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UCLA beats Arizona in Senior Night sendoff, but Jaylen Clark leaves with injury

Victory was secured, this leg of the long journey completed, Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. made eye contact in the last minute of their final home game together on Saturday night.

As the frenzied roar of the sold-out crowd at Pauley Pavilion engulfed them, the UCLA seniors touched each other’s foreheads in recognition of all they had meant to this team and to each other.

Said Campbell: “It’s a crazy feeling that I feel like only me and Jaime can really experience. It’s my brother here and to go with him for four years, it’s been great.

Said Jaquez: “For me, I think it was, ‘We’ve done it, but at the same time, we’re not done yet.'”

Bring on the bigger challenges as these guys showed they could easily handle any obstacle the Pac-12 put their way. Even eighth-seeded Arizona was no match on a night Campbell, Jaquez and fellow senior David Singleton provided a happy sendoff during the fourth-seeded Bruins’ 82-73 win.

Singleton buried one three-pointer after another. Campbell was constantly given the role of tough jumpers, as if the basketball gods were rewarding him for all those years of toil. Jaquez made a hanging float on which he was fouled, prompting fans to shout “MVP!”

It could be a totally feel-good finale on a night when the Bruins extended their winning streak to 10 games and finished undefeated at home for the first time since the 2006-07 season, save for one major setback.

Junior guard Jaylen Clark, the Bruins’ top defenseman, left the game with what appeared to be a serious injury, as he returned to the bench on crutches. UCLA coach Mick Cronin said Clark would undergo an MRI on Sunday to determine the extent of his injury.

Clark’s departure two minutes into the second half left those seniors to finish it off. Boy, did they ever do that.

Singleton scored 17 points while making five of nine three-pointers. Campbell scored 21 points and four assists while making 11 of 12 free throws in what may or may not have been his final home game as a Bruin as he remains eligible for one more season. And in a performance that might have garnered the Pac-12 player of the year award, Jaquez recorded 22 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals before departing to deafening cheers with 32 seconds left.

Bruins guard Jaylen Clark is excited after making a three-pointer in the first half. Clark, UCLA’s top defenseman, left the game in the second half with what appeared to be a serious injury.

(Ringo H. W. Chiu / Associated Press)

“We were on a mission to put UCLA back on top, bring UCLA basketball where it needs to be and where it should be and where it belongs,” Jaquez said while wearing a Pac-12 champion t-shirt and a custom made blue hat made by a fan to thank the seniors. “Two guys from SoCal, I mean we are living a dream right now to be Pac-12 champions, win like we did on our home field. It’s literally like a storybook to me.”

Along the way, the Bruins (27-4, 18-2 Pac-12) extended the nation’s longest active winning streak to 25 games as they avenged a loss to the Wildcats (25-6, 14-6) in late January. Arizona Azuolas TubelisJaquez’ leading challenger for Pac-12 Player of the Year, finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds for a team that finished four games back in the conference standings.

David Singleton of the Bruins goes for a shot against Kylan Boswell of the Wildcats.

David Singleton of the Bruins, who scored 17 points, goes for a shot against Kylan Boswell of the Wildcats. UCLA finished undefeated at home for the first time since the 2006–07 season.

(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

There was a surprise to the tip when the Bruins unveiled an all-senior starting line-up that included sixth man Singleton, reserve big man Kenneth Nwuba and walk-on guard Russell Stong IV alongside regulars Jaquez and Campbell. Stong made the first start of his career and needed some help from Campbell to figure out where to line up for the opening tip.

But Stong immediately generated cheers as he grabbed the first rebound and raised both arms as he was left on the wing on his team’s first possession.

“He should have hit a three to start the game,” Cronin said. “Jaime would set the fade for him; I didn’t think they would guard him.”

The pregame senior tribute included only smiles, no tears. Each player was given a framed jersey which he hoisted triumphantly into the air. Jaquez’s father wrapped Cronin in a bear hug and lifted him into the air.

“It’s not hard,” Cronin burst out, kissing the older Jaquez on the cheek.

This victory can have a lasting impact.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi elevated the Bruins to a No. 1 seed in the West for the NCAA Tournament given Saturday’s results.

It was a goodbye and, the Bruins hoped, a prelude to something more meaningful.