UCLA cruises past Utah, regains top spot in Pac-12 – Daily Bulletin

Statistical trends can lend interesting insight on how a team is performing, they can also be somewhat of an eye roll – at least that’s how UCLA coach Mick Cronin reacted to hearing some of them after the Bruins’ 76-61 victory over Utah on Thursday night in Salt Lake City.

Eye roll or not, some are hard to ignore.

Trend No. 1: When Jules Bernard scores nine points or more, the Bruins are unbeaten this season (now 10-0). The junior wing scored a game-high 19 points in 35 minutes with four rebounds and three assists, going 4 for 6 from3-point range to help the Bruins (17-5 overall, 13-3 Pac-12) move back atop the conference standings, a half-game ahead of USC (19-5, 13-4) following the Trojans’ loss in Colorado.

“When Jules (Bernard) takes his time, he can really shoot and then his strength comes into play,” Cronin said. “He lets the game come to him and he takes what they give him. He gives us toughness on defense, which we desperately need on this team. We need him in the lineup for athletic and toughness reasons.”

Trend No. 2: Anytime the Bruins lead by 10 or more points during the course of a game, they’re 9-0. Their largest lead of the night was 21 at the 11:52 mark of the second half. It never dropped below 14 in the last 10 minutes of the game, a less stressful scenario for UCLA than their previous meeting, when the Bruins escaped with a 72-70 win at Pauley Pavilion on New Year’s Eve.

“Utah is a very good team, we made them look average tonight,” Cronin said.

A bonus stat, that’s far from a trend: Utah (9-11. 6-10) didn’t attempt one free throw, marking the first time UCLA has held an opponent without one since a game against Delaware State on Nov. 19, 2005.

“I’ve never had that in a game,” Cronin said, who has been a head coach for 18 years. “We only had four.”

Johnny Juzang had 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, making four 3-pointers, and a team-high eight rebounds. Cody Riley scored 15 points and Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored nine of his 11 points in the second half.

“We have a lot of weapons,” Bernard said. “When we play together and play with confidence we’re a very hard team to stop.”

UCLA took an eight-point lead into halftime after shooting 60% from the 3-point line. But the shooting only got better in the second half. The Bruins used a 15-5 run to start the second half and made 11 of their first 13 shot attempts.

The Bruins finished the game shooting 58% from beyond the arc (11 for 19).

It was a swift victory for UCLA, building confidence for Saturday night’s game at Colorado (18-7, 12-6), when the Buffaloes will be looking to avenge a 65-62 loss to the Bruins in early January. The mountain trip to Utah and Colorado is often referred to as the toughest road trip in the Pac-12.

“We know we’re going to get (Colorado’s) best shot,” Bernard said. “They’re a great team, we know it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”

UCLA has three games left in the regular season, with a road game at Oregon before the home finale against USC on March 6. USC plays at Utah on Saturday then hosts Stanford before the game at UCLA.

UTES DEPLETED

Branden Carlson led the Utes with 17 points, four after halftime, while Riley Battin and Ian Martinez added 10 each. Utah was playing without 6-foot-9 forward Mikael Jantunen, who has been in quarantine since returning from a stint on the Finnish national team last week. Point guard Rylan Jones played for the first time since missing four games with a shoulder injury and dished seven assists but was scoreless in 17 minutes.


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