UCLA shows off some sustained defense in showcase
Jaime Jaquez Jr. pointed to Tyger Campbell after taking an alley-oop lob and stuffing it through the basket in the final minutes of an intrasquad scrimmage Wednesday night.
It might have qualified as the second-best use of his hands to new UCLA coach Mick Cronin.
Jaquez earlier had been among the Bruins who generated a steal while actively defending passing lanes, a pleasing development for the few thousand fans who watched their team stage a preseason showcase inside Pauley Pavilion.
In a departure from recent seasons, UCLA played some sustained defense during the Blue’s 47-27 victory over the Gold, though it was far from a crisp showing. Some sloppy play could be expected given the team is two weeks from its season opener and had held a two-hour practice earlier in the day.
“Their heads are getting ready to explode; we put in all kinds of new plays today,” Cronin told the crowd before the scrimmage after taking a microphone.
Cronin coached the Blue team, which wiped out an early five-point deficit to win comfortably. The Blue was led by junior forward Chris Smith, who topped all scorers with 16 points on an array of jumpers, three-pointers and a give-and-go layup involving Jaquez in the final moments. Jaquez added 10 points for the Blue.
Campbell, a redshirt freshman point guard making his debut on his home court after sitting out last season with a knee injury, capably orchestrated the offense and sparked the defense in the early going with a steal that led to a one-handed dunk from Jaquez.
Redshirt senior guard Prince Ali scored a team-high nine points for the Gold, which was coached by assistant Darren Savino. Freshman guard Jake Kyman scored the Gold’s first seven points, helping it take a 7-2 lead, but he would not add to his total as the Blue tightened its defensive effort on the way to a 22-16 halftime lead.
Mick Cronin’s wardrobe screamed Cincinnati instead of Westwood when he was hired by UCLA. A haberdasher helped Cronin improve his fashion game.
The Bruins were not available for interviews afterward.
The free event was the first of its kind for UCLA in recent years, an attempt to build buzz ahead of the season. Fans were lured with free popcorn and students with complimentary pizza.
“Who’s a student?” Cronin asked the crowd before the game, prompting a few hundred hands to go up in the air. “Thank you guys for being here; we need you this year, OK? And just remember this: We’ve got pizza tonight. More is coming, I promise you. You keep coming to games and I’ll keep coming up with the pizza, all right?”
Students participated in two contests with the players, including a version of basketball musical chairs in which Jaquez and Kyman sabotaged each other’s efforts to make baskets as part of the fun. The players eventually lost to a student after Jaquez attempted a 40-footer in the final round while the student made her shot considerably closer to the basket.
Another student prevailed in a half-court shooting contest. After Smith and teammate Jules Bernard missed their attempts, the student stepped up and watched his final shot rattle out of the basket, much to the crowd’s dismay. The student was awarded a free 43-inch television anyway.
It won’t be long before the shots inside Pauley Pavilion count. The Bruins will play their only exhibition game on Oct. 30 against Stanislaus State before opening the season on Nov. 6 at home against Long Beach State.
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