UCLA’s Tyger Campbell broadens his game as Bruins stifles Colorado – East Bay Times

LOS ANGELES — The immediate goal for UCLA is to put last Tuesday’s nightmare a little bit deeper into the rear-view in each game.

Tyger Campbell was invisible against Gonzaga, as were several Bruins in that ballyhooed 20-point loss. He was present and up front in Wednesday night’s Pac-12 opener.

Campbell was content to include everyone else in the offense as UCLA barged to a 16-point halftime lead over Colorado. When the Buffaloes came back, Campbell reined them in, with 13 points and no turnovers in the second half of the fifth-ranked Bruins’ 73-61 win, a game they led by only four points with 9:35 left.

Campbell got three baskets in the next four minutes and the Bruins led by 12 again. Despite the best efforts of Colorado’s Jabari Walker, whose dad Samaki once played for the Lakers, UCLA handled the rest of it and improved to 7-1.

For the game, Campbell had 21 points, seven assists and one turnover. Coach Mick Cronin thought that was nearly as impressive as Myles Johnson’s 12 points, 10 rebounds and 14 deflections in the middle.

Like Johnson, Campbell has been in the coach’s crosshairs.

“For us to be the type of team we want to be in March, that’s the way he has to play,” Cronin said.

“I accepted he was a young player the first couple of years, trying to develop him to what he can be. Their strategy tonight was to force him to shoot, but I like the fact that he didn’t even hesitate. I’ve seen that guy in practice.”

“It wasn’t about me being super-aggressive or anything,” Campbell said. “When I’m out there, I’m just looking at the defense. Tonight my teammates got me the ball and I was able to knock them down.

“But I like to take the big shots. I think every player does. I believe in myself and I know the coaches believe in me.”

Campbell also got some counseling from Russell Westbrook, the Lakers’ All-Star who donated the money for the Bruins’ practice court in the Ostin Center. He was honored at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday.

“To me, it’s just great that he comes here and sees us play,” Campbell said. “We remember the days when he was here. He’s such a great player. The legacy he left, with all the Final Fours … he just told me to keep shooting.”

It was an efficient night for the Bruins, who took 12 Colorado turnovers and turned them into 23 points. They suffered only nine turnovers themselves, and Campbell (4 for 7) and Johnny Juzang combined for 5-for-10 shooting from the 3-point line.

Colorado missed 10 of its first 12 shots but rallied to shoot 42.1 percent, and Walker put together 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Cronin wasn’t satisfied with UCLA’s second-half defense, but then Jaime Jaquez Jr. played only 7:14 and sat out the second half. He banged his head on the court, and assistant coach Michael Lewis told Cronin that Jaquez “doesn’t look 100 percent” after warmups at halftime.

UCLA is still missing Cody Riley in the post, and Cronin is hoping his return, plus a higher comfort level for Team USA member and freshman Peyton Watson, will accelerate the Bruins. To that end, he experimented with five bench players together for a short period in the first half.

“I think that helped us wear them down in the second half, but I still think Johnny and Tyger played too many minutes,” Cronin said. Juzang had 35 minutes, Campbell 33.

The 6:30 p.m. start held the crowd to 7,941, although UCLA’s frenzied win against Villanova last month was supposed to make every home game an occasion.

Writing this win off as a routine errand wouldn’t be wise. Colorado has won twice in Pauley since 2018 and beat the Bruins, 70-61, in Boulder last year.

“The margin for error is limited against UCLA,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “Even when they lose somebody like Jaquez they keep coming at you.”

UCLA’s theme now is to reject satisfaction. Johnson was a defensive specialist at Rutgers and Campbell was a distributing point guard, but Cronin is trying to push them past their definitions.

The Bruins don’t believe in looking back, either, but then they already know what’s there.

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