Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell combined for 50 points in the Bruins unofficial tip-off to the season.
The Bruins were not going to let history repeat itself.
No. 8 UCLA men’s basketball hosted Concordia University Irvine at Pauley Pavilion for a preseason exhibition Wednesday night, potentially conjuring up memories of a very similar situation over a decade earlier. The Bruins played the Eagles in an exhibition at home on the first Wednesday of November in 2009, only securing a win that night thanks to a last-second, game-winning 3-pointer by Mustafa Abdul-Hamid.
The rematch may have been tight early, but UCLA managed to play a much more stress-free game this time around, beating Concordia 93-63 to unofficially open up the 2022-2023 campaign. Superstar seniors Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell scored 25 points apiece in the contest, overcoming a slow start to bury the Eagles.
Coach Mick Cronin trotted out his expected regular season starting five of Campbell, Jaquez, Amari Bailey, Jaylen Clark and Adem Bona. That five-man group struggled to finish early, with Bona missing an alley-oop dunk off a lob from Campbell and Clark missing a two-handed slam of his own on a fastbreak.
Even when they were able to covert, like when Bailey drove the baseline for a successful dunk, the freshman got called for a technical foul after hanging on the rim.
Through all that, UCLA still led 6-0, then 10-3. However, poor shooting continued to haunt the Bruins, and even though they were able to clean up on the boards by reeling in seven offensive rebounds in the opening 10 minutes, the Eagles finally started to put up a fight.
UCLA had a scoreless streak that nearly reached three minutes, as well as a 1-of-8 shooting stretch, all while Concordia slowly crept its way back in the game. More than 11 minutes into the first half, the Bruins only led 14-12, with missed shots and uncharacteristic turnovers costing them possessions.
That’s when UCLA started to create some much-needed separation, with Jaquez finishing through contact down low and converting on multiple and-1s.
The Bruins went up 25-16, then blew things wide open by drilling six shots in a row, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Campbell and David Singleton. Even Italian wing Abramo Canka got a bucket in his first taste of college action, hitting a layup in his very first shift to cap off the hot shooting streak.
It was ultimately the usual suspects who dug UCLA out of an early hole, with Jaquez, Campbell and Singleton combining for 34 of the team’s 45 first-half points. Bona did his fair share on the other end of the court, blocking four shots in six minutes to help hold Concordia to 28 points in the first half.
When the teams returned to the court for the second half, the Bruins kept their foot on the gas and stretched their lead to 20 points before the first media timeout.
UCLA hit its first nine shots of the second half, with Jaquez and Campbell once again leading the way. Clark got in on the action himself with a powerful fastbreak dunk, a breakaway layup and a forced jump ball, smiling through it all.
Jaquez, Campbell, Clark and Singleton scored 56 of the Bruins’ first 63 points, all while the Eagles were stuck at 39.
Concordia managed to open the second half 5-of-8 from the field, but had to resort to hoisting up 3s while trailing big. When the lead reached 15, seven of the Eagles’ next eight shot attempts came from beyond the arc, knocking down four of them.
A pair of those triples helped Concordia go on a quick 8-0 run once Cronin had inserted his bench lineup, but Jaquez checked back in and combined with freshman guard Dylan Andrews to make sure the end result was never in doubt.
Even big man Kenny Nwuba got on the board late, cleaning up an offensive rebound with a second-chance slam to build the lead back to 23.
Cronin cleared the bench for the final couple of minutes – much to the crowd’s delight – and walk-on guard Russell Stong drew a charge right after checking in. Stong tossed up a 3-pointer in the final seconds, but the try was just off and UCLA wound up dribbling out the rest of the clock.
The Bruins nearly doubled up the Eagles on the boards, winning the rebounding battle 50-28.
After starting 5-of-21 from the field, UCLA shot 32-of-54 the rest of the way. Five Bruins scored in double figures, with Singleton, Andrews and Clark all breaking through before the final buzzer.
Jaquez notched a 25-point, 11-rebound double-double, while Campbell put up 25 points and six rebounds with three 3-pointers. On the other hand, the freshman duo of Bona and Bailey combined for just eight points, but Bona blocked five shots and Bailey pulled down six rebounds.
UCLA will tip off its regular season Monday when it hosts Sacramento State at Pauley Pavilion. That game will tip off at 8:30 p.m. and be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JAN KIM LIM/UCLA ATHLETICS