No. 7 UCLA shakes off slow start to put on a defensive show in win over Oregon State
Amari Bailey had finished talking to reporters about his midseason revival, about silky jumpers, about instant bursts to the basket, when someone standing behind a nearby curtain gushed in a falsetto voice, like a teenage admirer.
“Amari Bailey!” the voice exclaimed. “Oh my gosh! Career high!”
As Bailey stepped toward the curtain inside a dank hallway in the basement of Gill Coliseum, Jaylen Clark emerged from behind it, sharing a laugh and a hand slap with his UCLA teammate. The duo could do whatever they wanted. This was their night.
With the Bruins’ usual stars uncharacteristically quiet Thursday, Bailey and Clark provided more than enough offense to carry seventh-ranked UCLA to a 62-47 victory over Oregon State.
Bailey scored 18 of his career-high 24 points in the second half and Clark broke out of an extended shooting slump with 16 points on seven-for-11 shooting to go with his usual feisty defense that resulted in three steals.
“It felt great,” Bailey said, “I was just looking for instant offense with it starting on defense, and when we were able to get collective group stops and push in transition, you get to see more glimpses in my game.”
UCLA’s Jaylen Clark is the Bruins’ defensive leader this season with 220 deflections — defined as steals, blocks, tipped passes and loose balls collected.
That game included an array of offensive moves relying heavily on quickness that appeared fully restored in only his fourth game back from the foot discomfort that had sidelined him for more than a month.
The infusion of points from two new sources kept things comfortable for the Bruins (20-4, 11-2 Pac-12) even with Jaime Jaquez Jr. (seven points, 12 rebounds) and Tyger Campbell (three points, five assists) combining to make four of 15 shots.
“We gotta get to a point where we can win games when Tyger and Jaime don’t score a lot,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said after his team maintained its half-game lead over Arizona in the Pac-12 standings.
Cronin was relieved he was able to hold Campbell and Jaquez to under 30 minutes of playing time, providing a breather of sorts before UCLA’s showdown against Oregon on Saturday. Their workload was reduced in large part because the Bruins’ defense made this game a runaway by early in the second half.
UCLA’s defense gave up a season low for points, even if a small asterisk should come with the strength of the opponent. Oregon State (9-16, 3-11) didn’t reach 30 points until there were 7:34 left in the game and finished with just four assists to go with 18 turnovers, a sign of little ball movement as well as plenty of sticky defense.
The Beavers were also helpless against UCLA’s freshman phenom. After Bailey set his career high with a driving layup with just under six minutes left, he quickly came up with a steal leading to another layup. His night finished with one more layup before he headed to the bench with more than two minutes left. Bailey made 10 of 16 shots, most of them of the high-percentage variety as he continued to grow up before Bruins’ fans eyes.
“He’s playing in the super senior era against a lot of 22- to 24-year-olds, and the kid’s out there, he’s only 18, which shows you how talented he is,” Cronin said of a player who will turn 19 later this month.
“He’s just got unbelievable talent. My job’s to help him figure all that out and how to use it. But we got him in a lot of good positions tonight.”
Clark also scored in a variety of ways, a few unconventional. He banked in a forced floater at the end of the shot clock in the first half, perhaps the best sign that his luck had turned after a horrid shooting stretch.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. had 24 points and a career-best 15 rebounds, and No. 9 UCLA shook off its recent doldrums and rolled past Washington State 76-52.
“He’s worked really hard getting his head up where he sees his target when he’s driving, not just his perimeter shooting,” Cronin said. “I’m more worried about, you know, his finishing eight feet and in.”
Clark’s final act was to provide some more ribbing about his onetime high school rival turned teammate after Bailey had departed for the bus.
“It’s different going against him to playing with him because he’s a whole different person off the court,” Clark said.
“Like that kid you see off the court, he acts like he’s 12, if you know what I mean, but he’s also 18, so sheesh, he’s super young, super talented, a lot of upside. I’m happy to see him go ahead and crack off 24.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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