UCLA is loving its newfound identity so far under former Cincinnati Bearcats and first year head coach Mick Cronin.
He’s preached defensive intensity will lead to offense and that surely was on display once UCLA made a season-high 10 3-pointers, while also forcing 15 turnovers for 25 points during the Bruins 71-54 route over UNLV on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion.
“We had talked about getting off to a much better start. The guys did a much better job with that,” Cronin said. “We tried to emphasize our energy early in the game.”
UCLA junior guard Chris Smith scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, redshirt freshman point guard Tyger Campbell added 15 points and made three 3-pointers.
“I didn’t force anything on the offensive end,” Smith said. “Tyger found me probably on three of my baskets in the first half. My teammates were setting good screens and moving the ball.”
UCLA (3-0) started the game on a 19-5 run, thanks to scoring 14 unanswered points with UNLV (1-3) unable to contain the Bruins early. Moments later, UCLA freshman guard Jaime Jaquez Jr made a jumper followed by redshirt senior guard Price Ali making a jump shot, extending the Bruins lead to 31-14 with 6:26 remaining in the first half.
Ali made four-of-eight shots for 14 points, while Jaquez Jr added eight points off the bench in a season-high 19 minutes of play to help UCLA hold a 12-point advantage at the half, 40-28.
The Bruins ultimately shot 49 percent from the field and held the Running Rebels to 38. UCLA also controlled the rebounding margin 35-27 and converted 13 free throws compared to only three for UNLV.
“If you hold teams down like that, you’re going to win a lot of games,” Cronin said. “For the most part, I thought our effort was great… When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty decent offensive team.”
UCLA kept its foot on the gas pedal in the second half and wouldn’t allow UNLV to come within single digits.
Ali made a 3-pointer, followed by two free throws and a lay up to extend the Bruins advantage to 67-49 with only 3:08 renaming and UCLA went on to close out a 71-54 victory.
With the win, UCLA extended its winning streak to 6-0 in the all-time series against UNLV.
UCLA returns to Pauley Pavilion on Monday, November 18, as the Bruins will host Southern Utah (2-1). Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 PM.