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UCLA Closes 2020 by Defeating Utah 72-70

Dec 31, 2020
Jalen Hill, Jules Bernard and Cody Riley (photo by Jesus Ramirez)

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LOS ANGELES – UCLA made a season-high 10 three-pointers in a 72-70 New Year's Eve victory over Utah in a Pac-12 contest in Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom.
The two teams combined for 19 three-pointers, with UCLA shooting 50% from beyond the arc and the Runnin' Utes at 41%. Utah shot just 22% from long-range in the second half after having made 53.8% of its 3-point attempts in the first half.
Chris Smith led UCLA in scoring with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting despite foul trouble.
Jules Bernard was big off the bench for the Bruins (6-2, 2-0 Pac-12), scoring 13 points and making key plays that led to the Pac-12 win. Johnny Juzang (13 points) and Jaime Jaquez Jr. (10 points) also scored in double figures for UCLA.
Tyger Campbell was one point shy of a double-double, recording nine points with 10 assists.
Utah guard Alfonso Plummer led all players with 22 points, and Timmy Allen contributed 18 points.
UCLA led Utah at halftime, 41-32, after having erased an early 16-4 deficit. In a narrow second half, the Bruins came up with a crucial stop in the game's final five seconds.
The Bruins led 72-70 with 3.9 seconds to go. Utah needed to inbound the ball and move the length of the court, but the Runnin' Utes were unable to get off one last shot after Bernard stole a pass by Pelle Larson, ending the game.
Early on, Plummer helped key Utah to a 16-4 cushion in the game's first five minutes. He did most of the damage for Utah, hitting all five of his shots during a four-plus-minute run, including four 3-pointers.
Bernard helped UCLA halt the Runnin' Utes' run after a timeout. He entered the game and hit a 3-point basket that ignited a 10-0 scoring run for UCLA, trimming Utah's advantage to 16-14. A pair of free throws by Jalen Hill tied the game (with 12:32 to play in the opening half), and a fast break layup by Bernard gave UCLA its first lead, 18-16, following the 14-0 run.
Utah regained the lead, 23-20, but back-to-back 3-point baskets from Juzang and Campbell gave the Bruins a 28-23 lead with an 8-0 scoring run. After the Utes tied the game (32-32), UCLA went on another 9-0 run to close the half, highlighted by back-to-back threes by Smith and Juzang, and went into the locker room up 41-32.
The Bruins used a 3-pointer by Bernard to take their biggest lead of the contest, 47-37, just three minutes into the second half. The Runnin' Utes charged back, regaining the advantage with 7:17 to play (at 58-57) after a 10-2 scoring run.
The Runnin' Utes extended their lead to three points before UCLA tied the game, 60-60, on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Bernard with 5:39 to play. That marked UCLA's second basket in a seven-minute span. Another 3-point play, this time by Juzang, nearly 30 seconds later switched the lead back into UCLA's favor.
The Bruins were clinging to a two-point cushion with under one minute to play. Campbell came up with a big steal and fed Hill, who was fouled and made both free throw attempts to extend UCLA's lead to four points – at 70-66 – with 28 seconds remaining.
Allen answered with a layup with 19 seconds left, and Hill made one of two free throws to put UCLA up by 72-69.
Utah had the ball with five seconds to go, and Bernard fouled Plummer on a 3-point attempt. Plummer went to the free throw line, missed the first shot and made the next two. That cut UCLA's lead to 71-70.
Hill was fouled again on UCLA's ensuing possession. He missed the first three throw and made the second attempt, giving UCLA a 72-70 lead with 3.9 seconds to play.
In that final sequence, Bernard came up with the game-saving steal as time expired.
UCLA (6-2, 2-0 in Pac-12 play) will host Colorado on Saturday evening (Jan. 2) at 5 p.m. (PT). The game will be telegvised by the Pac-12 Network. Utah will be in action at USC.