UCLA avoids upset with late surge, holds off Akron 57-53
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Tyger Campbell rescued UCLA from a potential upset, scoring eight straight points late in the second half, and the fourth-seeded Bruins rallied for a 57-53 win over No. 13 seed Akron in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.
With the Bruins down 51-47 with 3 1/2 minutes left, Campbell took control and helped his team avoid getting bounced on the opening day of the tournament. Campbell hit a corner 3-pointer to pull UCLA within one, knocked down a 15-footer for the lead and added a 25-footer as the shot clock was expiring to put the Bruins ahead 55-51 with 1:17 left.
Even with Campbell's streak, the Bruins still had to sweat the final moments after a missed free throw and Jamie Jacquez Jr. missing a jumper with 15 seconds left. Akron's Ali Ali drove to the basket but didn't have a clean look and was blocked by Cody Riley.
Johnny Juzang knocked down a pair of free throws, and the Bruins moved on to face No. 5 seed Saint Mary's on Saturday.
Campbell finished with 16 points and Jaquez added 15. Jules Bernard, who hit a 3 to start UCLA's run when it trailed 47-39, added 10 points.
Xavier Castaneda led Akron with 18 points and Enrique Freeman added 14 before fouling out with 2:26 remaining on an illegal screen. Ali, the Zips' leading scorer, was held to five points after averaging nearly 15 per game.
A year after an unexpected run to the Final Four, the Bruins entered the tournament a trendy selection to make a run in the wide-open East. They nearly became another upset victim for Akron coach John Groce, who lost in the opening round of the tournament for the first time after going 3-0 in his previous NCAA trips as the coach at Ohio and Illinois.
The Zips had their chances, especially after building an eight-point lead. Castaneda connected on consecutive 3s after UCLA took a 39-38 lead, and Greg Tribble scored on a baseline reverse, falling down as he was fouled, to push the Zips' lead to 47-39 with 7:54 left.
But UCLA closed the game on an 18-6 run.
Amy Bonner was one of three officials for the nightcap in Portland, becoming the second woman to officiate an NCAA Tournament game. Melanie Davis worked a game between Illinois and San Diego State in 2002.
Bonner has worked in several conferences and was hired to work in the Big 12 a couple of seasons ago.
Earlier Thursday, UCLA announced a new six-year contract for coach Mick Cronin that runs through the 2027-28 season. Cronin was hired in April 2019.
Akron: The Zips entered having won eight straight, including a sweep of the MAC Tournament and a 75-55 rout of rival Kent State in the championship game. It was the fifth NCAA bid for the Zips and their first since 2013. They're still seeking their first win.
UCLA: The Bruins won despite a quiet night from Juzang, who finished with nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. It was the fourth time in six games Juzang failed to reach double figures.
The Bruins will face the Gaels in the second round on Saturday.
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|Min. Per Game|
|Pts. Per Game|
|Ast. Per Game|
|Reb. Per Game|
|Field Goal %|
|Three Point %|
|Free Throw %|
|Bruins defensive rebound||0:01|
|Field Goals||21-53 (39.6%)||19-54 (35.2%)|
|3-Pointers||4-17 (23.5%)||8-22 (36.4%)|
|Free Throws||7-8 (87.5%)||11-13 (84.6%)|
|B. Trimble Jr.||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||-|