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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: A Perfect Defensive Half and a Letdown After

Cronin breaks down the last two plays in his post game presser.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington
Chris Smith had a good game but could not get the last shot off.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

If only the UCLA Bruins had scored as many points as it did in this year’s football game against Washington State, it could have won in regulation. Instead, regulation ended tied at 65 before the Bruins got blown out in overtime, 14-6. Before we get to the end of the game, let’s start off with the good from the Daily Bruin’s Jack Perez:

Washington State had very few answers for the UCLA defense in the first half, as a 1-of-16 shooting stretch put the Cougars in a hole during the final 10 minutes of the half. The Bruins held the hosts to just 5-of-24 shooting from the field and 2-of-14 from inside the arc in the first period.

Perez’s story from the first half also has an important detail that many may have missed. This was a game where going deep in the bench made more sense as the Pac-12 referees were calling a lot of fouls. It is tough to win on the road as some Pac-12 crews favor the home team. Yesterday’s game was a good example. In the first half, Jalen Hill had three fouls in nine minutes, Jaime Jaquez Jr. had two in the first four minutes of the half as did Chris Smith. Tyger Campbell and Shareef O’Neal also had two fouls. Perez wrote for the halftime story:

With eight fouls in the first 10 minutes, coach Mick Cronin was forced to rotate his guys early and often. Five Bruins ended the half with at least two fouls, and redshirt sophomore forward Jalen Hill committed three in nine minutes of action.

The forced rotations allowed 11 Bruins to play at least five minutes in the half.

In the second half, the defense let down. Let’s start with the LA Times’ Ben Bolch on the last play of the second half on defense that let the Washington State Cougars tie the game:

Mick Cronin made one point above all others in the huddle as UCLA set its defense for the stop it needed in the final seconds to beat Washington State.

Don’t help off the corner three-point line. If the Cougars get a layup, that’s fine, just inbound the ball and make free throws. Whatever you do, don’t give up an open shot from long range that could tie the score.

That’s exactly what happened Saturday afternoon at Beasley Coliseum.

First, Coach Cronin mentions Prince Ali’s mistake:

So, I mean you could point to the egregious breakdown at the end where Prince [Ali] didn’t stop the ball. We were supposed to be switching everything. What happens, kids go back to their natural reaction, which is help, even though the whole timeout was ‘don’t help.’ If they get a layup, we don’t care. We’ll get it in and make free throws. But we obviously didn’t execute that.

While Ali got beat, Bernard left his man to help. Cronin said he explicitly told his players not to help on that last defensive possession:

Yeah, Jules helped. But the ball should’ve been stopped. Prince didn’t stop the ball. But we had covered if that happens – and we don’t want that to happen – but if it happens, don’t give up an and-one on a soft foul. Don’t help off the corner three, so we covered it.

Cronin made clear it was not one play that caused the breakdown but the bad second half defense:

But that [the last play] had nothing to do with [the loss]. I mean, that was a part of it. It’s a shame, because you come down to one play, but the reason we couldn’t get that stop? We’re just not there yet, Ben. We’re not there yet. In the second half, forget the overtime, they’re 15 for 27. Defense is just hard.

Cronin’s criticism was not limited to defense. He also broke down the mistakes on the last offensive play.

It’s an iso for Chris [Smith]. He never attacked. Now, if you watch that game, you’d probably give him the ball. I talked to him about ‘Hey buddy, we’ve got to make sure we get a shot off now.’ We’ve got to go at 10[seconds]. It’s 14 [seconds], we’re going to go at 10. That way we’ve got a chance to rebound it. He froze, I guess. He wanted a pick and roll, which I didn’t want, because then they would’ve just double-teamed him. The guy guarding him had four fouls. I wanted him to attack the guy.

Bolch writes that it did not go as planned:

Those plans also went awry. The Cougars trapped Smith with 2.9 seconds left and poked the ball away, forcing UCLA’s Jake Kyman to attempt a halfcourt heave that was well off the mark.

Cronin really criticized most of the team. Not only did he name Prince Ali, Jules Bernard and Chris Smith, but also criticized a play by Jalen Hill:

There’s a play where we score, we are running and Jalen Hill’s jogging back, they just throw it over his head and lay it in. There’s the game. And that’s been a problem for him since I got here. That was a problem for him in May workouts.

I can only show the headline and first sentence, but this was 247Sports’ take on the game in a story entitled: UCLA Collapses in Winnable WSU Game

As good as the win was at Washington on Thursday night, the loss the Bruins suffered at Washington State on Saturday night was as bad.

Personally, I think some perspective is needed. The last three games have been one of the worst losses in UCLA history, a great Pac-12 road win any year and a narrow overtime road loss. Maybe, the Daily Bruin’s Perez sums it up best:

The Bruins won one-and-a-half games before failing to end their road trip with a perfect start to conference play.

Go Bruins!!! Beat Southern Cal!