UCLA men’s basketball must improve ‘horrible’ defense – LA Daily News



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UCLA lost by just eight points to Washington State on Thursday night, but it felt like 80.

The Bruins were trailing by 23 midway through the second half. It was a 16-point deficit with less than four minutes to play. Sure, a late, spirited surge made the score look better, but aesthetics don’t matter when a team is contending for a conference title.

“Horrible.”

That’s the one word UCLA coach Mick Cronin used to describe the team’s defensive performance in its 81-73 loss to the Cougars at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Washington. The Bruins allowed 13 3-pointers – on 22 attempts at 59.1% accuracy – to the Cougars. It didn’t help that Isaac Bonton, the Cougars’ go-to scorer, torched the Bruins for 26 points.

It puts the Bruins at 13-5 overall and 9-3 in the Pac-12 ahead of their game against three-win Washington at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Seattle. The Huskies are at the bottom of the conference standings at 2-11.

On paper, it looks like a perfect opportunity for UCLA to get back on track after losing two straight and three of its past four. But, clearly, this isn’t the same team that was once 8-0 in the Pac-12.

Forward Cody Riley is playing on a bad right ankle. Center Jalen Hill is not even with the team (personal reasons). Jules Bernard has scored just 11 points in the past four games. Jaime Jaquez Jr., the team’s leading scorer, hasn’t reached double digits in the past three games.

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“I’ve got to get Jaime back on track,” Cronin said.

What seems to be often forgotten is the loss to 6-foot-9 senior wing Chris Smith, one of the team’s top scorers and rebounders, to an ACL tear. His absence is being felt especially without Hill and with Riley playing just 10 minutes Thursday night.

No surprise. Cronin wants better defense, especially when his Bruins – sputtering on offense at times – score 73 points on the road.



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