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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Beast Mode to the Tournament?!?

Can Riley and the Bruins make the Big Dance ?

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at UCLA
Cody Riley lifted the Bruins to a win over WSU for their sixth win in their last eight games.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As I wrote in the postgame, the player of the game was Cody Riley for his play in the UCLA Bruins’ 86-83 overtime win over the Washington State Cougars. UCLA Coach Mick Cronin described it like this:

Yeah, that’s the definition of beast mode. That was beast made. He just did a great job of… we worked hard with him, you know, I think he was a guy that his whole life, he scored because of his size and now he has to score with technique and fakes and balance. So, he did a great job of getting his second foot planted, which gave him strength around the rim. The way he was doing, you could see he was on a mission.

Maggie Vanoni describes it in the Orange County Register:

Cody Riley got his first shot to fall in overtime, and that gave him the determination to get more.

Riley scored 11 of his 19 points in the five-minute overtime period to lead UCLA to an 86-83 victory over Washington State on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion.

Riley made the biggest shots when the Bruins needed him most. He had five field goals in overtime, one more than he did in regulation after coming off the bench. He also had a big blocked shot.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. kept it simple. Speaking about Riley’s performance, he said:

He was a monster tonight. That’s all I have to say. He was a monster.

Jaquez’ performance was also key to the game’s outcome but was overshadowed by Riley’s overtime heroics. The Daily Bruin’s Sam Connon writes:

The Bruins ended the first half 1-of-13 from deep, but behind Jaquez’s three second-half triples, they ended the second frame 6-of-11 from 3. And while Washington State hit 11 3s in the game, the UCLA offense was able to keep pace and win in a shootout for the first time all year.

Entering Thursday, the Bruins were 0-11 when they allowed more than 70 points. Although Cronin’s defense allowed more than 80 points for the third time in its last six games, UCLA countered by scoring its most points since Dec. 1.

The latter is a key point, although Coach Cronin seemingly does not like talking about giving up 80+ points. He said:

They had 69 in regulation so… But you know you got to win the games, there’s a lot of ways you’ve got to win games.

Speaking of winning games, Ben Bolch focuses on Riley and the NCAA tournament in his article for the LA Times. He writes:

Cronin said every game had become a tournament game for his team because of its struggles earlier this season, leaving no margin for error in the Bruins’ bid to make the NCAA tournament. . . .

The Bruins made it through the nonconference portion of their schedule with bad losses (Hofstra, Cal State Fullerton) but no good wins, leaving them with considerable ground to make up in Pac-12 play.

The conventional thinking has been that a 12-6 conference record or better would be sufficient for Pac-12 teams to make the NCAA tournament, but even that mark might not be good enough for UCLA given its early stumbles.

The only sure way in for the Bruins is to win out, including the conference tournament. Win No. 1 came in memorable fashion, thanks to Riley.

I don’t think there is any way that this UCLA team can make the tournament. Of course, this year has been the most wrong I have been about games positively (predicted certain loss at Arizona) and negatively (lock win against Cal State Fullerton). I think it is unrealistic to expect, but I am very happy that there is a scenario where UCLA can make the NCAA Tournament other than winning the Pac-12 Tournament right now.

Go Bruins!