And with that, let us finally put to bed the idea that Mick Cronin had lost the team and could not coach.
The UCLA Bruins had every opportunity to lose this game. They were on the road after what felt like a breakthrough win over Washington on Sunday. Arizona State was up to their usual home shenanigans of shooting absolutely ridiculous shots and having them go in. The Bruins were scoring but not at a rate that would win them the game, especially with the turnover differential in the first half.
And yet the Bruins are leaving Tempe with a two point victory, defeating the Sun Devils 68-66.
The main story of this game is going to be discipline and composure. That is to say: Mick Cronin’s young team showed veteran poise in the second half while Bobby Hurley’s squad was constantly trying to fight everyone in sight. If you had been dropped into this season having not seen a single moment that led to this moment, the end result and how we got there would not have been shocking. That it occurred this year with this particular squad feels like a minor miracle.
Or, again, a reminder that Mick Cronin is, in fact, a good coach.
The Bruins are showing an improved shooting stroke, emblematic of a young team adjusting to a higher level of competition. Brandon Williams, the young freshman who was not believed to be a major contributor this season, put in 13 points on 5-6 shooting, including 1-2 from deep. Lazar Stefanovic has had his role simplified on offense and responded in kind with 18 points, doing a good portion of his damage from the free throw line but going 3-7 from distance in the process. UCLA as a team shot 36.8% from deep in this game, which is a solid improvement on the season, and when they can impose their will in the paint, that’s a recipe for success.
The UCLA defense also continues its improvement, holding Arizona State to 42.6% from the field, impressive especially considering the Sun Devils were hitting their usual low-percentage shots. Arizona State shot almost 10% above their season average from three, and yet I don’t blame the UCLA defense for that. Again, it helps to have the absolute defensive force that is Aden Bona able to play almost 30 minutes, as he makes things almost impossible for opposing offenses looking for points near the basket. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Bona led the team in almost every advanced statistical category despite only scoring nine points.
Did the Bruins play a perfect game? No, but the fact that they won despite not playing their best game is huge and a sign that this team can still do a good amount of growing this year. Here’s to moving forward.
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Go bruins! Arizona is going to be tough, but if we play like we have been playing recently, we should be able to give them a game.
Personally, I have a lot of faith in this team and Cronin. Given the fact that (I’m pretty sure) it is the most inexperienced team in the final year of the PAC 12, as the season goes on the raw talent we all know is there will continue to improve. There’s going to be more stinkers like the game against Spewta sure, but overall I’m predicting a winning PAC 12 record and a win or two in the PAC 12 tournament (if there is a tournament this year).
I've only been observing, I never paid for this membership. Maybe the rules changed, I believed you weren't able to comment or see all the articles if you didn't pay something.
I appreciate G Bruin, Dimitri, & other contributors and the fans comments as well. SbNation site has been taken off life support. The rule that led to this place being born was idiotic, I work in an industry that is being taken over by do gooder's who are actually harming that industry. I don't want to be an employee! I don't want a schedule! If I had been made an employee, I'd have been subject to Orwellian mandates that would have led to me quitting! Maybe I'd have been entitled to some retro pay like many others are now getting.
On to the real subject matter. Could Mick have recrited better for this transition year? Yes, hindsight, is always 2020!
But some may transfer, hopefully the guys who came here to be coached won't bail, some who don't fulfill CMC's his basic asks and demands, see ya! But Burke, Vide, Fibleul, Mara, S Mack (Jules Bernard's brother from another mother) and *Brandon Williams will stay and benefit from being coached to give effort on the defensive end. As well as all parts of playing fundamentally sound team basketball.
Williams might be our a JJJ of this team.
He stepped up, with some increased playing time. Hasn't been highly consistent but he's shown heart and what Mick said in his post game conference. Something about recruiting him for that instead of his skills.
I've had I think 2 or 3 comments before this one. If he stays all 4 years he could be an NBA member, like JJJ, and other Alford recruits that probably would not have had the opportunity to be considered for the next level. He did not improve or coach up those young men!
