Johnny Juzang goes for 28, Bruins stave off upset-minded Utah for 63-58 road win
On the road and trailing Utah by four, it was the last-place Utes vs. Johnny Juzang.
The UCLA guard had scored 22 of the team’s 42 points through the first 30 minutes and 30 seconds of game clock. Juzang was shooting 7-for-10 from the field at that point. The rest of the Bruins were a combined 5-for-26 shooting with more turnovers (six) than made baskets. If UCLA was going to avoid being upset for the second time in the last week, it was going to need someone other than Juzang to step up.
Fortunately, over the last nine minutes and 30 seconds, Juzang got some much-needed help at long last.
UCLA forward Cody Riley scored all five of his points, guard Jules Bernard sank four free throws and drilled a straightaway triple from the top of the break, Tyger Campbell stepped into a long 2-pointer to put the Bruins up two with just under four to play then knocked down a free throw with 25 seconds left that made it a three-point game, and forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. stepped in front of Utah’s Both Gach with 30 seconds left to draw a key charge in a one-possession game.
A struggle offensively all night, but No. 9 UCLA got a total team effort when it counted and walked away with a 63-58 win over Utah on the road.
UCLA outscored Utah 12-4 over the final five minutes of play, holding the Utes to just one made basket over the stretch. Guard Lazar Stefanovic was the high man for the Utes on the evening, with a career-high 18 points as he dropped four of his seven attempts from 3. Gach, who finished with 11 points on 10 shots, was a little too wild down the stretch.
Juzang and the Bruins jumped out to a 12-3 lead to open the game thanks to a red-hot shooting start from the third-year guard. He scored 15 of the Bruins’ first 17 points. By the halftime break, Juzang was sitting on 18 points thanks to a 6-for-9 showing from the field and a near-perfect 3-for-4 clip from downtown.
The high level of shot-making continued into the second half even as most of the defensive attention was focused squarely on him. Juzang finished with 28 points on only 13 shots. He was 3-for-5 from 3 and knocked down seven of his eight free throw attempts.
Though the Bruin offense struggled around Juzang, the defense was able to force Utah to play on the perimeter for most of the evening. The Utes entered the game getting about 39% of their looks from 3—pretty middle of the pack in terms of national 3-point rate—but took 26 of their 49 shots from beyond the arc.
They scored just six points inside the paint all evening. Of course, the 3-ball kept Utah in the game as it hit 11 of those 26 attempts, but late in a close game it couldn’t find anything clean near the rim.
Stefanovic got a good look with five seconds to play at a game-tying 3 but couldn’t get it to fall. Utah had looked for triples on earlier possessions trailing by just two that were more settling than creating.
The win gave UCLA its 12th of the season. The record sits at 12-2 and 4-1 in conference play. The Bruins will take on Colorado next, with tip-off in Boulder set for 6 p.m. PT on Saturday.
Utah dropped to 8-11 and just 1-8 in conference play with the loss, though the Utes have been close to a breakthrough in each of their last two outings. They’ll face No. 16 USC next, with tip-off set for 3:30 p.m. PT on Saturday.