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#pounditSunday, June 26, 2022

Articles tagged: UCLA Basketball

Key Pac-12 player says he is returning for another season

Mick Cronin in a suit

Nov 6, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Mick Cronin reacts in the first half against the Long Beach State 49ersat Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mick Cronin’s UCLA Bruins are positioning themselves for a 1997-98 Chicago Bulls-like run.

UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. revealed on Monday that he is returning to school for his senior season. Jaquez announced his decision in a hype video.

Jaquez, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2022, is perhaps UCLA’s single most important player with his inside-outside scoring ability and his top-tier defensive play. His return to Westwood for his senior season will have him sharing campus with younger sister Gabriela, who will be competing for the UCLA women’s basketball team as a freshman next year.

Peyton Watson, a freshman for UCLA last season, declared for the NBA Draft earlier this month. Other important players like Cody Riley, Jules Bernard, and Myles Johnson were all seniors last season too (though they still have an extra year of eligiblity due to the COVID-shortened 2019-20).

But the Bruins now have the official return of Jaquez, the hopeful returns of Johnny Juzang and Tyger Campbell, and the arrival of a top-five recruiting class headlined by five-stars Amari Bailey and Adem Bona. That will have UCLA hoping for a better run than this season where they bowed out in the Sweet Sixteen and got unlucky in other ways too.

UCLA makes big commitment to coach Mick Cronin ahead of tournament opener

Mick Cronin in a suit

Mick Cronin will not have to worry about his job security ahead of this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Before UCLA’s Round of 64 game against Akron on Thursday, the school announced that they had signed Cronin, their head basketball coach, to a new contract extension. The extension is for six years, keeping Cronin in Westwood through the 2027-28 season.

Pete Thamel of ESPN adds that Cronin’s deal is expected to make him the highest-paid coach in the Pac-12 Conference and one of the top 15 highest-paid coaches in the country.

The extension is a well-deserved one for Cronin, who only recently turned 50. He was hired as UCLA’s coach in 2019, replacing the fired Steve Alford. Since then, UCLA has gone 66-29 (.695). The Bruins also made a surprise Final Four appearance last season, which was their first in over a decade.

Additionally, Cronin has been an excellent recruiter, first reeling in stars like Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. then complementing them this season with players like transfer Myles Johnson and freshman Peyton Watson.

UCLA was the No. 2-ranked team in the country to start this year and went 25-7 to finish 11th in the final AP poll and second in the Pac-12, ultimately earning a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Cronin has had his fair share of challenges this season, he has navigated them with poise and tact. Now he has earned himself another six years as UCLA’s head coach.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mick Cronin critical of refs after UCLA loss to Oregon

Mick Cronin in a suit

Mick Cronin was not happy with the officials following UCLA’s loss to Oregon on Thursday night.

The Bruins lost 68-63 against the Ducks in Eugene, Ore. Oregon went up by five points in the first half and won by that margin.

Cronin’s Bruins shot just 36.8 percent from the field in the game and 16.7 percent on threes. But it was another number that Cronin was focused on after the game.

Cronin complained about the disparity in free throws, noting that Oregon had 24 free throws compared to 14 for UCLA.

That should be the least of Cronin’s worries. He should be more concerned about the team’s poor shooting the loss. The team’s 1-4 record in their last five road games should also be a concern.

Oregon is now 18-10 while UCLA is 20-6.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mick Cronin sounds off on UCLA’s ludicrous COVID policies

Mick Cronin in a suit

UCLA head coach Mick Cronin sounded off on Tuesday about his school’s ludicrous COVID policies with an indirect jab.

UCLA is among three schools in the Pac-12 that have self-imposed harsh restrictions regarding fan attendance at athletic events. The Bruins, along with USC and Stanford, are currently limiting fan attendance at sporting events to limited family members.