Mick whether you like him or not is a guy who gets the best from his players, the old getting the team as a whole to play beyond their combined skill sets as individuals to play a team game. To beat an Alford team who has a more talented but "uncoached" or a team that has 3-5 ego driven players who may develop at the next level. But with no thanks to Alford.
Bruinbaskets, like another SB nation contributor/commentor seemed to have something against Cronin. Bruinnette88 seemed to not like the hire either. My handle was NYSDiehardbruinfan from years ago on Sb nation. She seemed to have received enough pushback from commentary that she stopped posting comments. I'm sure that final 4 run sealed that situation.
My point is we can easily be critics, easiest job in the world! But to point out things, flaws, would've, could've, should've is easy in hindsight. But they are improving, less turnovers, 11 tonight to ASU's 6. Effort, overall, to get better fundamentally. Is where I see the slow but hopefully steady improvement. I'm not a fan of screaming coaches. I felt sorry for JJJ who I'm sure never made the decision to be offended by Cronin's militant demeanor during losses or stretches of unforced turnovers and inconsistent play that led to comebacks or losses. He I'm sure is grateful for how he was coached, praised and mentored under Cronin. I like Mick, but I'm not privy to practices or halftime speeches so I'm basing that on post-game observations and other interviews. He's got a decent comical approach, self depricating* at times. He's usually kind of a jerk after losses to some dumb questions or even valid one's! But overall I'm very happy with his track record so far.
I'm not an expert on the NIL or other new stats things, or things like how salary caps, etc. work in this day and age of different sports. But I think I have an eye to spot improvement and overall feel for teams during seasons.
I'm not saying peope who state Cronin isn't much of an offensive guru, or that his style isn't a showtime, uptempo, pack fans into Pauley, are 100% wrong. But i do disagree that he'll soon be gone, or should be gone.
Watson didn't get a lot of playing time for such a highly ranked recruit. But on that team, he didn't need to, Bailey seemed to improve and be given more of a greenlight to takeover after injuries.
Could he have made better decisions on playing time and other decisions over his tenure? Sure, but I like knowing that as far as this team is concerned, we have a very low skilled roster, inexperience, not any real scorers other than S "Jules" Mack. I really like Andrew's game, he's no Tyger, but his shots seem to be right there but not going in. Stefanovic has not been the rock of consistency that we hoped, but is showing signs of possibly being that by the end of this tough season.
I'd give Cronin the benefit of the doubt that some are not. I did not see tonight's game. Rarely do I miss one. "SteamEast"
*hint & and YouTube are alternatives to a sports bar or simply listening on radio if you're a local. I have Pac 12 network on Fubu but the channel doesn't make since to me, no live games! Only weird programs!
Parity now more than ever is obviously a tough hurdle, to be a year in year out top 25, lock for the tournament. Certain coaches get a little help year after year. I see Mich St teams getting in because of Izzo, or other hall of fame coaches. I think Micks rep is growing. If he can get this team back to being competitive every game, regardless of outcome, but remember he gets that $ to win games, deep runs in the tournament and hopefully Chips! Not for filling Pauley, with the weather, celebrities who don't attend all games, and other factors related to administration not catering to the most important people, the students who should have very reasonable pricing and access to the home games.
It sucks that schools like Minnesota Gophers, or the Dayton Flyers or any other middle of the pack teams have a huge home court advantages because of the student body and other loyal fans who show up, inclement weather and all.
But we know we have special or different circumstances.
I probably said way too much to get my points expressed. For anyone who resd all of this post, incoherent rant, thanks.
PS I don't think Cronin has set UCLA basketball back, but his work this year and next will hopefully be big factors moving forward. Big 10 traveling, and competition will be tough, but remember Louisville's Denny Crumb used to schedule tough early season opponents to help the team later in the season. It helped win a chip over a young Bruin team, Rocket Rod, David Greenwood, and Coach Brown like Cronin's 1st team came close to getting us a banner!
PS2 How were we competitive in early games against better teams? Mick Cronin is the only answer I have!
