UCLA hosts Long Beach State with Jaylen Clark as a not-so-secret weapon

It’s official. When it comes to UCLA’s defense, there’s one name that comes to mind: Jaylen Clark.

Clark came from Etiwanda High in Rancho Cucamonga, where playing defense is a prerequisite for playing time under longtime coach Dave Kleckner. So when Clark arrived in Westwood, his defensive ability and toughness weren’t secrets. UCLA coach Mick Cronin alluded to it a year ago after the Bruins took down Villanova.

“Until you see it in person, it’s hard to explain it to players …,” Cronin said of toughness last November. “But Jaylen, he has some Bearcat in him.”

The Bearcat reference is a nod to Cincinnati, where Cronin was an assistant for seven seasons and head coach for six, and its reputation as a tough-nosed opponent. Just one game into his junior season, Clark has emerged as a defensive weapon. The 6-foot-5 guard scored 17 points on 7-of-7 shooting and had seven steals in the eighth-ranked Bruins’ 76-50 win over Sacramento State on Monday night. He also had 16 deflections, according to Cronin.

“When I was the head coach at Riverside, I watched Jaylen a lot at Etiwanda [High] and have seen him improve,” Sac State coach David Patrick said. “I told the guys he knows who he is – he’s an NBA defender and owns it.”

Clark’s stat line Monday night was historical, according to StatsPerform.

“Jaylen Clark is the only NBA, WNBA or Division I men’s or women’s player in the last 20 years to have 15+ points, 7+ rebounds, 7+ steals (and) 100% shooting in one game,” the account tweeted.

The UCLA single-game record for steals is 11 by Tyus Edney.

Clark was asked about the stat Wednesday.

“That’s cool, I didn’t know,” he said. “It’s just one game. I’m looking on to the future now, we gotta get ready for Long Beach State. Historically, they’ve given us good games, especially last year.”

That they did.

UCLA, then ranked second in the nation, beat Long Beach State 100-79 last year, a score that indicates an easy victory for the Bruins. But UCLA led by only three at the half and there were issues throughout the game that had fans concerned and Cronin angry. LBSU’s Joel Murray and Colin Slater combined for 57 points. Slater was 5-of-6 shooting from the 3-point line.

It didn’t make UCLA’s perimeter defense look good.

“We’re looking to defeat (Long Beach) with ease if we can,” Clark said.

Slater has moved on after his senior season at Long Beach State, but Murray is still around. The senior point guard helped LBSU beat California Baptist 79-64 on Monday. Murray had 12 points, five rebounds and four assists to lead a team that had nine players score five points or more.

Lassina Traore, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, debuted with 13 points and 12 rebounds in The Beach’s win.


UCLA freshman center Adem Bona is scheduled to make his debut Friday night after being held out of Monday’s game “in accordance with the NCAA” regarding his amateur status.

Cronin acknowledged it was a one-game suspension from the NCAA but wouldn’t give specifics on why.

“Call the NCAA,” he said after Monday’s game.

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Redshirt freshman guard Will McClendon has yet to be cleared from last year’s torn ACL. Cronin is hopeful McClendon will be cleared before the new year.

“We’re hoping for mid-December, but it’s all speculation at this point,” Cronin said.

Long Beach State (1-0) at No. 8 UCLA (1-0)

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Pauley Pavilion

TV/radio: Pac-12 Networks/570 AM

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