Thursday, March 25, 2021

UCLA beats Abilene Christian in the 2nd Round of the NCAA tournament 67-47. SWEET 16, BAY-BEEEEEE!!!


UCLA and Christian Abilene Q&A's


Men's Basketball Advances to the Sweet 16– For the first time since 2017, the No. 11-seed UCLA men's basketball team booked a spot in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, posting a 67-47 victory over No. 14-seed Abilene Christian on Monday afternoon at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

With the win, the Bruins (20-9) have advanced to face No. 2-seed Alabama (26-6) on Sunday, March 28.

UCLA registered its third win of this season's NCAA Tournament in five days. The Bruins had picked up wins over Michigan State (86-60 in OT) last Thursday night in the First Four and versus BYU (73-62) on Saturday evening.

"Our guys were awesome today," said Mick Cronin, The Michael Price UCLA Men's Head Basketball Coach. "They're a team that's so hard to play against defensively. For us only to have eight turnovers was just a tremendous job by our guys and a very short prep. Obviously our third game, flying from L.A., and then having to play at Purdue and up and back twice. The guys have been through a lot in the last couple weeks on our team, but it's brought them together. They've showed a lot of character. They're really easy to coach right now. They're fun to coach, and I give our players absolutely all the credit in the world. They made today's game look a lot easier than it was. It was not easy in person."

Sophomore guard Johnny Juzang, who averaged 25.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in the team's first two wins of the tournament, continued his hot play on Monday. He scored a game-high 17 points on 7 of 15 shooting from the field, including 3 of 7 from behind the 3-point arc.

Junior forward Cody Riley (12 points, 12 rebounds) and sophomore guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (10 points) were the two other Bruins to score in double figures.

"This is March Madness, so we just locked in and we saw that they beat Texas, so we had a lot of respect for them from the jump and knew what they were capable of defensively with the quick guards that they have and their activity on defense," told reporters Riley after the game. "So we were locked in and tried our best not to turn the ball over and take care of it and share the ball and make good team plays."

The Bruins held Abilene Christian (24-5) to 29.8 percent shooting from the field (17 of 57). The Wildcats made four of 19 shots from 3-point range (21.1 percent). Only one player from Abilene Christian scored in double figures, as senior Mahki Morris tallied a team-high 14 points.

UCLA notched two substantial scoring runs against Abilene Christian, dominating the Wildcats in both the first and second half. After trailing 12-8 to start the game, the Bruins went on an 18-0 run to take a 26-12 lead.

Abilene Christian reduced UCLA's advantage to 10 points at halftime (31-21) before the Bruins opened the second half on a 14-1 run to take a 45-22 lead. The Bruins never looked back, enjoying a sizable advantage for the remainder of the game.
With the win on Monday, UCLA secured its fourth trip to the tournament's "Sweet 16" in eight seasons (the Bruins advanced in 2014, 2015 and 2017).

POSTSEASON NOTES: UCLA has recorded its 15th trip to the "Sweet 16" (regional semifinals) since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985 … previous Sweet 16 trips (since 1985) have occurred in 1990, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015 and 2017 … through those previous 14 appearances, the Bruins have posted a 6-8 record with four trips to the Final Four (1995, 2006, 2007 and 2008) … in the four most recent trips to the Final Four, UCLA has compiled a 3-3 record (including the 1995 NCAA title). Overall, UCLA has advanced to 50 NCAA Tournaments and 18 NCAA Final Fours and won a nation-leading 11 NCAA Championships.