Gonzaga, Maryland, Ohio St., Marquette, Villanova. You don't play competitive games against more experienced teams and be lucky in all those games. That's preparation, effort and coaching!
5 losses that we could have won, but in hindsight, losses that gave us experience against teams with a more talented experienced rosters. Failure teaches or are opportunities to learn your about deficiencies, and be better prepared next opportunity. Adversity is good, everything in life is an opportunity to learn. Teaching moments are occurring all the time, most of us never look at it that way.
Instead of saying why is this happening? Say what is this trying to teach me?
GO BRUINS! SORRY ABOUT THIS RIDICULOUSLY LONG , not well structured post. 4:35 am in upstate Nanny. NY
I'm glad I saw baskets posts. I'm happy in this new censorship age his posts weren't deleted. But we should be nicer to everyone as a general rule. In a world where you can be anything, being nice or respectful is always an option. If you can't find nice people, be one and lead by example!
I wasn't able to join the live thread last night because it said it was for paid subscribers only, but it was a nice win, and a great comeback! Go Bruins!!
Players lacking aptitude? The road victory against ASU is a good sign that the Bruins are in the process of learning how to win. Coach Cronin not a great coach? He's won conference coach of the year awards at all 3 schools he's been at (Murray State, Cincinnati, and twice at UCLA), as well being named a Naismith Coach of the Year Award semi-finalist last season. Defense, deflections, rebounding, effort, and having one or more reliable "go-to" guys during offensive possessions seem to be his unchanging priorities. But those are the reasons that enable his teams to be so gritty and resilient. Hope they'll compete well against the Mildcats. Go Bruins!
Such a marked improvement from the Cal game a few short weeks ago - in the first half, we were playing good basketball making the right decisions for the most part even though the shots weren't falling... Then, Bona took over down low, shots began falling when the ball was kicked out, Mack took guys on with aggressive control, and, most importantly, the Bruins were intense but kept their poise in a road environment while Angry Bobby went nuts and his team followed his lead to collect well-deserved Ts that helped fuel our 15-0 run. Which, yes, shows good coaching! As does finishing in a close game especially after so many close losses - not only do we not win this game earlier, it seems to me we don't even make that run without the "lost 10 days" of Stanford, Cal, and Utah and the choice to fight and that followed. Best and most fun game of the season (so far)
One more thing to echo an earlier game summary though - fortunate to be there, first time at ASU, and have to say, the game presentation at ASU - especially the emphasis on letting the band provide the vast majority of the soundtrack of the evening rather than piped in PA music - created a much better college atmosphere than can be typical at Pauley - let's the game breathe... Just my opinion.
Go BRUINS - on to McKale!
I wasn’t able to comment on the game thread too, but before the game, I was gonna comment “oh sh**, it’s Tony Padilla” and after the game I became “hell yeah, Tony Padilla!”
But yea impressed with the poise our young team showed especially when the team of older upperclassmen in ASU collectively lost their cool in the second half. Mick talked about making a strategic change to have Mack drive more after ASU started guarding the 3 more tightly since UCLA was dropping them at a higher than average rate last night. So great job showing confidence in the freshman and Mack delivered, showing great control of his body and his emotions as the game went on. Shoutout to Bona for career high 7 blocks, Lazar who has been maligned all season long (not at all unfairly) but came through as the teams leading scorer, and Berke for continuing to show offensive improvement!
Personally I do think ucla has it in them to win the conference tourney. Every team looks beatable and ucla has some great improvement the last two games. Progress won’t be linear - beating AZ at McKale is always tough- but the trend is good. That loss to Utah was much needed to spark the Bruins
Perhaps Mick stopped abusing his team and coached them? Or did the team start listening? Several players have picked up their play.
To my Bruin Fam, and especially to GBruin, Jim, Terry, BruinMom, Clio, Sea, Fruithi, Waiting4ever, UCLA4Ever, Chenalax, Army, and of course the legendary War Planner...
