UCLA advances to Sweet 16
PORTLAND, Ore. — They can break out their dance moves once again.
The UCLA Bruins are going back to the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive season after locking down and pulling away from St. Mary’s in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday evening at the Moda Center.
Trailing by as many as seven points in the first half, the Bruins ratcheted up their defense several notches and withstood the loss of guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. to an ankle injury with about seven minutes left on the way to a 72-56 victory.
The final minutes were an extended celebration. With the Bruins up by 15 points and fans chanting “U-C-L-A,” Bruins forward Cody Riley provided his own exclamation point by making a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock, holding three fingers aloft afterward for effect.
UCLA coach Mick Cronin flashed a thumbs up to fans on his way off the court, his Bruins (27-7) advancing to face eighth-seeded North Carolina in a regional semifinal on Friday in Philadelphia after the Tar Heels toppled defending national champion Baylor earlier in the day. UCLA and North Carolina were supposed to meet in Las Vegas earlier this season before the Bruins went on a 26-day COVID-19 pause after an outbreak of the disease on the team.
Cody Riley knocks down rare three pointer as UCLA stretches out its lead
UCLA has been playing inspired basketball since emotional floor leader Jaime Jacquez Jr. left the game due to an ankle injury, outscoring Saint Mary’s 14-6.
The Bruins own a commanding 69-53 lead with 1:46 left in the game.
Cody Riley got the ball as the shot clock was expiring and knocked down his fourth three pointer of the season, drawing a roar from UCLA fans and adding an exclamation point to a completely dialed in performance by the Bruins.
UCLA maintains lead after Jaime Jaquez Jr. goes out with injury
As Jaime Jaquez Jr. tested his injured right ankle in a hallway next to the court before limping to the locker room, UCLA worked to hold off a Saint Mary’s rally.
Cody Riley, Johnny Juzang and Tyger Campbell delivered a mix of layups and converted free throws. Saint Mary’s missed a few rare open looks and could not finish contested shots to help UCLA maintain a 62-49 lead with 4:00 left in the game.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. goes down with apparent ankle injury
Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s ankle headaches flared up again.
Jaquez appears to be in a lot of pain after sprawling under the basket with 6:58 left in the game. He was treated on the court and had to be helped off while trying to avoid putting weight on his right ankle.
The Bruins’ leading scorer with 15 points this game went straight to the locker room.
Welcome back, Johnny Juzang
After a deeply frustrating opening round game against Akron, Johnny Juzang has started to get into a better rhythm against Saint Mary’s as UCLA regularly counters every Saint Mary’s spurt.
Juzang has 10 points, four rebounds and two assists as UCLA holds a 54-47 lead over the Gaels with 7:41 remaining.
UCLA holds lead midway through second half
Jules Bernard has helped UCLA stretch out a 54-44 lead over Saint Mary’s with 9:36 left the second half.
Two three pointers, a layup and three assists from Bernard have helped the Bruins offset a formidable Saint Mary’s second half psuh.
Saint Mary’s cuts UCLA’s lead early in second half
UCLA has maintained its defensive pressure, but Saint Mary’s has cut off some options for the Bruins’ offense and forced in some buckets.
UCLA leads Saint Mary’s 41-39 with 14:20 left in the second half.
UCLA uses aggressive defense to spark first-half run
UCLA used formidable defensive effort to claim a 36-29 halftime lead over a veteran Saint Mary’s Saturday at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore.
The defensive fed a far more successful offensive effort from the Bruins than the one they displayed during a narrow first-round win over Akron.
UCLA rallies to take a lead
UCLA’s Tyger Campbell hit two free throws and the Bruins added a score off an offensive board to slow down Saint Mary’s.
It sparked a mini-Bruin surge that saw UCLA take a 26-22 lead with 4:44 left in the first half.
UCLA trails Saint Mary’s 20-13 midway through first half
Saint Mary’s has stretched out a 20-13 lead with 10:04 left in the first half.
UCLA is looking for a spark to help counter three pointers by the Gaels.
UCLA, Saint Mary’s tied at 7 early in first half
UCLA and Saint Mary’s are tied at 7 with 15:32 left in the first half.
And we’re off ... UCLA and Saint Mary’s tip off
UCLA vs. Saint Mary’s is under way.
The Gaels open with two defensive stops and add a jumper to take a 2-0 lead early in the first half.
We’re expecting a tight battle between the two squads today.
St. Mary’s won’t be intimidated facing UCLA in second round of NCAA tournament
PORTLAND, Ore. — The specter of those four letters doesn’t scare them. Neither does the name John Wooden.
Those 11 national championships? They might as well have happened a lifetime ago — and did, given that no one on St. Mary’s roster was alive the last time UCLA was the final team standing in college basketball.
