Mick Cronin freezes time for his players during UCLA’s busiest stretch

An Oregon State player tries to block a shot by a UCLA player.
Oregon State forward Ahmad Rand tries to block a shot by UCLA forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. during the second half on Saturday in Corvallis, Ore. UCLA won 94-55.
(Amanda Loman / Associated Press)

Winning big has its privileges.

UCLA’s 39-point blowout of Oregon State on Saturday allowed Bruins coach Mick Cronin to go deep into his bench while giving his starters a rare breather.

No starter played more than Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s 27 minutes, and Jaylen Clark logged just 20.

It was just what the No. 12 Bruins needed as they prepared to end a stretch of six games in 12 days Monday against Washington at Alaska Airlines Arena.


Cronin has done everything he can to preserve his players’ bodies short of encasing them in bubble wrap. He has shortened or eliminated practices, focusing on mental preparation and film sessions over anything that would add to the existing burden on weary legs.

Starting lineups have been in flux because of injuries and oddities. Point guard Tyger Campbell sat out one game because of a disciplinary issue and another because of a bothersome shoulder. Leading scorer Johnny Juzang sat out one game because of a sore hip after falling off a scooter and another because of a sprained ankle.

UCLA goes on a big run in the second half and moves on from its dud against Oregon in a 94-55 victory over Oregon State.

Feb. 26, 2022

Cronin also borrowed a page from the NBA coaching playbook when he rested forward Cody Riley for one game, calling it load management.

Those absences allowed Clark to start each of the last five games while providing extra minutes for reserve guards David Singleton and Jake Kyman. Singleton enjoyed a small uptick of 20.6 minutes per game over the recent stretch, compared to 18.1 minutes previously, while Kyman’s playing time went up from 7.9 minutes per game to 11.2 minutes over the last five games.

Riley’s time share with Myles Johnson in the post has resulted in a manageable workload for each player. Riley, who moved back into the starting lineup against the Beavers, has averaged just 21.5 minutes in the four games he has played over this busy stretch; Johnson has averaged an even more modest 19.2 minutes while starting four of the last five games.

UCLA head coach Mike Cronin calls out to players.
UCLA head coach Mike Cronin calls out to players during the second half against Oregon State on Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.
(Amanda Loman / Associated Press)

Meanwhile, Jaquez’s troublesome ankles have gotten some rest while he has averaged 25.8 minutes over the last five games. Campbell has averaged just 25.7 minutes in the three games he has played over this stretch while Clark has led the way with an average of 29.2 minutes per game.

Cronin said he considered Juzang doubtful for the game against Washington on Monday, adding one caveat.

“You never know,” Cronin said Saturday afternoon. “He puts a lot of work in on his body with flexibility and stuff like that, so he’ll surprise you at times.”

After the Bruins play the Huskies, they will enjoy a welcome shock to their system: four days off before facing USC in the final game of the regular season.

UCLA basketball’s big men, Cody Riley and Myles Johnson, offer different strengths. Bruins coach Mick Cronin faces decisions on playing time.

Feb. 25, 2022




When: 8 p.m. Monday.

Where: Alaska Airlines Arena.

On the air: TV: ESPN2; Radio: 570.

Update: UCLA (21-6 overall, 13-5 Pac-12) has clinched a bye in the first round of the conference tournament, but the Bruins have some lingering ambitions to fulfill over the next week. They need to win their final two regular-season games to have any chance to overtake USC for second place in the Pac-12 standings. Even in a down season, Washington (14-13, 9-8) has been formidable at home, winning six of seven conference games.