No matter how ugly, a Pac-12 Conference road victory is always welcomed by UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin, who once said, “When you win on the road in conference play, you get a shower, something to eat and that’s it. It’s not supposed to be pretty.”
Cronin was pleased to come away with a difficult win over Washington State on Friday night in Pullman.
Now, the 11th-ranked Bruins will turn around and take on a more challenging Washington team at 4 p.m. Sunday in Seattle.
In erasing a 12-point first-half deficit to beat the Cougars on Friday night, the Bruins (12-2, 3-0 Pac-12) shot just 36% from the field, including a 26% clip in the first half. Yet somehow, UCLA’s defense allowed just one field goal from the Cougars in the final 7: 23 of the game.
It surely wasn’t pretty, but Cronin praised his team’s resilience and free-throw shooting.
“The key to the game was we didn’t give up,” Cronin said. “Nothing was going our way all night. … I thought we’d be in a dog fight. I didn’t think we’d get down the way we got down. But I’m really proud of the way our guys battled back. There’s a lot of ways to win a game, tonight we were able to convert 21 of 22 at the foul line.”
UCLA freshman Amari Bailey didn’t play against Washington State due to discomfort in his left foot and was listed as ‘day to day’ by the team’s spokesperson an hour before tip-off.
But fellow freshmen Adem Bona and Will McClendon were impactful Friday night, which could lend them more confidence Sunday afternoon. McClendon had a nice lob pass to Bona for the go-ahead basket with 19 seconds left. Bona played 29 minutes and McClendon logged a season-high 20 minutes.
“They need experience like this,” UCLA senior Jaime Jaquez Jr. said. “It doesn’t really help a team like us to win by 30, it doesn’t help anyone. This is conference play, real experience that we’ll need them to have down the road and eventually for the (NCAA) tournament.”
It’s unclear if Bailey will play Sunday afternoon against the Huskies (9-5, 1-2), who are coming off a 80-67 loss to USC on Friday.
Jaquez torched the Huskies for 30 points and added nine rebounds the last time the Bruins were in Seattle, leading UCLA to a 77-66 win on Feb. 28. Jaquez might need to will the team to victory again, especially after an emotional comeback win that took a lot of energy Friday night.
“A lot of sleep and a lot of rest,” Jaquez said, alluding to the quick turnaround and prepping for Sunday’s game. “(Friday) was a tough, hard-fought game and very physical. We have to get our bodies and minds sound and be ready.”
No. 11 UCLA (12-2, 3-0) at Washington (9-5, 1-2)
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network/AM 570