If you want an idea how intimidated the Gaels might be against one of the sport’s blue bloods when they face the Bruins on Saturday afternoon at Moda Center in the second round of the NCAA tournament, consider what they did in their postseason opener.
The tiny Catholic school from the Bay Area that has never made it past the Sweet 16 took down five-time national champion Indiana. By 29 points. It was the Hoosiers’ largest margin of defeat in an otherwise proud NCAA tournament history.
That’s what can happen when your veteran lineup is unshakable, you defend the rim and the three-point line with equal fervor, and your resume includes a recent victory over top-ranked Gonzaga.
Plaschke: UCLA finds mojo just in time to keep ugly tradition from being repeated
PORTLAND, Ore. — It was the nightmare of Princeton, the embarrassment of Detroit Mercy, the humiliation of St. Bonaventure, all rolled together on a despairing march into madness.
It was the worst kind of UCLA basketball history repeating itself, the fourth-seeded Bruins being tackled around the ankles by an energetic 13th-seeded Akron that wouldn’t let go.
Mick Cronin was screaming and gesturing and literally hopping mad. His team was flustered and flailing and failing.
The Bruins could have lost. The Bruins probably should have lost. The Bruins’ ugly first-round NCAA tournament tradition dictates that they would have lost.
But not this UCLA team. Not them. Not now.
UCLA rallies to beat Akron and advance in the NCAA tournament
PORTLAND, Ore. — The first stop on the road back to the Final Four looked like a dead end.
Outhustled and outplayed by a quicker and more fearless team, UCLA stared at a rapid exit in the NCAA tournament.
Tyger Campbell stared back and didn’t blink.
Coolly sinking shot after shot, the poker-faced point guard rallied his team from the brink of opening-round embarrassment against Akron while facing an eight-point deficit with less than eight minutes to play. There was a three-pointer from the corner. A midrange jumper. Finally, and most improbably, an NBA-range three-pointer on a broken play at the end of the shot clock.
Inside a UCLA season on the brink that prepared the Bruins for March Madness
PORTLAND, Ore. — He was flying high over the Rocky Mountains with America’s darling college basketball team … and they were all about to die.
What sounded like the fictional Rolling Stone magazine story involving the rock band Stillwater in “Almost Famous” was terrifyingly real for Mick Cronin. His UCLA Bruins were about 90 minutes into a chartered flight to Milwaukee to play Marquette in December when a jarring announcement came over the loudspeakers: The plane needed diverting.
No reason was given, but word quickly spread to Cronin in the coach’s seat near the front of the converted Boeing 737. The cockpit windshield had shattered. The plane needed to land immediately.
The Bruins’ bid to reach a second consecutive Final Four has rarely been the-seatbelt-sign-is-now-off smooth. There have been some wacky setbacks, leading scorer Johnny Juzang falling off a scooter, center Myles Johnson accidentally elbowing two teammates in the face and forward Mac Etienne getting cited by police for allegedly spitting at taunting Arizona fans.
Three players went down because of serious knee injuries, two lost for the season. Guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. constantly dealt with bad ankles. Top defender Jaylen Clark sustained several blows to the head that sidelined him for extended stretches. The team didn’t play for 26 days after a COVID-19 outbreak.
Some might say the Bruins have done well just to make it this far. Fourth-seeded UCLA (25-7) will open the NCAA tournament on Thursday evening at the Moda Center against 13th-seeded Akron (24-9) after pushing through a slew of difficulties, none more dire than the crisis at 30,000 feet.
As the Bruins eyed one another nervously on that flight, there was no play they could call, no shot they could take, that would dictate their fate. Cronin gazed at his 15-year-old stepson, seated nearby. He thought about the more than dozen players on board and how their lives were just starting and how he was responsible for them all.
“They’re kids,” Cronin recently told The Times while recalling the ordeal. “I’ve had a heck of a run if it ends tomorrow.”
Mick Cronin’s new six-year contract expected to make him highest-paid coach in Pac-12
Tear up that contract that’s less than a year old. Mick Cronin now has something much better.
Only hours before his team’s NCAA tournament opener, the UCLA basketball coach was rewarded Thursday with a new six-year contract that’s expected to make him the highest-paid coach in the Pac-12 Conference.
The new deal, which runs through the 2027-28 season, replaces the two-year extension he had signed after guiding the Bruins to the Final Four last year. The previous contract was slated to pay him $3.7 million per year.
UCLA proactively secured Cronin to the replacement deal after Louisville was believed to have expressed strong interest in the coach who was once an assistant at the school under Rick Pitino. The Cardinals on Friday are expected to announce the hiring of Kenny Payne, a New York Knicks assistant who won a national championship at Louisville in 1986.