UCLA 67, Abilene Christian 47
Indianapolis, Ind. (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)
March 22, 2021
Mick Cronin, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach
opening remarks
“First of all, I'd like to congratulate Coach Golding and Abilene Christian on a great season. Obviously they had our attention. They've got some kids that play unbelievably hard. I thought the key to today's game was the fact that we did not take them lightly. We had tremendous respect for them, their coaching, their opponent, their players I should have said, as our opponent. Again, congrats to them.
“Our guys were awesome today. They're a team that's so hard to play against defensively. For us only to have eight turnovers was just a tremendous job by our guys and a very short prep. Obviously our third game, flying from LA and then having to play at Purdue and up and back twice. The guys have been through a lot in the last couple weeks on our team, but it's brought them together. They've showed a lot of character. They're really easy to coach right now. They're fun to coach, and I give our players absolutely all the credit in the world. They made today's game look a lot easier than it was. It was not easy in person. This is a very, very good Abilene Christian team that beat Texas, took Texas Tech to the wire, gave Arkansas all they wanted. They dominated their conference tournament. So very, very happy with today's win”
on why the defensive part of UCLA’s game really stood out
“Well, I've told the guys this since I became their coach. We're going to have to get a lot tougher. We're going to have to learn how to do hard, uncomfortable things, physical things. We're going to have to believe in the uncomfortable things that go into winning. And when we do that, we'll start winning, because we have enough talent on the roster. We've lost a lot of talent as the season has gone on, but we've continued to try to get better at the things that go into winning, whether it's executing and taking care of the ball on offense, being physical and rebounding, and being the better defensive team. So my message to them – because I was concerned that we would turn it over because they're so good at what they do, that we were just going to have to win a super ugly game. So my message was the better defensive team will win this game, and just continue to focus and worry about defense. We've embraced that since the halftime of the Michigan State game. We've been an elite defensive team for our last five halves of basketball. And on the board was "Defense was why we're alive and defense is why we'll survive in this tournament."
on the three first-half turnovers being unforced and how UCLA withstood the defensive pressure
“I would say, again, I give my players all the credit because yesterday, so Sunday, we watched – again, our wins Thursday and Saturday night, we got back at 3:00 a.m. after we beat Michigan State. We got back at 1:00 a.m. after we beat BYU. To try to calm those guys down and get them to bed, get them treated led us to Sunday, where all we could do was treat Jaime and Tyger and let those guys rest and watch film. First time in my life I put guys in a chair and had a walk-through with no defense. They watched the coaches go through what we were going to go through defensively while they sat and rested on the baseline. Our preparation was this morning in our shootaround. That's all we really had to deal with, the fact that we weren't going to be able to run our normal offense because they just don't let you do it. The kids did a great job of being able to deal with that really with no practice preparation.”
on the players believing in the gameplan and believing in what the coaches were telling them
“Well, I think they've been all year, to be honest with you. Sometimes the other team just wins. We dropped some games late in the season. It wasn't because they weren't trying [or] they weren't buying in. We were playing really good teams, as I've been trying to tell everybody all year, with the Pac-12 continuing to be undefeated. I think we are at three teams in the Sweet 16. We've got two more to play still, I think. Part of that, it isn't that they just did. I think what they have learned is one or two mistakes can beat you. We've eliminated some and-ones. We've just gotten better. We're more trained. It takes time. We're still a young team with no seniors. And again, you lose Chris, you reinvent yourself. Then you lose Jalen, you've got to reinvent yourself. We've made it look seamless with Johnny, but it's his first year on our team and our program. Tthese guys have been through a lot, and I would wrap that up as I think they have come together has been really the key. They're playing for each other. And they're holding each other accountable because they want to win.”
on who assisted (on the coaching staff) with the Abilene Christian scout and how that gameplan was formulated on such short notice
“Yeah, well, Rod, Darren and Mike rotate everything. It was Darren today. I'm glad you brought that up because I told you guys this when I got the job, when I announced the staff, that what I did was went out and hired three guys that I thought should already be head coaches. I have a huge advantage in that I have three guys that are veteran – Coach Palmer has got state championships in multiple years in high school, [and then] multiple years of college experience. Darren Savino should have been a head coach a couple years ago. Unfortunately it didn't happen, when I left Cincinnati. And he'll get his day. And Mike Lewis is the young pup on our staff, even though he's the baldest guy. They do a great job for me. Today was Darren, but the way we do things, we all recruit. We don't have a "my guy, my scout." We try to do everything as a team, as a staff, and it's all about the four letters on the front.”
