It’s hard to start any better than UCLA did Thursday night.
The 21st-ranked Bruins knocked down their first eight shots and scored the game’s first 17 points en route to an 80-66 win at Stanford in their Pac-12 Conference opener.
Expecting a similar start Sunday when they host Oregon in another conference matchup might not be realistic, but coach Mick Cronin certainly wouldn’t mind.
“I was really happy with the way we started out,” he said. “You saw this week, the first road game is the scariest road game, especially with our freshmen. We rode (the start) the rest of the way. You’re not going to keep sustaining that.”
UCLA (6-2, 1-0 Pac-12) actually stretched the margin to 32-9 later in the half and led 50-29 at intermission before allowing the advantage to dwindle to 66-58 at the 4:30 mark in the second half.
But the Bruins were able to put the Cardinal away via their star, Jaime Jaquez Jr. He hit a short jumper and a layup to cap a 6-0 run in a 28-second span that restored a 14-point lead with just over two minutes left to play.
Jaquez finished with a game-high 27 points, upping his scoring average to a team-leading 18.0 points per game. Jaquez hit 12 of 17 shot attempts, continuing a recent trend. He’s hit 56.0 percent on the year, going 32 of 44 over the past three games.
Yet Jaquez said getting the ball to him down the stretch wasn’t necessarily designed.
“It just kind of developed that way,” he said.
Tyger Campbell hits for 14.4 points and dishes out a team-high 5.3 assists per game, while Jaylen Clark chips in 14.0 points per game. Clark was a non-factor at Stanford, trying just three shots and scoring only four points. Amari Bailey (11.4) and David Singleton (11.0) round out the double-figure scorers.
Meanwhile, Oregon (4-4, 1-0) started Pac-12 play with a win as well, using a career-high 22 points from center N’Faly Dante to stop Washington State 74-60 on Thursday night. It was Dante’s first game since suffering a concussion on Nov. 25 in a loss to then-No. 12 Michigan State.
The Ducks also got another big performance from point guard Will Richardson, who finished with 17 points and eight assists. Richardson is averaging 14.1 points and 5.3 assists for the year but has upped those numbers to 21.3 points and 8.0 assists in the past three games.
“The last three games, he’s been phenomenal,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said of Richardson. “I can’t say it enough, the transformation he’s made, the way he’s got guys playing. I’d like to take a little credit for it but it’s all him. He’s done a hell of a job. He’s really taken ownership and guys have followed him.”
Injuries have hampered the first quarter of the Ducks’ season. They were without multiple starters during a three-game losing streak against Top 25 teams, including current No. 1 Houston and No. 8 UConn.
UCLA has dominated the all-time series against Oregon with a 90-40 advantage, but the Ducks have swept the season series each of the past two years.
–Field Level Media