Tyger Campbell is supposed to be the weak link in the UCLA offense.
However, the Bruins point guard suddenly has turned into an elite marksman as third-ranked UCLA (10-1, 2-0 Pac-12) prepares to battle Oregon on Thursday night in Los Angeles.
The Ducks (9-6, 2-2) likely need to do some upgrading of their scouting reports on Campbell, who has doubled his 3-point percentage from a lowly 25 percent last season to a stellar 50 percent in this campaign.
Campbell leads UCLA in 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made (24). Yes, he possesses better marks than star shooting guard Johnny Juzang, who is 22 of 61 from long distance, 36.1 percent.
Campbell made 5 of 8 from long range last week in wins over Long Beach State and Cal to earn Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. He averaged 14 points and seven assists and shot 61.1 percent overall from the field.
“It’s huge for our team,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said Tuesday of Campbell’s improvement. “He was our best shooter all summer. He has lived in the gym. All the credit goes to him. … He’s reaping the benefits.”
Campbell, who is averaging 12.8 points and a team-best 4.7 assists per game, said he needed to do some fine-tuning of his mechanics.
“I was off-balance on a lot of my shots last season,” Campbell said Tuesday. “I was falling out of them and not following through. I’m now keeping my left guide hand up.”
Cronin said teams will learn they need to guard Campbell, who has helped UCLA win five consecutive games. Campbell is now a fine scoring complement to go with Juzang (16 ppg), Jaime Jaquez Jr. (14.1) and Jules Bernard (13).
The Ducks defeated the Bruins 82-74 in last season’s lone meeting. The Thursday contest will mark Oregon’s first visit to UCLA since losing during the 2018-19 season.
The Ducks got off to a tough start this season by their standards but have won their past three games.
Oregon won at bitter rival Oregon State 78-76 on Monday. Eric Williams Jr. connected on a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 12.4 seconds remaining, and the Ducks hung on for the win.
Williams broke out of a slump by contributing 14 points and a season-high 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the campaign.
“I was just ready to shoot,” Williams said afterward. “The last few games I haven’t really been ready to shoot, and I think my teammates and my coaches have been wanting me to be more aggressive and I just haven’t been in a groove.
“My knees have been hurting and stuff, so I’m not going to make excuses but I just haven’t been out there being aggressive, so coming out being aggressive just helped our team.”
Williams scored only five total points in his previous four appearances before Monday. He didn’t score at all in his prior two outings.
“Eric really played well,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said after Williams reached double digits for the first time since Dec. 1. “We finally got something out of him.
“I told him this week, ‘You gotta be aggressive. You’re one of our better players.’ He did a good job. He takes 12 shots, and that’s what he should take.”
Williams is fourth on the team in scoring at 8.6 points per game. Will Richardson averages a team-best 13.4 while Jacob Young (10.5) and De’Vion Harmon (10.1) also score in double digits.
–Field Level Media