on how he has helped mold this team in just two seasons at UCLA and what it has said about this group of student-athletes
“Part of the reason I took the job is I knew that we had some talent on the roster. 15 years ago when I took the Cincinnati job, Connor Barwin, my buddy who played in the NFL many years is now smartly retired with his health, came in my office, he said, hey, Coach, I'll help you out, I'll play another year of basketball, but your job is to recruit. I can only help you for a year. So players matter. That being said, I will say this: For the West Coast teams, we have a huge disadvantage. Six months without seeing your team. When teams in the south and back east and teams that had summer workouts, and we did not see our players for six months. How do you develop a guy's body? In LA, as you guys know, everything was closed. You can't get in the weight room. And then trying to continue the – we were on such a run at the end of the year last year, and trying to reinforce all the things we taught, my biggest fear was six months, we're going to be starting over.
“It hasn't been easy, so I think everybody in the Pac-12 has really dealt with that, and what I would say is that's what hurt the Pac-12 early in the year, all of us. And you see that everybody has gotten so much better as the year went on because none of us had any type of summer.”
on this team appearing to be a very likeable squad and what types of connections he has built with these young men
“Well, I would say this: If you see a guy playing for me, he's a good guy. Like he's just not, it's not going to last. There are certain things that I'm just not cut out to do. A guy may not, he may not be the tough guy that people say needs to play for me because I love Johnny because he can get some baskets, right. My job is to help him with the defense and the strength and the toughness. But if you're on our team, you're going to be a good guy. We've got great guys on the team, and I learned that even thinking right now about Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski, great guys. They could have easily left when I got the job, went and played their fifth year somewhere else. We've got really, really good guys on our team, and sometimes like I've got to make myself get on some of them because they're such good guys. The whole thing is, the key is, it's easy to be a good guy, but playing for each other is the reason you'll advance – survive and advance in this tournament, because it's so, so hard because nobody is going down easily. You have to play for each other. And then you've got to have some guys step up and play well, which obviously Johnny struggled in the first half, he got it in the bucket the second half, and Jake Kyman made some great shots. Coaching can be overrated as well, now.”
on if this is where he had expected the program to be, near the end of his second season at UCLA
“Well, I would have liked to have the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament my first year, so you know, I really, I leave that to other people. I try to just do the day-to-day. The macro thing of did they hire the right coach or where is he going, what's he doing? I leave that to you guys. I just try to – I'm going to try to enjoy every day I get to be the coach at UCLA, enjoy the heck out of this as much as you can. Hopefully we can get out of the hotel for a little bit tomorrow. But our progress, to give you an answer, we've definitely improved. You've got to continue to recruit, and there's so many – when you have my job, I kid around, like Bob Myers was part of the committee that hired me. I'm Bob Myers and Steve Kerr. I've got to coach the team but then I have my other hat that I have to wear that's personnel, where are we at, where are we going to be next year. I'm happy with our recruiting, our player development, and hopefully we've got some guys that are very committed to our program that think they're in the right place because they're at an elite school on the best campus in America, and I know I'm happy to be there.”
on what the postgame celebration looked like in UCLA’s locker room
“No ice baths. First of all, we're all tired, to be honest with you. Some guys are sitting in the chair, you can tell they're tired. I tried to give Jaime a rest in the first half. He's begging me to go back in. I'm like, ‘Jaime, you've played 95 minutes, let me give you five minutes on the bench.’ I think they're tired. But they know my message. My message has been since we beat Michigan State, ‘Guys, I didn't come to Westwood to win a game or two,’ and that's always going to be my message. Remember who you play for, because I'm trying to breed confidence in them, especially the way we ended the season.
“Yeah, they can have all the fun they want. They're going to go – Chris Smith will put the name up and all that, but my message, I said this my whole career really, you play in a tournament, there's only one winner. You'd better not say ‘We're happy,’ because we won a few games and we survived this weekend. Yeah, I want to enjoy it. It's great. But that's not our purpose. I could care less about my resume. I came to Westwood for a reason, and we've got games to win.”
on having lost four games in a row before a three-game win streak in Indianapolis and what this has said about the state of the Pac-12 Conference
“Yes, I was. I thought the key for me was making sure we learned Colorado is great, we almost beat them on the road. Oregon as you saw today, we were up 10 in the second half. We just missed free throws that cost us the last two games. But against really good teams. I was not in panic mode at all until the bracket came out, and now you've got to play against Tom Izzo and Michigan State at Purdue. We're flying in from L.A. I thought if we could get by the first one, we would have a chance to stay alive.