I am writing from a slightly different corner of the world... This past week has been one of the toughest. Some of you know that I am the caregiver for my elderly mom who has dementia and my loving son (as a single mom)... My mom recently became ill - some sort of upper respiratory infection and I thought I might lose her 😢 💔
Thank God I had medicine I had stored away just in case something like this happened. I also had a nebulizer to help her breathing, and a protocol to follow...
Last evening with the regulars who always hang together in the Game Thread was the first time I felt she was going to make it as she had turned the corner and was resting and breathing with greater ease...
My mom was also a huge Bruin fan, although she now doesn't remember all the many seasons we went to games together - she was always there by my side cheering for UCLA. We went to the Final 4 in 1995 and sat 20 rows up, center court, to witness one of the greatest moments in UCLA basketball history. My mom, will always be my forever Bruin sidekick 💙💛
Winning the game last eve offered me a window of light in the darkness, as I am struggling with layers of emotional and physical exhaustion from 24/7 care.
So thank you Team - both the players and my dear friends here at TMB. You mean the world to me and this community is for me, such a wonderful place to belong.
God Bless you all and thank you 💙💛💙💛
One of the best ways to shut down a trash talker is to win… I guess that’s what the last two games were.
I actually tuned in to last nights game. The first half was pretty abysmal offensively and it looked like it would be more of the same. I would say I’m disappointed in how the bruins start games this year as a whole. The offensive game plan was abysmal is the first half in what looked like ucla trying to force an inside out game which hasn’t worked earlier in the year and wasn’t working in the first half at all. The ball gets passed to the corner and passed into the post, takes about 10-15 seconds to set this up. If it doesn’t get stolen by the other team, the center takes a dribble or two and then gets double teamed. At this point they pick up the ball and hold it for a few seconds and look to pass it right where it came from. If it doesn’t get stolen here, it goes right back out to the 3 and there is now 5-10 seconds left to try and create a shot, but everyone is just standing on the perimeter with no cuts or movement. It’s really quite ugly to watch and needs to not be a part of this team’s game planning. This is the cronin iso offense that I loathe. It takes a good center or a 4 with really quick and good footwork for this to work. UCLA doesn’t have one of these type of centers at the moment so why continue to force it? This is the type of basketball that I cannot stand to watch. It’s slow, run down the shot clock, and hope for a miracle that is made by one on one heroics.
In the second half ucla seemed to completely get rid of this and started a weave and some picks out at the top of the key instead of just running to your spot and standing there. These movements and picks at the top of the key allowed Mack to move and then pass to others or go in for a layup. It didn’t take up the entire first half of the shot clock and open shots were getting put up much earlier in the shot clock. It’s what started the initial comeback up until the Hurley breakdown.
I definitely think mick yells a lot, but Hurley makes cronin look tame. Thoroughly enjoy watching Hurley self deprecate on the sideline with no discipline of his players in the slightest. Complete opposite end of the spectrum it would seem.
The technicals in this game were well deserved, but overall, ucla got a lot of calls their way in this game for a change. Bona did well with his blocks, but there were several fairly blatant fouls that could have been called and the refs did not. There was a fast break by asu where bona got all hand and forced the dunk to go off the back board. That was a big changing point in the game and it should have been a foul on bona. Again, sometimes the calls go your way, but this game leaned in the bruins favor. This happened a few times and I would not be a happy asu fan after the way the game went… for multiple reasons obviously.
The last thing to point out is that Mara for the second time did not play. I fully support this decision as a ucla fan that thinks throw away seasons are bad for the program. Mara is no where close to college ready at this point and doesn’t deserve any more minutes than the walk ins at this point. I’m curious what this means for his future, but I find it hard to believe Mara or cronin are happy with how the season has gone. From many discussing a lottery pick to zero play time. He certainly has a lot of work to do, but his inability to play 1-1 defense at this point on a defense first team, doesn’t seem like it is helping.
CMC, "We’ll address the roster at the end of the season..."
What does that mean?
Congrats to the Lady Bruins for getting their road victory against #3 Colorado. Go Bruins!
I was less nervous when I thought we had no chance.