Cronin has been the coach of UCLA’s men’s basketball team since 2019. He wants to know why the Los Angeles Rams could have 80,000 fans in attendance for their playoff game on Monday night, while UCLA is not allowing fans. Both teams play in the city and their game venues are located 13 miles apart.

Cronin made his point as artfully as possible, saying it’s demoralizing to the players not to have fans.

The truth is the school’s policy makes no sense. What justification is there for UCLA and USC to exclude fans when the very city in which they play is allowing sporting events of 80,000 fans? Obviously the city isn’t concerned about one sporting event being a “superspreader” and straining the healthcare system. So what explanation do USC and UCLA have for their self-imposed restrictions?

Of course, UCLA is the same school that thought it would be fine to cancel on a bowl game just hours before kickoff. None of their policies or reasoning makes sense.

Maybe Cronin raising the point will get the school to reconsider.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA coach has funny quote about his team’s bad defense

Mick Cronin

The UCLA Bruins have started out hot this season, winning each of their first three games. That streak includes a victory over then-No. 4 Villanova on November 12, but don’t expect a positive spin from head coach Mick Cronin.

UCLA has surrendered just over 71 points per game on average this year, including 79 in a victory over Long Beach State on Monday night. Following the win, Cronin shredded the defensive performance with a pretty funny line.

“This game is not gonna ease my pain of horrendous defense, but you’ve got to give those guys credit for scoring,” Cronin said, via Sports Illustrated. “If I had a pair of sneakers, I think I could score on some of our guys tonight and I turned 50 this summer.”

Asked specifically what led to a better defensive performance in the second half, Cronin again pulled no punches.

“I would say they maybe they ran out of gas. Right now, defensively, I don’t like one thing we’re doing on the ball or off the ball or talk in transition,” Cronin added.

On the plus side of things, the Bruins have averaged nearly 94 points per game over their first three. And that’s a good thing, says Cronin, because it’s the only way they’re going to win.

“We better (score). We better,” he said.

If UCLA doesn’t improve defensively, the good vibes generated from beating Villanova will only last so long.

“I mean, I know everybody’s happy we beat Villanova but the game was at home. To me, that game shouldn’t have even come down the way it came down. We’ve got a lot to learn,” Cronin said. “(The defensive play is) completely unsustainable. Completely. You cannot win on the road if you don’t defend. You’ve got no chance on the road if you can’t defend.”

The 3-0 Bruins will get a couple days off before hosting North Florida (0-4) on Wednesday night.

UCLA F Jalen Hill retires from basketball due to anxiety, depression

Jalen Hill

Former UCLA forward Jalen Hill announced on Instagram Tuesday that he is retiring from basketball.

Hill played in 15 games this season but left the team in February due to personal reasons. In an Instagram video he posted on Tuesday, Hill shared what he has been going through that led to his decision.

Hill shared that he left the basketball team because he did not feel he was a good influence at the time.

“The headspace that I was in was damaging to the team. I didn’t want to restrict them from achieving they (sic) goals,” Hill said. “The reason I left had nothing to do with the team, coaching or anything. It was me. I had a bunch of anxiety and depression problems. It started when I was arrested in China when I was 17. It was a lot for me. … so I had to take a step back.”

Hill says that when he took a step back, it changed him for the better.

“When I did that, it was a whole new life. I never felt this happy before in my life. I wake up and I’m just happy to be alive.”

Hill also says he is at peace with his decision to retire.

“I’m done with basketball, and I’m cool with saying that. I made my peace with basketball … has done a lot for me.”

Hill played in 78 career games over three seasons with UCLA. He was one of three players, along with LiAngelo Ball and Cody Riley, who were arrested during a Bruins’ trip to China in 2017. The players were suspended for the season as punishment.

Hill actually declared for the NBA Draft last year before withdrawing his name and returning to school.

You can watch his video below:

Gonzaga gets favorable charge call to send game to overtime

Drew Timme Johnny Juzang charge

Gonzaga benefited from a favorable call in the final seconds of regulation, which helped pave the way for their overtime win against UCLA in the Final Four on Saturday night.

