UCLA hopes to have top scorers Johnny Juzang, Jaime Jaquez Jr. back for Arizona rematch

UCLA guards Jaime Jaquez Jr., right, and Johnny Juzang hit the floor battling Colorado forward Evan Battey for the ball
UCLA guards Jaime Jaquez Jr., right, and Johnny Juzang hit the floor battling Colorado forward Evan Battey for the ball Jan. 22 in Boulder, Colo.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

If all goes well, UCLA will head into its highly anticipated rematch with Arizona ready to make a double reintroduction.

Here’s Johnny and Jaime!

Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr., the Bruins’ top two scorers, could return for the biggest game left on the regular-season schedule Thursday in Tucson, depending on how things go the next few days.

UCLA coach Mick Cronin said Juzang was scheduled to be tested for COVID-19 on Tuesday, five days after the junior guard initially tested positive for the virus. If Juzang’s latest test is negative, Cronin said, he could return to practice Wednesday to prepare for the showdown between third-ranked UCLA (16-2 overall, 8-1 Pac-12) and seventh-ranked Arizona (17-2, 7-1).


Juzang last played during UCLA’s 75-59 victory over the Wildcats on Jan. 25, scoring 15 points on six-of-18 shooting, before missing the Bruins’ victories over California and Stanford while stuck in isolation. He’s averaging a team-best 18.1 points per game and has been especially productive lately, averaging 22.6 points on 51.3% shooting over his last five games.

Jaquez hasn’t played since departing the Bruins’ victory over Stanford in the first half Saturday after reaggravating the injury to his right ankle that he had hurt earlier in the season. After being examined by a trainer, Jaquez briefly reentered the game before leaving for good, telling Cronin on his way to the bench that he was in pain.

UCLA coach Mick Cronin gets his first win over Stanford as the Bruins put on a suffocating defensive showcase in securing their sixth consecutive win.

Jan. 29, 2022

The only certainty the Bruins have about their injury situation is that sophomore guard Jaylen Clark will not play against Arizona. It will be the fourth consecutive game Clark has missed while stuck in concussion protocol for the second time since the preseason. Clark is also doubtful for UCLA’s game against Arizona State on Saturday.

The lack of clarity about who will be available has complicated Cronin’s strategy.

“Do we play big, do we play small?” Cronin said, listing possibilities. “We’ve got issues, obviously, when they play big, so we’re going to have Plan A, B and C on Thursday night due to our situation. Maybe Jaime’s going to play. Maybe he wants to try to give it a go and he feels good and then he gets out there and he doesn’t feel good, so a lot of stuff we’re dealing with as far as what we have to plan on.”

The long ranger

Forward Cody Riley’s midrange jumper has become an increasingly important part of the team’s offense, helping to stretch the floor and give the Bruins another reliable option.

It’s an evolution similar to that of former UCLA big man Thomas Welsh, who gradually stretched his distance to the three-point arc for his final college season. Expect to see more long-distance shots from Riley as well.


“That’s the plan, just let it come naturally in the game,” Riley said. “Not gonna force anything, just like the midrange, I just let it come naturally. When it helps the team, it helps the team, and if we’re in a situation where it’s not really what we need, I don’t mind just sticking to my game.”

Riley has missed the three three-pointers he’s taken this season and hasn’t buried one since making six of 20 shots (30%) from long range as a freshman. He said Cronin has given him clearance to fire away if the shot makes sense.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. finished with 15 points as No. 7 UCLA defeated California 81-57 to take sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 standings.

Jan. 27, 2022

“He sees me work on it every day after practice and everything,” Riley said, “so he’s comfortable with it.”


A week after Louisville parted ways with coach Chris Mack, Cronin said it would be “wildly inappropriate for me to comment on another job. But you can ask me about my job anytime you want.” Cronin was an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville from 2001 to 2003 before accepting his first head coaching job, at Murray State.