“The second part of your question, no, not surprised at all. As you know, you know me, I coached in the Big East in the heyday – 11 teams in the NCAA Tournament. I know good teams. And it's not just because I'm a homer. Oregon State really, really does not surprise me. They really figured it out late in the year. We should have beaten them, but they played really well. They won three in a row on the road late in the year late in our conference. Their only loss in the last eight is Oregon. You know how good they are. So all those teams are really solid, well-coached teams. The Pac-12, when I got the job, people would say, ‘Oh, you go out there, your teams will play hard, you'll win.’ I've got news for you, teams in the Pac-12 play hard. We have excellent coaching in the Pac-12, and I mean that. It's way more competitive physically than the rest of the country knows, because most people are sleeping when we play, and the coaching is really, really good.”
on how UCLA’s leadership role was filled, or evolved, once Chris Smith sustained a season-ending injury
“Well, on the court, because we don't have a senior, it's really been a committee thing. I think guys are still to this day, to answer your question, growing into that role, because we don't have that one guy that's been that dominant guy at UCLA. He was the only guy on our team that ever played in a tournament game. We don't really have that guy, but I think now they're all becoming that. So more important was adjusting to playing without him, because it affected our defense, and as a coach, as the time has gone on we've had to make some adjustments because when we lost Chris and we lost Jalen Hill, we're not nearly as long defensively as we used to be. There was a lot of adjustments to be made, but the kids collectively have really kind of stepped up. There's not been one guy on the leadership front.”
on how much he welcomes a little bit of rest for his players after three games in five days
“Extremely. For all of us. Extremely. And I've also petitioned my buddy Dan Gavitt to let me out of the hotel. I need a chair outside just to sit outside for one hour when we get back to the hotel. But no, we'll get out of the hotel tomorrow. I know they've got some things planned for the teams that are still alive and get our rooms cleaned. It's really been like a frat house on our floor. We're all on the same floor. There's nomads, there's nobody at the desk. It's been a heck of an experience, it really has.”
junior forward Cody Riley
on the team being locked in both offensively and defensively
"You know, the guys are just excited. This is March Madness, so we just locked in and we saw that they beat Texas, so we had a lot of respect for them from the jump and knew what they were capable of defensively with the quick guards that they have and their activity on defense. So we were locked in and tried our best not to turn the ball over and take care of it and share the ball and make good team plays."
on Coach Cronin’s intensity during a timeout in the second half after an Abilene Christian run
"He was just telling us, it's not over. This is what they do. They turn teams over, so if we start turning the ball over and let them get going, they could make it a close game. We had to put them away while we were up, and that's what we did."
on buying into Mick Cronin's philosophy of buying into the little things
"Last year I noticed that everybody was on the same page as far as defense first, like don't worry about missing shots or how many shots you get up. The offensive side is going to come naturally to us. It's what we work on all the time. We really had to step our game up defensively, and once we did that as a unit and we were all playing together, we're a really good team when we do that."
on limiting Abilene Christian's ability to force turnovers
"We knew that they were going to be scrambling and playing chaotic and trying to get us to speed up. Going into the game we just knew that we couldn't let them do that. We couldn't let them speed us up and let the game get going up and down and let their defense create offense for them. We knew that was their best way of scoring points on offense. With that mindset, we went into it and we capitalized and we won the game."
on the resiliency of the team after suffering four losses heading into the tournament
"Yeah, those first games that we lost, they were close games. They were minor hiccups that caused us to lose the game and lack of focus for 40 minutes. Coming in here, we knew that we were capable of winning games. We were right there, towards the end of the season, in most of the games that we lost. So we still had our confidence, and we knew that things were going to start turning our way once we got out here for March Madness, and just like I said before, just locking in on defense. That's what's got us to where we are right now. That's what got us past Michigan State in the first four and BYU, also. That's been our main focus right here, and we're going to keep doing it."
on the contributions of freshman Jaylen Clark
"Yeah, it's great having J-Clark and seeing him out there and when he's out there, we're looking for him to bring the defensive intensity to pick us up. He's young but he's very adamant on defense and aggressive. That's that we need. That's what we are looking for. It's great to see him out there moving. He's versatile, he's strong down low and he can also move on the outside perimeter guarding guards, moving his feet well. It's great to see him out there working, and I'm looking forward to seeing the improvement in him."

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