Mick Cronin displeased with defense after UCLA's 30-point exhibition win
Mick Cronin was not sparing feelings after a 93-63 exhibition win over Concordia this week. The Eagles shot 36% from the field and turned it over 17 times, but they bombed away from beyond the 3-point line to try and stay in things and connected on 12 of the 32 hoists. The UCLA head coach was less than pleased with the defensive performance.
“We’re a bad defensive team right now, and I’m not happy with our veteran players defensively,” he told reporters after the game. “Freshmen, they’ve had six weeks of training. Our veteran guys were not good defensively at all. We got a lot of work to do. Got to figure out how to get a stop against a Division I team.”
You don’t typically hear such negativity after an exhibition game, or after such a lopsided victory. But then again, not every team has national championship aspirations. The Bruins do. Cronin and Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. want to hang another banner inside Pauley Pavilion.
When that’s the case, you have slim margins and little tolerance for falling short in areas you can control.
“If he wasn’t on us, then I would say our chances of winning a national championship would be low,” said Jaquez, who scored 25 points and grabbed 11 boards in the win.
Jaquez took the brunt of the blame for his coach’s frustration.
“I think a lot of it was on my part, being a leader,” he said. “I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be coming into this game, I was coming in a little lazy off the ball, letting No. 3 get hot and that was just an emphasis that we had and I put that one on myself.”
Lance Coleman (No. 3) scored 23 points and hit six of his 13 3-point attempts. One of them came 62 seconds into the second half and cut UCLA’s lead to 14 points. A quick 8-0 spurt five minutes later took a 24-point margin back down to 16. Concordia used the 3 to hang around a bit longer than Cronin was comfortable with.
Cronin thought they got beat off the dribble too often. It was either a 3-ball or a block from freshman center Adem Bona at the rim. He didn’t feel like the group followed the scouting report.
“Usually if you’re bad defensively, and you’re well-coached and you practice it every day and your assistant coach does a great job preparing and you’re still bad defensively, it’s because your mind is on other things,” Cronin said. “You think you’re gonna win, so you think it doesn’t matter, so your mind is on other things, which would usually be scoring. It’s probably not their homework.”
He called Bona — who finished with five blocks and six boards — a “really good” defender. Jaylen Clark, an All-Defensive Team selection in the Pac-12 last year, is probably another. He finished with six steals.
“We play the guys that play defense,” Cronin said. “That’s how we do things at UCLA. If not, you’ve got to address it now before it, you know… because it counts for real on Monday.”
The Bruins tipoff the season opener against Sacramento State Monday at 8:30 p.m. PT.