LOS ANGELES (NWN) — A 21-point win for UCLA wasn’t cause for celebration.
just the opposite.
Coach Mick Cronin spoke about the lack of defense of the second-placed Bruins in a 100-79 win on Monday night.
“Defensively, one thing I don’t know is that we are good,” said Cronin, who has built his coaching reputation on defense. “I’m trying to find someone who can defend the ball.”
Johnny Xuzang scored 25 points and Jules Bernard added 22 – the highest level of his career – and a career-best seven assists as UCLA (3-0) returned in a dominant second half.
“We know at what level we are capable of playing,” said a sad Xuzang. “Just winning doesn’t always satisfy us. This is how you perform. We’ve made too many mistakes.”
The Bruins couldn’t stop the pairing of Joel Murray and Colin Slater. Murray scored a career-high 30 points. Slater had a career-high 27 points and five 3-pointers for Beach (1-1).
“You have to give credit to other people, so good to have those kids,” Cronin said. “It’s not going to ease my pain of terrible defense.”
The first half saw six ties and five lead changes as the Bruins took a nine-point lead.
Long Beach State used 14–0 runs to take their biggest lead of the game, 28–23 after Slater scored 12 runs in a row. He hit two 3-pointers as Beach shot 67% off the floor in the half.
“As the kids would say, they were cooking,” said Long Beach State coach Dan Monson. “I wish we could feed them more.”
Tiger Campbell eventually jumpstarted the Bruins with back-to-back 3-pointers, starting a 25-17 jump to finish the half ahead 48-45 with UCLA.
Bernard had 10 points, including two 3-pointers, and scored a rebound of his own miss. Juzang’s defensive rebound while lying on his back under the Long Beach State basket resulted in Bernard’s second 3 bounce.
Bernard was 8 of 11 off the floor, 4 of 5 from a 3-point boundary, made both his free throws and had five rebounds in the game.
“We came out and we went into the zone to try to keep them off balance, but as the game progressed, they looked more comfortable in the second half, and they started rolling after that,” Monson said.
Jujang followed up his 25-point effort in an overtime win against the then No. 4 Villanova last week with at least 20 points in her second straight game despite four fouls. Jaime Jaquez Jr added 17 points and Campbell had 15 points.
“I know everyone is happy that we beat Villanova, but the game was at home. We have a lot of room for improvement,” Cronin said. “Right now I need some leadership, accountability in the locker room.”
The Bruins got off to a strong start to start the second half, beating Beach 28–13 to take their biggest lead of the game to 76–58. Bernard had 10 points and Xujang had six.
This effectively eliminated Long Beach State, which never got within single digits.
Long Beach State never won at the Poly Pavilion, although it came close in 2019-20, losing by four points after leading six with five minutes remaining. The Bruins are 18-1 in the all-time series.
Long Beach State: The Beach Returns Nine lettermen joined in three transfers, three freshmen and one returning redshirt. Jordan Roberts, Slater and Drew Cobb all took advantage of an NCAA rule in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed them to return for a fifth year. Beach is looking to rebound after being hit hard by COVID-19 and injuries last season, with five or more players missing at least seven games.
UCLA: The Bruins have a chance to up their game next Tuesday with undefeated No. 1 Gonzaga. They are 7–4 against teams in the top five of the NWN Poll since the start of the 2015–16 season. That mark includes a pair of victories against top-ranked Kentucky in 2015 and 2016.
Long Beach State: Hosts Utah Valley on Wednesdays.
UCLA will host North Florida on Wednesday in the final match of four straight home games to start the season.
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