UCLA took the floor for the first time this season looking to build off a run to the Final Four last April.
The Bruins did just that, having four starters finish in double figures in impressive fashion and second-ranked UCLA went on to rout Cal State Bakersfield 95-58 on Tuesday night in Westwood.
Johnny Juzang and Jules Bernard led UCLA with 19 points each and Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 14 points. Tyger Campbell and Jaylen Clark had 10 points each in a well-balanced home opener for the Bruins.
“We all feel ready to play. We’ve got the energy and the effort,” said Juzang, who was voted to The Associated Press Preseason All-America team.
Even with the victory, emotions ran high and Pauley Pavilion turned silent when Bruins senior forward Cody Riley injured his knee in a collision just eight minutes into the game. Riley limped to the locker room and was limping concerningly once returning to the bench in the second half in street clothes.
“He said it all happened so fast,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said of Riley, “he doesn’t even know what happened. I asked and he said, ‘I don’t know. Somebody ran me over, and that’s all I know.’ My thoughts are just praying for him and hopefully he’s OK.”
“Obviously when we saw him in pain it was tough to see and tough to take,” Bernard said of Riley. “The most important thing is his health, so we all checked in on him at halftime and after the game. Just knowing that he’s in good spirits is the most important thing.”
Redshirt freshman forward Mac Etienne had already been lost and likely out for the season, after a suspected torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The Bruins started the game converting three long-distance triples, jumping out to an early 9-2 advantage. UCLA stayed in control from start to finish and used a 29-8 run to end the half to go up 47-19 through 20 minutes of play.
The Bruins made 13 of 27 shots from 3-point range on 47 percent shooting and shot 50 percent from the field for the game. UCLA scored 23 points off turnovers and forced the Roadrunners into 15 for the game.
Juzang and Jaquez scored six straight points for the Bruins to take a commanding 75-39 in the second half. UCLA also made 20 of 26 free throws.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Bernard said on playing in front of Bruin fans for the first time since Feb. 29, 2020. “Having the students and fans there, it just brought a lot of energy, and like all the other guys on the team, we’re just excited to finally get the season started.”
The Bruins will be back in action on Friday night as they prepare for their first top-five matchup of the season while hosting the fourth-ranked Villanova Wildcats at 8:30 p.m.
“We wanted to play Bakersfield because Rod [Barnes] is known for being a defensive guy,” Cronin said. “I have a lot of experience from my Big East days. I know what Villanova is all about. I know what their culture stands for …”