UCLA tied the game at 81 on a pair of Jaime Jaquez free throws with 43 seconds left in regulation. UCLA got a stop after Corey Kispert missed a 3-pointer. The Bruins took the ball the other way for the final shot from Johnny Juzang. However, Juzang was called for a charge after colliding with Drew Timme and never got a chance to win the game for the Bruins.

The charge call resulted in a turnover, and Gonzaga got the ball back with 0.7 seconds left. The game then went to overtime, where Jalen Suggs won it on an amazing shot.

The Bulldogs are headed to the national championship game, where they will face Baylor on Monday night.

UCLA has been a blessing to CBS during March Madness

Mick Cronin

Gonzaga and Baylor may be facing off in the national championship game on Monday night, but it is UCLA that has been the team of the NCAA Tournament.

The Bruins got bounced 93-90 in overtime by the Bulldogs on Saturday night in their Final Four game. They lost after making a great comeback in the final minute of regulation, closing a 5-point margin to tie things. And then they lost in overtime after tying things once again, only to fall on a miracle shot by Jalen Suggs.

The great game — the game of the tourney so far — was a continuation of what UCLA has done throughout the tournament. The Bruins made a great run as an underdog, played three overtime games, and have given CBS plenty of enjoyable games.

To start, the Bruins faced Michigan State in a play-in game. They came back from down 14 points to tie Michigan State and send the game to overtime, where they won 86-80. They had the only play-in game that went to overtime.

They beat BYU fairly comfortably in the first round and handled Abilene Christian with ease in the second round. But then they went to overtime against Alabama in the Sweet 16. The other three Sweet 16 games played that day were blowouts, but UCLA and Bama played a tight one. The Bruins won it 88-78 in OT.

Then UCLA played the closest game in the Elite Eight too, beating Michigan in a nail-biter 51-49. The game was close throughout, unlike Gonzaga, which blew out USC in the other game.

Then, of course, UCLA played Gonzaga tight the entire way in the Final Four and even sent it to overtime before losing on a miracle shot. Without UCLA involved, many of the NCAA Tournament days featured blowouts. The Bruins gave sports fans what they enjoy — close games, especially ones featuring an underdog team. CBS and Turner Sports should be grateful for the Bruins.

Video: Jalen Suggs sends Gonzaga to championship game on amazing buzzer-beater

Jalen Suggs shot

Jalen Suggs delivered a March Madness moment for the ages to beat UCLA on Saturday in the Final Four.

Gonzaga was up 90-85 against UCLA with under a minute left. UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez made a 3-pointer, then the Bruins got a stop. Johnny Juzang missed a shot but got his own rebound and then put the ball back in to tie the game with 3.3 seconds left.

Just when you thought the game was headed to a second overtime, Suggs dribbled the ball down the court and pulled up for a final shot well beyond the 3-point line. He raised up and his shot went off the backboard and in for the win at the buzzer!

Unbelievable. That was a memorable moment few will forget.

Now Gonzaga advanced to the championship game against Baylor. What a shot.

Bill Walton sends incredible message to UCLA for Final Four

Bill Walton

You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger UCLA fan than Bill Walton, and he came ready with a fantastic video message for the Bruins ahead of the Final Four.

Walton sent a message to Bruins players — from in front of a truly great backdrop — that functioned as a mixture of praise and encouragement, urging the team to “do your best.” He also wishes them “good luck, good everything, today and forevermore.”

If that can’t get UCLA fired up for its meeting with Gonzaga, nothing will.

Walton’s eccentricities are well-known to basketball fans everywhere. If anything, this is actually pretty tame from him. He’s definitely done his part to try and ensure that the “Conference of Champions” gets an entry into the championship game.

Photo: JAYZWELLING/Wikimedia via CC-BY 3.0