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Tyger Campbell sparks Bruins to dominant win over Cal in Pac-12 opener

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell goes up for a basket during the second half of an NCAA.
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell puts up a layup during the Bruins’ 76-56 victory over California on Sunday.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Tyger Campbell drew three defenders as he dribbled toward the baseline early in the second half, the UCLA point guard’s path toward the basket blocked.

All that attention left Bruins forward Jalen Hill open on the other side of the paint. Campbell recognized the opportunity and threw a lob that Hill grabbed for a two-handed dunk.

The alley-oop was so much fun that the duo put it on repeat. Hill rolled hard to the basket on two more possessions back-to-back and snatched passes in midair from Campbell each time, converting one into a dunk and another into a layup.

Campbell sparked seemingly everything UCLA did on offense and complemented it with strong defense Sunday evening at Pauley Pavilion in his team’s Pac-12 Conference opener, leading the Bruins to a 76-56 victory over California.

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Lindsey Corsaro scored 14 points and made three 3-pointers late to help lift No. 9 UCLA to a 63-59 win over Arizona State.

The redshirt sophomore finished with 11 points, 12 assists, four rebounds and only one turnover that came on a bad pass with 81/2 minutes left in a game that the Bruins (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) dominated thanks to their floppy-haired playmaker.

“I thought he had a flawless game today,” said UCLA guard Chris Smith, who turned in his own strong showing with a game-high 21 points on seven-for-12 shooting.

Cal had waited nine months to face the Bruins after the teams’ matchup in the Pac-12 tournament was canceled because of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, and there wasn’t any payoff for the Golden Bears (2-3, 0-2).

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UCLA made its first seven shots and took a double-digit lead on a David Singleton three-pointer eight minutes into the game in a sign of things to come. The Bruins made 69.6% of their shots, including six of eight three-pointers, on the way to a 40-22 halftime lead created in large part by excellent ball movement and floor spacing.

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UCLA basketball players Tyger Campbell, Chris Smith and David Singleton discuss 76-56 win over Cal on Sunday.

“Shooters, when you get other people open, you get open,” said Singleton, who made all three of his three-pointers and finished with 11 points. “That’s what I emphasized in the last couple practices and it worked out.”

About the only thing UCLA coach Mick Cronin could criticize at halftime was his team’s eight turnovers. The Bruins fixed that, committing only three in the second half, but lagged defensively during one stretch in which Cal scored on five consecutive possessions, twice pulling within 12 points.

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But there was Campbell again, getting fouled on a leaning jumper and making the free throw to extend UCLA’s advantage to 62-47. Campbell also made things difficult defensively for Cal, which got 14 points from guard Makale Foreman before he departed with a little more than five minutes to play after falling hard underneath the basket.

“I thought his defensive ball pressure was as good as it’s ever been today,” Cronin said of Campbell, “combined with his almost perfect game on offense.”

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UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin talks about the Bruins’ win over Cal on Sunday.

Hill was just one of the beneficiaries, finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds as one of five Bruins to reach double figures in scoring. Campbell credited Hill with setting good screens and rolling hard toward the basket, freeing himself to catch all those lobs.

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“I just know when I throw it to the basket,” Campbell said, “he’s going to go up and either grab it and come down with it — hopefully get fouled — or as he did today, dunk some.”

One final alley-oop came later in the second half when UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr. threw a lob that Smith grabbed for a monstrous dunk, sparking more celebration on the Bruins’ bench.

“It was really exciting to watch that and experience that on this team,” Singleton said. “We’ll be very hard to guard if we keep moving the ball like we did today.”


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