UCLA’s Tyger Campbell fends off Akron in NCAA tournament opener – Press Enterprise

PORTLAND, Oregon — As UCLA took the floor Thursday night to warm up, the crowd focused on the arena’s ceiling. All eyes were on the jumbotron, which broadcast the Kentucky seed’s overtime loss to No. 15 St. Peter midway across the country.

The 15,000 present at the Moda Center cheered as St. Peter’s officially won. The epitome of what makes March Madness so funny unfolded before her eyes, but it was virtual.

Maybe it was an omen. The crowd almost witnessed a personal excitement as well.

But thanks to Tyger Campbell, fourth-seeded UCLA rallied to a 57-53 win over 13th-seeded Akron in their NCAA tournament opener.

“This is exactly March for you,” said Jaime Jaquez Jr., recognizing the game between Kentucky and Saint Peter. “It happens every year, teams get upset. And we looked at that game and we were like, This can’t be us tonight.”

Campbell reeled off eight straight points, including two 3-pointers in the last three minutes, and scored half of his team-best 16 points during a 15-4 finishing run that put the Bruins (26-7) ahead and she brought on a second-round matchup with St. Mary’s (26-7) in fifth place Saturday at 4:10 p.m. (PT) on TBS.

“My teammates kept finding me, and I just wanted to play,” Campbell said. “I knew Coach (Mick Cronin) made some adjustments over time and I just wanted to execute them and the shots went in.”

Campbell’s first 3-pointer from the corner put UCLA 51-50 with 2:26 to play in front of a middle-range jumper and a 25-foot-3-pointer when the shot clock ran out, giving the Bruins a 55-51 -Got the lead at 1:17 left.

Even with Campbell’s streak, the Bruins were still sweating in the dying moments after a missed free throw and Jaquez missing a jumper with 15 seconds left. Akron’s Ali Ali drove to the basket for a potential equalizer, but he didn’t look clean and Cody Riley blocked the shot before Johnny Juzang notched the rebound and was fouled.

Juzang’s two free throws, two seconds from time, made the victory ice-cold.

“I said (Akron’s coach John Groce) after the game that they’re probably the best coached and best defensive team we’ve played all year,” said UCLA coach Mick Cronin. “Their point guard was so tough, all of their guys were so tough, the smallest guys at our post and we couldn’t get the ball in. It’s only a credit to the Akron coaching staff, their kids, their toughness.”

Campbell finished 6 for 12 from the field (3 for 6 behind the arc) with five assists. Jaquez had 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists, and held Akron’s top scorer Ali on just five points in 2-for-10 shooting. Jules Bernard added 10 points for the Bruins.

UCLA was 7:36 behind to play by 47:39. As big as Campbell’s punches were, Cronin thought Bernard’s 3-pointer coming off the time-out deserved praise.

“I’d like to add that the best shot of the game was Jules’ three-pointer in the corner…we were struggling,” Cronin said. “That was a really big hit. There was no coaching involved. It’s just fitness time and this guy who’s been doing great things for us for the three years since I’ve been here. That was a really big hit.”

The win makes Cronin 50-2 if he keeps opponents below 60 points.

UCLA was 26:25 down at halftime after shooting just 32% from the field (8 to 25) as evidenced by a 3:13 start with four turnovers and an eventual goal drought that lasted 5 minutes and 52 seconds. was dampened.

During that stretch, the Zips (24-10) held an 18-10 lead. Eventually, a 3-pointer from Jaquez equalized to make it 22-22, while Akron went through a poor offensive streak himself after not converting any field goals for almost five minutes.

Peyton Watson provided a spark for the Bruins in the heart of the second half with a 3-pointer from the tip of the key, giving UCLA a 37-36 lead before Akron stole it straight away within seconds. But Watson’s efforts didn’t stop there. He attacked the basket and dived for loose balls.

“I felt like he could be a good matchup defensively,” Cronin said of Watson. “We tried to get stops, to put some length into the game. He put down a big shot. They were really impressive minutes. He didn’t get a rebound, but trying to get one gave our team energy that we needed.

Watson’s minutes, though few, are inspiring. The arriving Bruin fans stood, clapped and cheered to help with the UCLA rally, but it didn’t seem like it was going to be enough.

With 49:42 behind and 5:58 to go, things looked bleak, but the Bruins put together their 15-4 run highlighted by Campbell’s own 8-0 run.

Castaneda led Akron by 18 points and Enrique Freeman added 14 before fouling an illegal screen at 2:26.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *