At a time when he could have used momentum, UCLA got a little deeper, more athletic and more dynamic on offense.
Amari Bailey is back.
The freshman quarterback, who has missed the last seven games with left leg discomfort, is ready to return Thursday against USC at the Galen Center, coach Mick Cronin said Wednesday.
The fifth-place Bruins went 6-1 in Bayley’s absence despite extended offensive lulls in several games. Bailey could make up for some shortcomings with his superb passing and speed. His ability to get to the basket can draw in several defenders, giving him the opportunity to find open teammates if he can’t find a shot to his liking.
After averaging 9.5 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 36.4% from threes, Bailey was first injured last month when Kentucky’s Oscar Chibwe stepped on his foot. Bailey played in the next game against UC Davis four days later before deteriorating his foot condition and missing the following month.
Should he return to the starting XI, Bailey’s return would also allow senior quarterback David Singleton to resume his role as the sixth man, while bolstering a bench that had lost heavily with Singleton’s entry. The UCLA bench trailed their peers 10–4 against Arizona, 12–7 against Arizona State, 16–0 against Colorado, and 22–5 in the first meeting against USC.
Missing all five shots, Singleton was part of a team-wide slump that doomed UCLA (17-3 overall, 8-1 Pac-12) during last weekend’s 58-52 loss to Arizona. The Bruins hit 31.3% on 4 of 20 3-pointers (20%).
What is the key to better shooting?
“It’s passing,” Cronin said earlier this week. “I always tell you guys that passing is the key to a good offense. Add good screening too.”
UCLA, one of the top 25 teams in the country by almost every objective measure, was not on the ballot for Associated Press voter David Thompson – no, not which David Thompson – this week. Nothing personal, Thompson said. “I didn’t plan to lose sight of UCLA,” Thompson, writing for the Fayetteville Observer, told The Times. “I made a human error and forgot to include the Bruins in my poll.”