The Bruins have not slipped below a .500 record in nearly four years, but they are now in jeopardy of doing just that.
UCLA men’s basketball (8-8, 1-2 Pac-12) will host Stanford (14-2, 3-0) at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night as it not only tries to snap a two-game skid, but also avoid a losing record the first time since March 2016.
Despite the fact that the Cardinal have lost each of their last 13 road matchups with the Bruins dating back to the 2005-2006 season, they enter Wednesday’s matchup as the lone unbeaten team in Pac-12 play.
Coach Mick Cronin said Stanford’s defense has been the key to its success early in the season and added that tough-minded teams like the Cardinal are the types of teams the Bruins have struggled to put together full games against.
“Younger teams struggle to compete at the level you need to compete at as games go on,” Cronin said. “Older teams tend to impose their will, more physical teams, tougher teams tend to impose their will on other teams. That’s just the bottom line. We’re fighting and scrapping, trying to build our will to compete for 40 minutes.”
UCLA’s inability to keep its foot on the gas has come back to bite it in back-to-back outings. It surrendered a double-digit second-half lead in a loss at Washington State and then allowed USC to shoot nearly 70% from the floor in the second half of Saturday’s loss.
Sophomore guard David Singleton said that while the team has proven it has the tools to be effective on both ends of the floor for a full 40 minutes, it still has to avoid falling into mental lulls during games.
“It’s just mental toughness, staying locked in and engaged for 40 minutes,” Singleton said. “We’ve shown sparks over the course of the games. We’ll have 20 minute sparks, even 30 minute sparks and then lay off for 10 minutes.”
Sophomore guard Jules Bernard also said that he’s seen improvement in the Bruins’ defensive effort as of late, but believes the unit can reach its full potential by figuring out how to sustain pressure for the entire 30-second shot clock on every possession.
“We have good initial efforts that maybe cause a bad shot or a loose ball. But it’s that second effort to box out and get the rebound or dive on a loose ball,” Bernard said. “Or even if we play good for the first 15 seconds of the shot clock sometimes we fall asleep for the last however many seconds on the shot clock.”
The Bruins are 8-0 this season when allowing 70 points or fewer, but 0-8 when allowing more than 70 points. Meanwhile, the Cardinal own a 10-0 record in games in which they score at least 70 points, and they are allowing just 57.1 points in those contests.
“We’re 8-0 when we give up less than 70,” Cronin said. “It’s not rocket science.”
UCLA and Stanford will tipoff at Pauley Pavilion at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night.