing anything. We were just kind of letting the – a big thing that Coach said was just letting the game come to us.”

on what happened during Utah’s comeback in second half
“At the end, that’s when we’ve got to come together. We put together some good possessions at the end of the game. Obviously, the turnovers and we couldn’t really get stops down the stretch, we’ve just got to work on keeping control of the ball, being confident ball handlers. Sometimes, I decide to say I’m a confident ball handler, but their defense was really good at the end of the game and they got the best of me.”

on Saturday’s game at Colorado
“Well, for us, every game is meaningful, all season. So, we’re just taking it one game at a time. Like Coach says, it’s a one-game tournament. We got this one done. We’ve got Colorado on Saturday and we’re going to try to get the win.”

UCLA sophomore guard Jules Bernard
on what the Bruins did well
“Well, I think our scout defense was excellent. We knew who we were guarding. We knew the tendencies and that enabled us to help off of certain players and then guard players a little bit closer. I think we were really tuned in to the scout defense and just playing physical on the defensive end. That helped us a lot. I think we held them to 21 points in the first half. I think our defense was a big part of this win.”

on his offensive performance in first half
“Well, for me, I think my defense started it. I got a steal and a dunk, so that sort of got my juices flowing. And then I got a wide-open shot off a great pass from Cody Riley. And after that, I was just in the flow of things and I felt comfortable. And then trying to slow down and make the right play, then they started playing me for my shot and I would take it in. I just tried to play smart and [took] what the defense gave me.”

on team’s biggest growth, defensively
“I think we’re a lot focused and a lot more physical on defense. Now that we sort of know the teams that we play a lot, we know their tendencies a little more and we’re sort of focusing a lot on those. I think the biggest thing is our physicality and toughness.”

on Saturday’s game at Colorado and chance to make statement
“Yeah, of course. We’ve been, throughout this past couple weeks, we’ve been going by one-game tournament. We focus on one game at a time and we’re going to give all our effort for that one game. We’re coming into this Colorado matchup looking to do the same thing we did here: play physical defense, play tough and play tough. Hopefully we get the win.”

on team’s confidence of late
“I feel like we’re getting a lot more confident. We’re getting more comfortable. And then, I think just knowing we have our defense to fall back on, that sort of gives us that sort of [comfort]. If we continue to play tough on the defensive end, I feel like we’re going to be more comfortable on the offensive end because we know we… could stop other teams from scoring.”

on defense of interior players
“Yeah, our bigs have done a great job playing solid defense, not only forcing their players, their bigs to shoot tough hook shots and tough shots in the post, but also helping off on the drives and blocking shots off the glass and getting our fastbreaks started. Our bigs have definitely done a great job and helped us a lot.”

on importance of keeping Utah off 3-point line
“Yeah, it was important. We knew who their shooters were. Twenty-five [Alfonso Plummer], he came off the bench and he got it going a little bit. But it was important that we stopped their 3-point game and sort of funneled them into the paint because we’ve been playing physical. Our bigs have been playing physical. And we know we rebound the ball really well, so if we force them to tough shots in the paint, we have a great opportunity of getting the rebound. That was the main focus.”

The Box

Credits: Photos from mentioned source via the LA Times. Post-game quotes and The Box from UCLA Men's Basketball website. 

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