UCLA’s Kenneth Nwuba grabs a rebound in front of Northwestern’s Brooks Barnhizer during the Bruins’ 68-63 win in the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday night. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Instinct will be to point to Saturday as evidence for why UCLA can’t win a national championship.
Calmer heads will offer the escape against Northwestern as a reason the Bruins can. Ignore the narrow margin of victory. Mick Cronin’s team is on its way.
Plenty went wrong for the Bruins at Golden 1 Center. Yet, somehow, they never let the Wildcats overtake them. Somehow, they won.
Their 68-63 victory over Northwestern was more about their determination than their shot-making ability, more about their comfort doing whatever was necessary to win than their domination in any particular statistical category.
This was about Tyger Campbell missing all seven of his field-goal attempts but sinking each of his dozen free throws.
This was about Adem Bona missing a couple of free throws, only to come up with a critical block on the Wildcats’ next offensive play, leading to a three-pointer by David Singleton that opened up a six-point advantage for UCLA with 1:52 to play.
“You gotta be able to play situational winning basketball,” Cronin said, “because situations change.”
Situations also changed for Kansas earlier in the day. Situations changed for Purdue the day before. Kansas and Purdue didn’t survive. UCLA did.
The Bruins are now one of just three teams in the country that have reached the Sweet 16 in each of the last three years, the others being Arkansas and Houston. Gonzaga can be the fourth, by defeating Texas Christian on Sunday.
This isn’t an accident.
“When I got the job, people started asking about style of play,” Cronin said. “W-I-N. We got to teach guys how to win. There’s a lot of ways to win.”
Like taking advantage of transition opportunities to build a 35-25 halftime lead.
The Bruins committed just one fewer turnover than the Wildcats in the first half,…
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Author : LA Times
Publish date : 2023-03-19 04:39:48
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