Saturday night’s alright for a fight: Men’s Basketball to face off against No. 7/8 UCLA

Jan. 29, 2022, 10:42 a.m.

After a narrow win over No. 15 USC  Thursday night, Stanford men’s basketball (12-6, 5-3 Pac-12) looks to improve its 1-4 away record at Pauley Pavilion against No. 7/8 UCLA (14-2, 6-1 Pac-12) on Saturday night.

Following its 2021 Final Four appearance, UCLA’s seasoned starting lineup has not disappointed. Under head coach Mick Cronin, who has led teams to the last 10 NCAA Championships, the Bruins have incurred just two losses, only one of which was in conference play.

With 6-foot-7 junior guard Johnny Juzang averaging 18.1 points per game and senior forward Jules Bernard adding 13.1 per game, UCLA’s offense is a threat to any opponent — including the third-ranked team in the nation. On Tuesday, the Bruins shot 50% from the field and kept a strong Arizona Wildcats team to 30.7% shooting , upsetting Arizona 75-59 in a packed Pauley Pavilion in the process. Junior guard/forward Jaime Jaquez, Jr., redshirt senior forward Cody Riley and redshirt-junior guard Tyger Campbell fill out the efficient Bruin offense, scoring 12, 10 and nine points, respectively, on Tuesday.

Predominantly made up of juniors and seniors, UCLA’s roster is experienced, lending itself to the focus and discipline to capitalize on the errors of opponents. Against Arizona, the Bruins scored 15 points on turnovers. UCLA has been especially successful in applying pressure to its opponents’ offenses in recent contests; the Bruins recorded at least seven steals in each of the last four games.

To counteract UCLA’s high scoring lineup, the Cardinal may consider taking a page from the playbooks of Gonzaga and Oregon. In their victories over UCLA, both teams maximized rebounds — Oregon with 49 and Gonzaga with 30. For freshman forward Harrison Ingram, that is good and bad news.

With four of UCLA’s five starters over 6-foot-6, Ingram cannot rely on his size alone for rebounds. But, if he and junior forward James Keefe can effectively score from the paint, the Cardinal could find themselves in another overtime nail biter.

To work outside the paint on offense, the Cardinal may turn to junior forward Spencer Jones, who leads the team with 24 three-pointers on the season. Sophomore forward Brandon Angel may also be an outlet for Stanford with 19 three-pointers and a respectable 41% success rate from the field. Finding them will be sophomore guard Michael O’Connell, the team leader in assists.

Looking at their narrow win over Arizona State on Jan. 22, the Cardinal must maintain stamina Saturday; a steep scoring drop off in the second half will not be tolerated as well by the consistent Bruin offense as it was by the Sun Devils.

Yet, the biggest challenge for Stanford may be the blue and gold crowd. On Tuesday, UCLA nearly sold out Pauley Pavilion, aiding in the upset of Arizona.

Tip-off will be at 6:30 p.m. PT, with fans likely to pack the arena for the second game without capacity restrictions.

Abby Converse is a contributing writer in the sports section. Contact her at [email protected].

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