UCLA holds special closing offers to open the new year

Close calls low Mick Cronin they usually end in a smile, not a grimace.

Consider all the happy faces at the end of the last four UCLA games. All four were hotly contested. The four arrived until the last minute of the regulation. All four resulted in victories for the Bruins.

It has become a trend for Cronin teams. UCLA is 12-3 in games decided by five points or less under Cronin (including overtime games where the final margin could have been higher), including 5-0 this season.

If a handful of plays had been different, the Bruins’ four-game winning streak could easily be a four-game losing streak. But they keep finding ways to do it.

UCLA was finally able to exhale against Utah after Jules Bernard intercepted a pass in the last second.

He could celebrate against Colorado after making three of four free throws in the last minute.

I could ignore a bit of oversight at the end of the regulation against the state of Arizona after Cody Riley entered superhuman mode with eight points in overtime.

Could soak in another road win over Arizona afterward Jaime Jaquez Jr. he made up for a fumble with a steal and the Bruins made six of eight free throws in the final minute.

Success at the free throw line has been critical. UCLA has made 14 of 20 free throws (70%) during the final minute of regulation during its winning streak. Riley has been near perfect on the line at the end of those games, making 10 of 12 free throws in the final five minutes.

Cronin said the Bruins complete a practice drill in which the team has to make 21 free throws in five minutes, with failures requiring a sprint for the entire team and failures at the front of one-on-one situations requiring sprints. even longer. Players resume free throws as soon as sprints are over to simulate the fatigue they would feel in a game.

It has helped the Bruins enter the final minutes of their final games with a two point lead (against Utah), three points (against Colorado and Arizona State) and four points (against Arizona).

“We are a team that can prosper in those moments because we have been there and we know what to expect and we know what we have to do to win,” said Jáquez. “We have had four close games and by the fourth, you will know what to expect and the nerves will disappear.”

Cronin noted that the closings would not have been necessary if his team had prevented larger sales opportunities from diminishing. The Bruins led Utah by 10 points early in the second half; led Colorado by seven points with 2:16 left; led Arizona State by six points with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in regulation time; and they led Arizona by eight points midway through the second half.

“We’ve had some games that shouldn’t have been so close,” Cronin said, adding that his team needs to be better to get saves. “We have to be more proud of who we are on the defensive side and if we don’t, we won’t go where we want to go as a basketball team.”

Etc.

Jaquez said Arizona coach Sean Miller He called him after the end of the Bruins’ 81-76 win on Saturday to tell him he admired the way he had played. Jaquez scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds in the second half. “Every time an opposing coach compliments you, everyone feels good about it,” said Jaquez. “You know, you’re playing to win, and for them to recognize how hard you play, it’s a great feeling.” … UCLA ranked 21st in the Coaches Poll, but was not ranked by the Associated Press.

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