Johnny Juzang quickly adds some zing to offense in UCLA’s win over San Diego
Johnny Juzang released nine months of anxiety with one flick of the wrist.
The Kentucky transfer sank a three-pointer on his first shot in a UCLA jersey as he scored 10 points off the bench Wednesday in the Bruins’ 83-56 win over San Diego at Pauley Pavilion.
After missing the first four games with a stress reaction in his right foot, the 6-foot-6 guard was the first UCLA player off the bench and provided a small glimpse of his prolific scoring ability after not playing in a game since March.
“When the shot when in, it was like ‘ah,’” Juzang said, exhaling. “It was settling.”
Juzang, who made four of six shots from the field and grabbed three rebounds, was one of five double-digit scorers for the Bruins, who had 50 points in the second half to secure their fourth straight win.
UCLA senior guard Chris Smith wants his coach to verbally push, prod and cajole him, always seeking to bring out his best.
Juzang was close to returning Sunday, but the medical staff advised a cautious approach, UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. The sophomore was limited to about 20 minutes Wednesday, and the coaching staff’s hope for him was to take smart shots and not turn the ball over. It was about a 90% success, Cronin said, who lamented one ill-advised shot even though Juzang played 19 minutes with no turnovers.
Juzang played in 28 games at Kentucky last season, averaging 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game, and was granted immediate eligibility for this year following his transfer. The Tarzana native was a highly touted recruit out of Harvard-Westlake, where he averaged 23 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a junior before classifying in 2019 to make the jump to college early.
When fully healthy, Juzang is expected to spark UCLA’s offense even more after the Bruins (4-1) shot 46.2% from the field Wednesday.
“He’s a such a weapon with his ability to put it in the basket that it opens up the floor for a Chris Smith or a Jamie Jaquez to drive or a Tyger [Campbell] to drive the ball and Cody [Riley] to score inside, for instance,” Cronin said. “You have to guard him at all times. He’s a tremendous offensive weapon.”
Jaquez led the Bruins with 17 points, four rebounds and a career-high four blocks. Smith and Campbell each had 12 points, with Campbell adding five assists and no turnovers. Riley had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Every UCLA player who was on the court for more than two minutes scored as the Toreros (0-1) struggled to keep pace in their opener that was delayed because of a positive COVID-19 test in the program.
After missing four of their first five shots, UCLA scored 13 consecutive points to break a 15-15 tie. Despite a 10-point lead at halftime that was never less than seven in the second, Cronin said he was disappointed by the offense in the first half, when UCLA shot 38.7% from the field and had six assists on 12 made baskets with five turnovers.
The UCLA men’s basketball team picked up its first win of the season, leaning on a barrage of three-pointers in triple overtime to beat Pepperdine 107-98.
Now in their second season under Cronin, the Bruins hope to play faster on offense, but the accelerated pace hasn’t come smoothly.
“I think today’s player thinks that means push it up, one guy drive it and shoot it,” said Cronin, who shows his team film of the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors for inspiration. “The greatest players, they’re willing to pass and cut and play with speed. So I think we’re a work in progress still on the offensive end.”
UCLA rescheduled its game against Long Beach State for Dec. 15 at Pauley Pavilion at 6 p.m. The game will be on Pac-12 Networks. Originally scheduled for Nov. 30, the matchup was postponed because of COVID-19 protocol.
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