Tyger Campbell improving as No. 7 UCLA prepares for Colorado

UCLA coach Mick Cronin detected hesitancy in Tyger Campbell’s game and didn’t like it.

Cronin also didn’t like the meager shooting percentages Campbell was posting.

But the version of Campbell that appeals to Cronin could be in the process of returning when the No. 7 Bruins search for their 13th straight victory when they battle Colorado on Saturday night in Pac-12 play at Los Angeles.

Campbell made half his 14 field-goal attempts and had 17 points and seven assists as UCLA (15-2, 6-0 Pac-12) cruised 68-49, posting the home win over Utah on Thursday.

Campbell made just one third of his shots or worse in six of the previous 12 contests, including 3-of-14 shooting seven days earlier against Southern California.

“The best thing I saw (Thursday night) other than the (21) assists and the team stuff, was Tyger getting it going,” Cronin said. “He hasn’t really been himself, he played great against Kentucky I thought, the Maryland game he had foul trouble. He had 17 tonight, seven assists, that’s what he’s capable of. I was imploring him to be more aggressive, he’s been a little too passive lately.”

The fourth-year point guard is shooting 39.7 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from 3-point range, both drop-offs from last season’s career-best marks of 44.4 and 41.0, respectively.

Campbell is averaging 13.5 points per game, ranging from a season-high 22 in a loss to Illinois on Nov. 18 to three single-digit outings during victories.

Campbell said he is putting in the work and attempting to find his groove.

“I felt like I had a good week this week,” Campbell said after the win over the Utes. “Guys were driving in and kicking it and finding me. I was just taking my time, keeping my feet set. They were going in.”

Shots are also going in for freshman big man Adem Bona, who had 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting against Utah. Bona is averaging 13.7 points on 18-of-24 shooting over the past three games.

“He has come a long way from his first games here at UCLA,” veteran forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. said of Bona. “… Now you guys see what he can really do. He is flourishing right now. That’s definitely what we need him to do if we’re going to beat a great team.”

UCLA will be looking to defeat Colorado (11-7, 3-4) for the sixth time in the past seven meetings.

The Buffaloes opened their two-game swing in Los Angeles by dropping a 68-61 decision to USC on Thursday. It was just their second setback in the past nine games.

Colorado was sloppy with the basketball (22 turnovers), had nine shots blocked and made just 5 of 17 3-point attempts against the Trojans.

“When you get nine shots blocked and you turn it over 22 times you’re not going to beat anybody, I don’t care who you’re playing,” Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle said. “Tip our hat to our guys. They competed their tails off. They really did, to have a four-point lead the second half and play that badly on offense.

“It says something about our grit and toughness, but we’re just not playing very smart.”

KJ Simpson scored 17 points and Tristan da Silva added 13 but the duo also combined for 13 turnovers — seven from da Silva and six from Simpson.

Sophomore center Lawson Lovering had the best game of his college career, recording his first career double-double with career highs of 13 points and 14 rebounds.

“Lawson Lovering really grew up before our eyes,” Boyle said. “He had a terrific game.”

–Field Level Media