The Sports Report: UCLA needs Johnny Juzang to be the man again

UCLA guard Johnny Juzang drives around St. Mary's guard Logan Johnson.
(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Ben Bolch: At some point, when their defense falters or the other team is making a push, they will need him to be that guy again.

The guy who can get his own shot. The guy who can score in bunches. The guy who can carry an offense.


A year ago, Johnny Juzang did all of that on a nightly basis. UCLA’s shooting guard lugged his team from the First Four to the Final Four with an epic scoring spree, averaging 22.8 points in six spine-tingling NCAA tournament performances.

A year later, he’s barely making a postseason ripple.

When he scored 14 points against Saint Mary’s in the second round last weekend, awakening with 12 points in the second half, it was hailed as a massive triumph. His output against the Gaels represented only the third time in the last seven games that he had reached double figures.

Crazy as it sounds, Juzang might have become the quietest leading scorer on any team left playing.

A sprained ankle suffered last month didn’t help. Neither did all those highlight tapes circulating that have made Juzang the centerpiece of every defensive game plan since he shredded one team after another last March.

“You’ve just got to take what the defense gives you and just be ready to make basketball plays, winning plays,” Juzang told The Times on Tuesday as he prepared to board the team bus headed for Los Angeles International Airport and a cross-country flight to face North Carolina in an East Regional semifinal. “If the team scores, we score, so that’s what it’s about. Yeah, [the other team] might take away something, but it can open up something strategically for somebody else.”

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Sweet 16
Thursday’s schedule

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Arkansas, 4:09 p.m., CBS
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Texas Tech, 6:39 p.m., CBS

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 11 Michigan, 4:29 p.m., TBS
No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 5 Houston, 6:59 p.m., TBS

Friday’s schedule

No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 15 Saint Peter’s, 4:09 p.m., CBS
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 8 North Carolina, 6:39 p.m., CBS

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Providence, 4:29 p.m., TBS
No. 10 Miami vs. No. 11 Iowa State, 6:59 p.m., TBS


NCAA tournament
Schedule and results

Sweet 16

Spokane Region
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 6 Ohio St., 4 p.m., ESPN2
No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 4 Maryland, 6:30 p.m., ESPN

Greensboro Region
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 5 North Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN
No. 3 Iowa St. vs. No. 10 Creighton, 6:30 p.m., ESPN2


Wichita Region
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 4 Tennessee 70, 1 p.m., ESPN2
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 10 South Dakota, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2

Bridgeport Region
No. 1 North Carolina St. vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, 8:30 a.m., ESPN
No. 2 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Indiana, 11 a.m., ESPN


From Jack Harris: Tuesday wasn’t the first time Dave Roberts wrote Freddie Freeman’s name into a lineup card.


“I’ve run that exercise out many times,” the Dodgers manager said with a grin.

But it was the first time Freeman took the field for the team, making his spring debut in the Dodgers’ 10-8 loss against the Cincinnati Reds at Camelback Ranch.

Freeman went one for two while batting third — Roberts said he envisions Freeman batting either second or third this season — and slapped a first-inning single the other way to left field after being serenaded with chants of “Freddie! Freddie!” by the crowd.

“Usually Dodger fans aren’t chanting my name,” joked Freeman, the former Atlanta Braves star who finalized a six-year, $162-million contract with the Dodgers on Friday. “It was nice to get back out there.”


From Mike DiGiovanna: The adoption of the universal designated hitter will not take the bat out of Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani’s hands when he pitches this season.

Major League Baseball and the Players Assn. reached a tentative agreement on a series of rules changes Tuesday, including one that will primarily benefit the Angels and Ohtani, the reigning American League most valuable player.

The new “Shohei Ohtani rule,” as it is being called, would allow a player to start a game as both a pitcher and designated hitter and continue in his role as the DH when he is no longer pitching.


The rule changes, which include starting extra innings with a runner on second base for a third season, expanding active rosters from 26 players to 28 through May 1 and the return of nine-inning doubleheaders, are expected to be approved by baseball owners next week, according to the Associated Press.


From Helene Elliott: In six weeks as the Ducks’ general manager Pat Verbeek has made significant progress toward erasing five seasons’ stagnation under predecessor Bob Murray.

The Ducks have begun a massive overhaul that’s being engineered by Verbeek, who concluded a flurry of moves by trading winger Rickard Rakell to Pittsburgh just before Monday’s NHL trade deadline. Having correctly decided to turn the keys to the franchise over to the kids, Verbeek went all in. It’s the only way to go with a team that’s out of the playoffs but has a core of outstanding young players (think Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Isac Lundestrom and Jamie Drysdale) who need to become leaders and grow in a more positive environment than they’ve had.

The Kings, trying to hold on to second place in the Pacific Division, are hoping for a boost from the return of key injured players after they welcomed defenseman Alex Edler (broken ankle) back last Thursday. General manager Rob Blake, who said he looked at some potential trades but “we also understood the situation we can get ourselves into the next few weeks when players start coming back,” acquired experienced defenseman Troy Stecher from Detroit on Sunday for the modest price of a seventh-round draft pick.

