The fainthearted can safely attend UCLA basketball games without fear of any last-minute drama given the way things keep unfolding for the Bruins.
Making it through coach Mick Cronin’s postgame assessment of his team is another matter entirely.
The coach verbally shredded his players Wednesday night after they repeated a familiar pattern by fading badly over the final 20 minutes of a 74-59 loss to Stanford at Pauley Pavilion.
“When the going gets tough,” Cronin said, “we don’t have a lot of guys who get going. When the going gets tough, we have some guys who will fold. We lack toughness.”
Cronin’s comments came after his team was right there at halftime, giving feisty effort in a taut game, before faltering in the second half for a third consecutive time.
The Cardinal big men continually slipped behind their counterparts for easy baskets and the guards were often running for fastbreak layups off a flurry of turnovers.
The result was predictable, Stanford (15-2 overall, 4-0 Pac-12 Conference) pulling away for its first victory on the Bruins’ home court since 2005 while remaining the only unbeaten team in conference play.
“As the game goes on, our softness shows up,” Cronin said after his team was outscored 41-28 in the second half. “Our selfishness at times is evident and it’s been probably to people who have watched us all year on the offensive end, some of the shots we take and the turnovers because certain guys don’t want to pass the basketball.”
Cronin appeared to save some of his most scathing remarks for redshirt senior guard Prince Ali, though he never mentioned Ali by name. The coach replaced Ali with sophomore guard David Singleton in the starting lineup after saying that Singleton had completed his best two days of practice.
Singleton responded with 11 points, two assists and no turnovers in 32 minutes. Ali played just one minute, missing his only shot.
“We just have guys who refuse to listen and follow the rules, so therefore they don’t get to play,” Cronin said. “So if you want to ask me about a certain guy, that’s the answer. To be honest with you, I had to keep playing certain guys that I don’t even think they deserved it. But I didn’t want to put others back in, so I was running out of guys.”
About the only fight UCLA showed in the final minutes came when Cronin picked up a technical foul.
“I was just trying to show the guys that you’ve got to compete,” Cronin said.
The Bruins (8-9, 1-3) are stuck in reverse after their third consecutive defeat gave them a losing record for the first time this season. They appear bound for their first losing season since 2015-16 if they can’t change the template they’ve unveiled the last few weeks.
UCLA has lost six of seven games and has not won on its home court since early December.
At this rate, the UCLA band may not get to enjoy its postgame tradition of playing “Rover” after a home victory again this season.
All of the celebrating Wednesday was carried out by the visitors, who were in control over the final 81/2 minutes after building a double-digit advantage.
Stanford guard Tyrell Terry punctuated his 24-point outburst with an emphatic arm pump in the final minutes after burying the last of his four three-pointers. The Cardinal made eight of 17 three-pointers (47.1%) while holding the Bruins to five for 16 (31.3%), repeating another trend that has gone against UCLA this season.
UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 15 points and forward Jalen Hill was strong across the board with 14 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals.
It wasn’t nearly enough on a night the Bruins got almost nothing from guards Chris Smith and Tyger Campbell, who combined to make two of nine shots. Smith also committed four traveling violations and Campbell limped to the locker room with about eight minutes left and did not return.
Hill indicated that the players were disappointed they were not producingbetter results for their new coach.
“He’s given us everything in practice and he’s had our backs for the longest [time],” Hill said. “It hurts to see that because there’s a lot of people in this world that don’t have your back and we’re failing him right now, to be honest.”