“Effort is a given,” Bill Walton said during the broadcast of the UCLA Bruins’ horrid loss to the Cal State Fullerton Titans. He had a great point. Yes, this team goes all out, but this is not acceptable. Effort is there, but we should expect more. There is no world in which any UCLA team should lose to a Cal State Fullerton team this bad.
Yet UCLA lost 77-74 to a 3-10 Fullerton team. Sorry, 4-10 now. UCLA let Fullerton shoot 58% from three. Over double their season percentage of 27% from three. Fullerton shot 9 of 13 from three in the second half and led by as many as 14. It is now obvious that the Washington Generals or any five guys playing at the Y right now could get an open three look against UCLA. Every time the Bruins collapse on a drive and they kick it out UCLA’s opponents can nail a three. A few of Fullerton’s two-point shots were tough, I can think of only one three-point attempt that was difficult and they missed it.
This is a bad UCLA team that has trouble scoring and cannot defend the three against anyone.
UCLA started perfect with a press and a 7-2 lead. Then, came some ugly offense with a missed layup by Jaime Jaquez Jr., bad interior pass, and an ugly turnaround jumper by Chris Smith and it was 9-7 at the under 16 timeout.
Shareef O’Neal was first off the bench. Prince Ali was benched and came in relatively late. Unfortunately, Singleton did not play and UCLA’s offense sputtered and the defense stunk. The Titans were tied up at 16 at the under 12 timeout after an offensive foul by Alex Olesinski.
Prince Ali was the backup point. Later, he made an ugly entry pass that just missed...by about 10 feet. If it was not for Jaime, the Bruins would have been losing to the Titans. UCLA even resorted to a zone on defense. Jalen Hill struggled when he was doubled teamed. Smith also made some ugly turnovers.
Before the under 4, Singleton airballed a three and Jules Bernard got a charge. Fortunately, Cronin did not pull either of them right away, but UCLA’s defense still sucked. Jake Kyman came in and hit a three. He was the eleventh player in the first half. But UCLA was still down 27-25 with 2:41 left in the half.
It is now obvious UCLA’s three-point defense is unimaginable bad. Cal State Fullerton, an awful three-point shooting team with a season average of just 27%, was 5 of 11 and tied at half because of that. The other theme of strange rotations continued with Jaime sitting out the end of the last seven minutes.
On defense, UCLA started the second half the same way: giving up threes. On offense, though, things look a little better. Interestingly, Cronin inserted Jules Bernard quickly for Cody Riley for my dream lineup early in the second half with Bernard joining Hill, Smith, Jaquez and Tyger Campbell. Then, Ali came in and Jaquez did his best Cody Riley impersonation missing a couple layups and Fullerton went on a 13-1 run. UCLA was losing 53-45 with 13:12 left.
Fullerton went up by ten and UCLA continued with the bizarre lineups. UCLA went small and Fullerton increased their lead to 14, 65-41. I honestly have no idea what the heck Cronin was trying to do. We had four guards and Hill in the game.
We went with Smith and Riley and things got better, UCLA went on a 8-0 run before Jaquez got hurt. The run continued as UCLA scored nine more to take a three point lead stretching the Bruin run to 17-0 before Fullerton answered. The game was tied at the under 4 timeout.
But Fullerton came back after the run. By how else? Yup, three-pointers. UCLA came back from five down to close within one with 46 seconds to go and Fullerton made a tough tear drop to go up by three.
Incredibly UCLA ran a play for Jake Kyman. He got a good look but missed. Fullerton gave UCLA another chance when they bricked a free throw but Ali got trapped and turned it over.
This is bad. This is a team that will struggle to win a game in the Pac-12 this season.
1. Tyger Campbell had a nice game. He hit threes (3-7), drew fouls (5-6), and had nine assists. It was the Campbell of the first two games.
2. Does Cronin pull players’ names out of a hat to decide who he plays? Before the game, I wondered if Kyman is going to play. During the game, he gets the chance at the game tying three. Overall, Cronin played 11 guys. On the slightly positive side, Prince Ali only played 10 minutes. He was MINUS 17 in those ten minutes. Please bench him, deep down the bench. Then, there is Shareef O’Neal. He was first off the bench but then never played again. What the heck is going on? Did his name not come out of the hat?
3. This is not rocket science. The mid-range jumper is a dying art. Yet, the Bruins double all these guys around the free throw line. They pass out for an open three. Yes, Fullerton shot better than expected, but every three but one to my count was a good open shot. Cronin needs to improve the three-point defense. That is 100% on him.
Go Bruins! Wake Up, Cronin!