Coach Cronin is a fighter. The culture he is building now will likely help make a potentially great team in the future once the UCLA Bruins have an offense. This is a team that consistently plays hard and never gives up. It will serve them well in the future.
He is also the most honest coach I can remember in his postgame press conferences. He was mad at the referees for their performance and, while those who watched the game might think it is over one incident, it was not. It was about their lack of consistency. Coach Cronin said:
But that said, in defense of my players, I thought that the officials took the first half off. I mean, you watch the game, and North Carolina won, so don’t misconstrue what I am saying. The game was officiated two separate, two separate halves. All you got to do is look at the fouls per half. We had 20 fouls in the second half. North Carolina had 13. First half, six and seven. In the first half, we’re trying to drive the ball and guys are being fouled the entire time. We got fouled on four or five shots. We got fouled on multiple drives.
Cronin has a good point, but he better be ready for the SPTRs. If yesterday’s crew was one of those Pac-12 crews, we would have received all those calls in the first half if we were at home. On the road, beware.
Cronin’s point is very valid though. The referees were not consistent. To Coach Cronin, it was not just this game. Remember, Jalen Hill was called for a flagrant one elbow earlier this year. Then, when Hill was the recipient of a elbow to the face, Hill got called?!? The Daily Bruin’s Sam Connon writes:
Cronin had the Bruins running the full-court press and the Tar Heels got called for an offensive foul when redshirt sophomore forward Jalen Hill caught an elbow to the face. When the referees went to review the play for a possible flagrant foul on guard Jeremiah Francis, they switched the call and suddenly it was Hill who got tagged with a defensive foul.
When the refs explained the call to Cronin on the UCLA bench, he spiked his clipboard and got called for a technical foul as his players swarmed around their coach to hold him back.
Coach Cronin fights for his players. And his players fight hard for him. After the ugly first half when UCLA was more likely to turn the ball over than score, UCLA pressed and went on a 12-0 run to start the second half. Ben Bolch writes over at the LA Times:
UCLA nearly came all the way back from the resulting 13-point halftime deficit thanks to some aggressive backcourt traps, shaving its deficit to one point, before succumbing to more turnovers.
The Bruins’ carelessness stirred the Tar Heels’ slumbering offense and negated the spirited rally sparked by the defensive pressure.
“The problem is once we stop scoring,” said Cronin, whose Bruins (7-5) finished with a season-high 22 turnovers on the way to their second consecutive defeat. “You can’t press if you don’t score.” . . .
Then came another flurry of UCLA turnovers as the Bruins reverted to their sloppy ways from the first half. Tyger Campbell, David Singleton and Chris Smith each committed a turnover to help North Carolina score the next four points.
While I covered the turnover issue in my postgame article, let me briefly touch on the offensive woes from an AP story.
UCLA shot 4 of 21 from the 3-point arc and had 23 turnovers that led to 24 points for North Carolina.
The Bruins went on a turnover spree in the first half, coughing it up 14 times, many on weak passes, traveling calls or dribbling off their legs.
Yes, the offense is frustrating but personally I would rather watch this team then the bad teams of Steve Alford, Ben Howland, and Steve Lavin. All those coaches’ bad teams gave up. This team does not. The offense was an obvious issue as I wrote in the season previews, the question was always were is the offense going to come from. That said we now have the excuses and explanations. The Orange County Register’s Mark Whicker discusses that:
None of this is a revelation, thanks to three questionable decisions.
Kris Wilkes, Moses Brown and Jaylen Hands all left early for the NBA draft. Only Wilkes and Hands were indeed drafted. Wilkes is with the Knicks but recuperating from an undisclosed illness. Brown is on a two-way contract, playing for either the Portland TrailBlazers or the Texas Legends. Hands is in the G-League with the Long Island Nets.
No one should be telling young men to shun the money. But no one should have told these three young men, in particular, to take adolescent games into grown-man workplaces.
I don’t care about the past. Ben Bolch does have a story that is more important than the game. It was that UCLA has one of the top players in the country coming next year and he is a point guard. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Bolch’s story discusses how Daishen Nix views the Bruins’ current situation:
UCLA’s offense was a mess. The point guard hesitated to take open shots, the big men couldn’t score on collapsing defenders and seemingly everyone on the roster committed turnovers.
Watching it all inside T-Mobile Arena was a player who could have solved many of the problems.
Daishen Nix surveyed his future teammates from two rows behind the Bruins’ bench Saturday during their 74-64 loss to North Carolina as part of the CBS Sports Classic and felt conflicted. . . .
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Nix is the kind of player who could spark a dramatic turnaround for a team that appears destined to miss the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season. The senior at Las Vegas Trinity International School is a passing wizard considered by some to be the nation’s top prep player at his position.
That is a story worth reading. Enjoy the effort this season as the Bruins build toward next year and an offense.