Portland, OR – The No. 4-seed UCLA Bruins (27-7) routed the No. 5-seed Saint Mary’s Gaels (26-8) to a 72-56 win on Saturday evening at the Moda Center. The Bruins punched their ticket to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 where they will face the No. 8-seed North Carolina Tar Heels next Friday.
“It was a great win for us,” said UCLA head coach Mick Cronin. “Best-case scenario, Logan Johnson played great, and we still won. I love him dearly. But these guys performed. Coach Palmer had a great plan defensively with his scout. I’m very lucky to have him, we’re all lucky to have him. And these guys performed today. So, they all stepped their games up.”
UCLA went up by 15 points 64-49 with four minutes remaining and Saint Mary’s just couldn’t stop the bleeding to get back in the game.
Offensively, the Bruins were on fire as four of their starters scored double figures: Tyger Campbell (16), Jaime Jaquez Jr. (15), Johnny Juzang (14), and Jules Bernard (14).
Bernard talked about their team unity.
“Yeah, no, the togetherness has been great. You can just feel it. I know all of us can. So, it’s really fun to play that way, man. We love playing with each other. We love to go out there and compete. And we’re just playing to win. And it’s the best feeling, man. Especially in March, man. It’s — we have so much fun.”
Jaquez Jr. injured his right ankle as he came down on his own teammate Cody Riley’s left foot at the 6:58 mark in the second half. He returned to the bench after receiving some treatment, but did not return to the game.
Jaquez has suffered ankle issues throughout the season.
“We got until Friday to play. And trust me, if he can walk, he’ll play,” said coach Cronin.
UCLA closed the first half with a 19-7 run and led by seven 36-29.
Juzang commented on holding the Gaels scoreless with six and a half minutes in the first half and how they were able to build that defensive intensity.
“You know, they started off hot, obviously. But just — I feel like in a lot of our games, once we start picking up our energy on defense and getting deflections, getting steals, riling teams on offense. There was one possession where I think they almost had a 24 — is it — 30, yeah. And our bench was going crazy. So, I think that was like one of the momentous plays and from there, we just kept our energy up on defense and kept making plays on offense. And just building momentum throughout the game really helped us.”
UCLA is 23-2 when leading by halftime for the season and they are 22-0 this year when they hold their opponents to under 66 points.
This is UCLA’s fifth Sweet 16 in the last nine years.
Coach Cronin gave his initial thoughts on his team’s Sweet 16 opponent North Carolina.
“We were supposed to play in Vegas, so now we’re going to play in Philly with the season on the line…They’re playing well. To beat Baylor, who’s top five. They beat Duke at Duke. Can’t be playing — beat Marquette. You can’t be playing better than Carolina is playing. They’re shooting the lights out.”
UCLA returns to the Sweet 16 and will take on the No. 8-seed North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday, March 25 in Philadelphia, PA.