Portland, OR – The No. 4-seed UCLA Bruins (26-7) fought tooth and nail in a 57-53 comeback victory and closed with a 15-4 run to escape the No. 13-seed Akron Zips (24-10) on Thursday night at the Moda Center in Round 64 of the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
“Great win for us,” said UCLA head coach Mick Cronin. “We finally got some shots to go down, we made some adjustments, gutted it out. Keys in the second half for us were Jaime had six assists. We only turned it over twice in the second half, which allowed us to get enough shots to where we finally started making some. Also, offensive rebounding in the second half.”
With the Bruins struggling offensively, Tyger Campbell took matters into his own hands in crunch time to score eight straight points and knocked down two soul crushing threes with three minutes remaining.
He first hit a wide-open corner three with not a Zip in sight. He then turned right around and drained a logo three to give the Bruins a four-point lead 55-51 with a minute and sixteen seconds left on the clock.
“My teammates just kept finding me, and I just was wanting to make a play,” said Campbell. “I knew down the stretch, Coach made some adjustments, and I just wanted to execute on them, and the shots went in.”
Just like that, an Akron layup brung the Zips to within two 55-53.
It came down to the wire as the Zips had the ball with 25.2 seconds to go.
Akron’s Ali Ali drove hard to the basket, but the ball came nowhere near close to the rim.
On the other end, Johnny Juzang hit two clutch free throws to mail in UCLA’s ticket to the second round.
Jules Bernard shared how UCLA’s past tournament experiences helped in this comeback win.
“We’re a resilient team, and we have a great camaraderie, and we know we’ve been in positions like that before, and we knew the caliber of team we were playing.”
Campbell led all Bruins with 16 points and five assists.
Juzang averaged 22 PPG in last year’s tournament, but only scored 9 points for the game.
Akron’s Xavier Castaneda led all scorers with 18 points and six rebounds.
The Bruins advanced from the First Four to the Final Four one year ago and lost to Gonzaga in the national semifinals.
For the fifth time in school history, the Akron Zips played in March Madness after winning the 2022 Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The UCLA Bruins advance to the second round and will face the No. 5-seed Saint Mary’s Gaels on Saturday, March 19 at 4:10 p.m. for a shot to return to the Sweet Sixteen.