“We were pretty young on the back end the last few games,” said Blake, who added that Tobias Bjornfot (lower-body injury) and forward Viktor Arvidsson (lower-body injury) might join practice by the end of the week.

Blake also said he’s unsure if defenseman Drew Doughty, who suffered an upper-body injury on March 7, will return during the regular season. That’s worrisome. “It’s a little early to say. We’ll exhaust every option possible,” Blake said. “He’s out there skating now but not participating in drills. There will be an assessment with the doctor in next few days to understand next steps.”


For the Kings, making the playoffs is about giving their young players experience at playing under duress for an eventual Stanley Cup run. The stakes are higher for Stanley Cup contenders Florida, Tampa Bay and Colorado, which added impact players the last few days. So did Minnesota in acquiring goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in exchange for a conditional first-round pick.


Adrian Kempe and Quinton Byfield both scored twice, and the shorthanded Kings scored three times in the first 11 minutes to defeat the Nashville Predators 6-1.

It was the sixth multigoal game this season for Kempe, who leads the Kings with 28 goals. Byfield, the second pick in the 2020 NHL draft, had the first two-goal game of his career along with an assist. He missed the first half of the season after he broke his left ankle during the preseason, but has four goals and seven points in 25 games.

Trevor Moore had a goal and an assist. Arthur Kaliyev also scored for the Kings, who won for the third time in five games despite missing seven players from their lineup. Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots.

The Kings scored an even-strength, power-play and shorthanded goal during the first period of a game for only the fourth time in 20 years. The last time was Dec. 31, 2019, against Philadelphia.


From Andrew Greif: Tyronn Lue’s parting words before the Clippers left Monday for Colorado implored the team not to worry about their nine remaining games but the grit they’d played with during their previous 72, the effort that had kept the postseason alive despite largely playing without their two best players.


The Clippers did not “throw it away” Tuesday in Denver, as their coach had cautioned against. But they remained a few defensive stops away from ending a losing streak that now stands at four, their longest in two seasons.

A two-point game with 4:27 to play devolved into a 127-115 Nuggets victory after Denver shot 54% and made half of its 32 three-pointers.

Guard Reggie Jackson said he had gotten “lost” in allowing a three-pointer by Will Barton with 70 seconds to play that pushed Denver’s lead to 11, but the mistake wasn’t a blip and the make not an exception on a night when Denver, so dependent on reigning most valuable player Nikola Jokic, blew up the Clippers’ attempt to rally from down as many as 14 points by getting timely baskets from its supporting cast.

When the Clippers did get stops, they were fleeting. Forward Robert Covington’s spectacular block of Aaron Gordon at the rim with four minutes to play, in a two-point game, looked to give the Clippers a chance to tie the game. But before the ball could stay in their possession, Gordon flipped it to Morris in the corner for a three-pointer, and the lead was five.

“They made timely shots down the stretch,” coach Tyronn Lue said, “but I thought we played well”


From Gary Klein: The Super Bowl champion Rams are keeping their priorities in order, or at least addressing their offseason in that fashion.


After signing quarterback Matthew Stafford to a $160-million extension last week, general manager Les Snead has turned his attention to star defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

Donald has three years remaining on the six-year, $135-million deal he received in 2018, but the Rams intend to give the three-time NFL defensive player of the year a new contract as a reward for his performance — and to entice him to return for a ninth season and beyond.

Since the unofficial start of free agency on March 14, the Rams have lost, released or traded multiple players from the team that defeated the Cincinnati Bengals to win Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadiium.

Outside linebackers Von Miller and Obo Okoronkwo, cornerback Darious Williams, lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and tight end Johnny Mundt signed with other teams. Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth retired. The Rams released punter Johnny Hekker and traded receiver Robert Woods.

The Rams signed free-agent receiver Allen Robinson and re-signed offensive lineman Joseph Noteboom and center Brian Allen.

The Rams are continuing to pursue free-agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Rams signed Beckham last November, and he performed exceptionally well before suffering a knee injury in the Super Bowl.


“He’s someone that we want, definitely want back,” Snead said, adding, “When he’s getting to full speed and has those fresh legs, we’d love to have him be a part.”


From Jeff Miller: Only one player has been guaranteed more money in free agency this offseason than the Chargers pledged to J.C. Jackson.

And Von Miller is a three-time All-Pro edge rusher who has been selected to eight Pro Bowls.

That’s how important Jackson was to coach Brandon Staley’s plans entering 2022.

“The more coverage players you have the more variety of coverages you can play,” Staley explained. “That’s certainly what we were looking for, somebody with his coverage ability against No. 1 receivers.”

Staley and the Chargers secured their man last week with a five-year contract that guarantees Jackson $40 million and is worth up to $82.5 million.

During his introductory news conference Tuesday, Jackson said his relationship with safety Derwin James, a fellow Floridian, helped lure him to the Chargers. He also cited the Chargers’ status as “a young team, up-and-coming team.”



