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Tyger Campbell makes UCLA stand tall in victory at Arizona

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell, who scored 22 points, celebrates an 81-76 win at Arizona on Jan. 9, 2021.
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell, who scored a career-high-tying 22 points, celebrates an 81-76 win at Arizona. The Bruins improved to 5-0 in the Pac-12.
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Whether filled to the rafters or dotted with cardboard fan cutouts, what’s usually the most raucous home court in the Pac-12 Conference has dialed down the decibel level in recent years whenever UCLA visits.

Silence has hung uncomfortably inside the McKale Center, where the Bruins keep making themselves entirely too comfortable for the Wildcats’ liking.

They did it again Saturday night despite nearly running out of big men and repeatedly turning the ball over on inbounds plays, the Bruins holding on for an 81-76 victory over Arizona that kept them alone atop the conference standings and gave them a fourth consecutive triumph on this court.

Tyger Campbell tied his career high with 22 points and Johnny Juzang broke out of his season-long shooting slump to make three of four three-point tries for the Bruins (9-2, 5-0 Pac-12), who are off to their best start in conference play since they also won their first five games during the 2012-13 season on the way to their last regular-season Pac-12 title.

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Highlights from UCLA’s 81-76 victory at Arizona on Saturday night.

UCLA nearly gave it away in the final minutes, Arizona stealing inbounds passes by Jules Bernard and Jaime Jaquez Jr. The Wildcats pulled to within 79-76 with six seconds left after Juzang fouled James Akinjo on a three-point attempt and Akinjo made all three free-throw attempts to give him 25 points on a night he led Arizona in scoring.

But the Wildcats (9-3, 3-3 Pac-12) fouled Campbell on the inbounds pass and he made both free throws to give UCLA its fourth consecutive victory, all coming amid taut finishes in which the Bruins have prevailed despite some significant shortcomings.

“That’s a part of the culture that we’re trying to develop at UCLA is to just keep fighting until the end of the game, to be honest,” Bruins forward Cody Riley said, “whether the ball’s going in for you offensively or whether you’re having a bad night defensively, just continue to play hard and give it your best effort.”

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Riley was a force in the final minutes, snagging three offensive rebounds and repeatedly getting fouled on the way to nine points and six rebounds. His late dominance came after the Bruins nearly ran out of post players, forwards Jalen Hill and Kenneth Nwuba on the bench with four fouls apiece before the midpoint of the second half.

Andrew Jones made a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining to send No. 4 Texas to a 72-70 road victory over No. 14 West Virginia on Saturday.

Juzang provided another lift by showing he could do more than shoot threes, driving aggressively for a layup and making three of four free-throw attempts on the way to a career-high 16 points.

“He’s just going to keep getting better as the season goes on,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said of the sophomore. “He attacked in space off the dribble today, which I think we’ve got to set him up to do that more and I’ve got to encourage him to do it more.”

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UCLA’s defense was beset by sloppy switches and fouls in the first half, Cronin alternating Riley and Hill while watching neither contribute much besides to the mounting tally of fouls. With Riley already on the bench with two fouls, Hill picked up his third foul with 6:56 left while attempting to go for a steal.

Enter Nwuba as part of a lineup that also included freshman guard Jaylen Clark, who was inserted in place of a largely listless Jaquez.

The seldom-used pair transformed the game defensively, their physicality disrupting Arizona after the Wildcats had established superiority inside, snatching offensive rebounds and driving into the paint with ease.

The Bruins completed a 16-2 run sparked by their newfound ability to get stops, Campbell doing much of the offensive damage by scoring 12 consecutive points during one stretch.

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“I was just taking what the defense gave me,” said Campbell, who made seven of 10 shots to provide his own 21st birthday celebration. “When I was coming off screens, they were letting me get downhill and I just take advantage and thankfully I just hit my shots.”


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