Nr. 2 UCLA defeats No. 4 Villanova in overtime thriller

They gathered close to midfield for a quick coziness in the final seconds, arms around their shoulders, a couple of players jumping in joy after things had seemed so bleak just minutes earlier.

Tyger Campbell bumped Jaime Jaquez Jr. on his chest in a prelude to more celebration, and Jaquez clapped his arms to raise noise in a rolling Pauley Pavillon.

In an early season showdown that lived up to the hype, second-ranked UCLA overcame its offensive impatience and inability to stop by wiping out a 10-point deficit in the second half of a pulsating 86-77 overtime victory over fourth place. Villanova before a sold out audience of 13,659.

“We were relentless, they were also relentless,” said UCLA coach Mick Cronin, whose team forced the Wildcats to miss six consecutive shots late in the game. “No one should have lost this match.”

The Bruins (2-0) won after opening a 74-69 lead in the extra period that came thanks to a Johnny Juzang jumper and Campbell who sucked the defense in by driving towards the basket and sending to Jaquez for a three-pointer .

After not attempting a free throw until there were 5 minutes and 29 seconds left of regulation because it was constantly chasing jump shots, UCLA made all 12 free throws in overtime to avoid further late drama.

The Bruins played with a bang in the extended period, after returning all players from the team that completed four overtime in the last seven games last season.

“Just an inner confidence that we’ve been in this situation,” Jaquez said, “that helped us lock the stretch down.”

The adventure of the first non-conference game involving top-five teams in the Pauley Pavilion in nearly three decades was stacked on thick. Students camped overnight to get tickets, and the list of illuminated ones included actress Jessica Alba and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, the former Bruins baseball star, who was the honorary captain.

UCLA revealed a surprise that suited the occasion before the tip-off. After a spotlight was put on doors leading to the UCLA locker room, boxing reviewer Michael Buffer appeared in a white tuxedo jacket, grabbed a microphone and did his “Let’s get ready to rumble!” schtick.

The energy inside the arena, combined with a physical opponent who has won two national championships since 2016, pushed the Bruins toward March intensity in mid-November.

“This is where we have the most fun and are most present, and it’s a bang, I would say,” said Juzang, who scored 25 points on nine-for-24 shooting after a relatively quiet six points in the first half. “So we were definitely looking forward to this one and the atmosphere was great, the fans showed so much support, so great an attendance and the energy was great.”

UCLA's Jules Bernard is mistaken for Villanova's Collin Gillespie in overtime on Friday.

UCLA’s Jules Bernard is mistaken for Villanova’s Collin Gillespie in overtime on Friday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Bruins forced overtime after wiping out a 60-50 deficit over the last nine minutes of regulation. UCLA sophomore guard Jaylen Clark, who was deployed for Juzang for defensive purposes in the last minute, came up with a huge rebound that allowed Jules Bernard to knock into a hanging float to equalize with 30 seconds left.

Clark also had his hand in the final regulating game, battling hard against Justin Moore’s driving lineup, who missed and snatched rebound by the buzzer.

“Jaylen Clark goes after every ball,” Cronin said. “You have to have a guy like that.”

UCLA's Jaylen Clark fights for loose ball with Villanova's Justin Moore in the first half.

UCLA’s Jaylen Clark fights for loose ball with Villanova’s Justin Moore in the first half.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Jaquez added 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Bruins and Bernard had 16 points and nine rebounds.

Jermaine Samuels scored a team-high 20 points for the Wildcats (1-1), who made just two of nine shots in overtime.

Juzang started the second half with a breathtaking shooting show reminiscent of his NCAA tournament scoring. He made his first five shots, committing to a jumper right away, a three-pointer in the transition, a runner in the lane, a spin move that he followed with a jumper and one jumper more to hold the Bruins’ chances in the back. -fast play.

Unfortunately for UCLA, Villanova was even hotter, making nine out of 11 shots while taking a 60-50 lead on Collin Gillespie’s three-pointers. The Bruins sent their fans into yet another frenzy, back-to-back three-pointers by Campbell, making it 60-56 to help his team begin its comeback.

UCLA's Jaime Jaquez Jr., left, celebrates with Johnny Juzang in the final seconds of the Bruins' victory.

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez Jr., left, celebrates with Johnny Juzang in the final seconds of the Bruins’ victory over Villanova on Friday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA played without redshirt senior forward Cody Riley, who sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the season opener and will be re-evaluated next week. Riley is expected to miss at least a handful of fights, likely including the Bruins ‘next showdown, which was already on the students’ minds in the final seconds.

“We want ‘Zaga!’ sang the students with reference to a match against top-ranked Gonzaga in Las Vegas on November 23rd. “We want ‘Zaga!’

As UCLA played in a tight fight against a powerhouse, the Bruins could be the team everyone else in the nation wants to beat down.

“I mean we’re UCLA, so we always have a goal on our backs,” Campbell said, “it’s just a bigger goal this year because we’re pretty high ranked right now.”

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