From Dylan Hernández: Lincoln Riley was everywhere.

He ran alongside tight end Ethan Rae as if he was a linebacker covering him.

He ran over to receiver Mario Williams, pointed to the sideline and offered him some words of advice.

He broke up a pass intended for Ty Shamblin and slapped the receiver’s helmet.

In his first practice as USC’s head coach, Riley projected an abundance of youthful coaching energy on Tuesday, running and clapping and injecting vitality back into the Los Angeles’ most popular football team.

This wasn’t a Clay Helton practice.

This was closer to a Sean McVay training session.


USC quarterback Caleb Williams starts spring football showing he’s ready to lead

Click here for a list of the 10 players we’ll be watching closely during a crucial spring session for USC.


From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Adam Wright was the first coach to win an NCAA title under Martin Jarmond and the UCLA athletic director is ensuring the water polo coach will stick around to try for more.


UCLA signed Wright to a six-year contract extension Tuesday, keeping the four-time NCAA championship-winning coach through the 2028 season.

After winning two national titles as a player for the Bruins, Wright coached the men’s program to championships in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2020. He took over the program in 2009 and added head coach duties for the women’s program after the 2017 season.


World No. 1-ranked Ash Barty has announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 25.

Barty said in an emotional video posted Wednesday on social media: “I’m so happy and I’m so ready. I just know at the moment in my heart for me as a person this is right.”

The announcement comes less than two months after she won her home Australian Open, her third Grand Slam singles title.

“It’s the first time I’ve actually said it out loud and, yeah, it’s hard to say,” Barty told her former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua in the video interview. “But I’m so happy, and I’m so ready.



From J. Brady McCollough: The Tournament of Roses’ attempt to protect its ownership of the “Rose Bowl Game” and “Rose Bowl” trademarks from the city of Pasadena became costly Friday when a U.S. district judge ordered it to pay more than $400,000 of the city’s attorney fees after its lawsuit had been dismissed with prejudice.

The conflict stemmed from the Tournament of Roses’ decision in December 2020 to move the annual New Year’s Day bowl game, known as the “Granddaddy of Them All,” to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because California’s stringent Covid-19 protocols would not have allowed fans to attend the College Football Playoff semifinal game.


1939 — Long Island University finishes the season undefeated after a 44-32 victory over Loyola of Chicago in the NIT championship.

1944 — Maurice Richard, playing in his second Stanley Cup Playoff game, scores five goals in a 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. Toe Blake has five assists.

1948 — Kentucky, behind Alex Groza and Ralph Beard, defeats Baylor 58-42 for the NCAA basketball championship.

1956 — Bill Russell leads San Francisco to an 83-71 victory over Iowa in the NCAA basketball championship.


1957 — North Carolina defeats Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas in triple-overtime to win the NCAA men’s championship. The Tar Heels win 54-53 to finish the season with a 32-0 record.

1968 — Lew Alcindor scores 34 points to carry UCLA to a 78-55 win over North Carolina in the NCAA basketball championship.

1974 — N.C. State ends UCLA’s streak of seven national championships with an 80-77 victory in double overtime of the NCAA tournament semifinals. David Thompson leads the Wolfpack with 28 points and 10 rebounds while teammate Tom Burleson scores 20 and pulls down 14 rebounds.

1991 — London beats Frankfurt 24-11 in the first World League of American Football game.

1994 — Wayne Gretzky scores his 802nd goal, passing Gordie Howe as the top goal scorer in NHL history. The Los Angeles Kings center scores in the second period for his 62nd NHL record.

1996 — Michelle Kwan caps a nearly perfect season by winning the women’s title at figure skating’s world championships for the United States’ first singles sweep since 1986.

2002 — Brendan Shanahan of the Red Wings scores his 500th career goal, breaking a scoreless tie at 7:48 of the third period. Detroit beats Colorado 2-0.


2002 — Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson becomes the first undefeated four-time NCAA wrestling champion at the NCAA championships. Sanderson beats Lehigh’s Jon Trenge 12-4 to win at 197 pounds and finish his career with a 159-0 record.

2007 — Kobe Bryant becomes the second NBA player to score at least 50 points in four straight games when he has 50 in the Lakers’ 111-105 win at New Orleans. Only Wilt Chamberlain has more, scoring at least 50 points in seven consecutive games during the 1961-62 season.

2010 — The NFL changes its overtime rules for playoff games to give both teams an opportunity to get the ball.

2014 — Quardell Young drives the length of the court for a go-ahead layup with 0.9 seconds left and Wisconsin-Whitewater holds off Williams to win the NCAA Division III men’s championship 75-73. The Warhawks (29-4), whose football team took the national championship in December, win the basketball championship for the second time in three years and fourth time in four trips to the final.

2016 — Guard Russ Smith of the Delaware 87ers scores an NBA D-League-record 65 points in a 140-129 loss to the Canton Charge.

Supplied by the Associated Press


And finally

Wayne Gretzky scores his 802nd goal. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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