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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Coach Cronin’s Comedy

After a win, Coach Cronin cracks a few jokes and cuts back on the criticism.

NCAA Basketball: California at UCLA
UCLA has a “go to” scorer now in Chris Smith
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The three main news sources for UCLA Basketball took three different takes on UCLA’s 50 to 40 win over UC Berkeley. LA Times reporter Ben Bolch focused on the comedy of Coach Cronin:

As the second half dragged toward its merciful finish Sunday, the question became not whether UCLA would win but whether California would score again. . . .

“We had them at 37, and I was upset we gave up a three at the end,” Cronin said dryly after the Bruins gave up their fewest points in a game since holding USC to 40 in March 2012 during the Pac-12 Conference tournament. It was the fewest combined points in a UCLA victory since the Bruins defeated Washington State 50-30 in February 2006.

While the story was the defense, as I’ve been writing for a while, UCLA has a “go-to” offensive player Chris Smith. Cronin joked about it in the win:

“For us to win, Chris has got to give us some offense,” Cronin said. “Unlike the Democratic Party, we don’t have that many candidates.”

Maggie Vanoni over at the Orange County Register focused on the fact UCLA had a good second half after numerous second half let downs in Pac-12 play:

For the first time in 42 days, the crowd at Pauley Pavilion could smile and celebrate. There was cheering and praising instead of frustrated groaning in built-up disappointment.

Despite playing its best effort in sustaining a full 40-minute game, UCLA understands that while it can finally celebrate a home win, it can’t take the victory for granted as the team it defeated is not only as young as they are, but is also one struggling just as much. . . .

For the first time in three games, UCLA controlled the second half of a game. Sparked by a three-point play from Chris Smith, the Bruins went on a 14-0 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Tyger Campbell and Smith to lead 38-25 over the Golden Bears (8-10, 2-3). . . .

After giving up 41 points to Stanford in the second half of Wednesday’s game, UCLA limited Cal to 19 points in the final 20 minutes of Sunday’s game.

Jared Tay at the Daily Bruin focused on the numbers:

Coach Mick Cronin said it wasn’t rocket science – if the Bruins can hold their opponent under 70 points, they have a shot to win.

His squad did just that.

In a matchup between the two lowest-scoring offenses in the Pac-12, UCLA men’s basketball (9-9, 2-3 Pac-12) came away with the 50-40 win over California (8-10, 2-3) to bring its overall record back to .500. The Bruins’ 50 total points is tied for its lowest total for a win since 2006 – when UCLA put up 50 against Memphis in the Elite Eight. . . .

Cronin’s squad mustered 22 points in the opening half – which tied its lowest first-half scoring output of the season – but the Bruins took a one-point lead into halftime with redshirt sophomore forward/center Jalen Hill and junior guard Chris Smith combining for 16 of those points.

I’m going to close today with the last word on the other player that stood out last night. If Chris Smith is the “go-to” guy on offense, Jalen Hill is the guy UCLA needs to “play-through.” Coach Cronin said:

As long as he [Jalen Hill] can take it strong, score, get himself to the foul line – once he was able to eliminate his turnovers – this team is in desperate need of someone we can play through. Every good team, you’ve gotta have someone you can play through. They might not score, they may draw fouls, or draw a double team and pass it out. We’re trying to develop a lot of guys on this team – they played through other guys here. So, he can give us some offense, he’s gotta eliminate his turnovers.

Yesterday’s game was a nice win where we saw the defensive potential of the team, but also its offensive limitations. Most of these guys have never been “play-through” or “go-to” guys in high school, let alone at the high major level.

Go Bruins!