UCLA seeks to revive struggling offense against Washington

Lose 2 times in a row or win 14 times in a row, it doesn’t matter.

Mick Cronin’s approach never changes.

“You have to focus,” the UCLA basketball coach said Wednesday, “to focus on getting better.”

The point is, his team is playing their best basketball in March, like a sprinter hitting top speed while boasting the finish line tape.

The Bruins of the last week and a half are more like a runner stumbling face first into a mud puddle. Your offense is in a funk. Your focus continues to fluctuate. Their rotations are still a mess.

Some perspectives show that none of these mistakes are necessarily fatal. Ninth-ranked UCLA just completed the toughest part of their schedule, dropping road games against Arizona and USC after a stunning win over Arizona State that extended their winning streak to 14.

There’s still work to be done once the Bruins reach the middle of the Pac-12 game. Everything they want stays within reach.

A look at the conference table shows the Bruins (17-4, 8-2 Pac-12) at the top, leading Arizona by a half game. You’re projected as the No. 2 in the NCAA tournament by almost everyone who puts together mock brackets.

“We still have a lot of season left, there’s no need to panic or worry about anything that’s going on,” said senior forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. “We know how to play , we know what we have to do to win.”

UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. shoots over USC forward Vincent Iwuchukwu

UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. shoots over USC forward Vincent Iwuchukwu during the Bruins’ January 26 loss.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Thursday night’s return home to Washington (13-10, 5-7) at the Pauley Pavilion, where UCLA is undefeated this season, offers a perfect opportunity to work on the deficiencies identified during the Bruins’ first losing streak since the end occurred in November.

Top of the list: fixing an offense stuck in low gear. In their last two games, the Bruins have averaged 58 points while making 33.3% of their shots. UCLA also committed more turnovers than their opponent for the first time this season during last week’s meltdown against USC, resulting in 20 Trojans points.

Cronin said his team was challenged in two “incredibly physical” games where they couldn’t adjust to the way the umpires made calls.

These fights were compounded by a team-wide gun spree. Point guard Tyger Campbell has fired nine of his last 28 shots (32.1%). Senior guard David Singleton, the team’s top marksman, has fired five of his last 19 shots (26.3%). Junior guard Jaylen Clark has made seven of his last 29 shots (24.1%) after missing all seven against USC.

A review of the game footage revealed that Clark often looked away from the basket, not the best way to improve his shooting accuracy.

“That was a particular problem for him, what I call blind shots on the rim,” Cronin said. “That’ll kill your percentage, and I don’t care what your name is. They can be LeBron James or Jaylen Clark. If you unbalance blind shots, you will fight.”

UCLA coach Mick Cronin talks to Jaylen Clark on the court during a January 19 win against Arizona State

UCLA coach Mick Cronin talks to Jaylen Clark on the court during a January 19 win against Arizona State.

(Darryl Webb / Associated Press)

Indecisiveness is another problem. Waiting a moment too long to make a pass or drive toward the basket has allowed defenders to recover.

“It’s all about penetrating the catch instead of waiting a second to make a decision,” Jaquez said. “I think being more decisive in that decision making – whether you pass, drive or shoot – and when you get the ball you know what you’re going to do with it instead of just holding it.”

Help could come in a variety of forms, including more minutes from Amari Bailey. In his first game back from a foot problem that sidelined him more than a month, the freshman guard provided a boost in his 22 minutes off the bench against the Trojans. He only made four out of ten shots, but generated a layup with a steal and provided a much-needed additional option on offense.

Cronin remained noncommittal when asked if Bailey would return to the starting lineup, but acknowledged the need to introduce more consistent rotations in order to create more consistent play. Cronin is likely to have another reserve available Thursday in Dylan Andrews after the freshman guard sat out USC play while he recovered from an unspecified illness. Andrews was a full participant during the part of the training open to the media on Wednesday.

Win or lose, solve the problems or fight on, the finish line is not yet in sight for the Bruins. The race to be the best version of herself has more than a month to go.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2023-02-01/ucla-revive-struggling-offense-washington UCLA seeks to revive struggling offense against Washington

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

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