Saturday, April 20, 2024

AdvertiseDonateSubmit
NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds

Tied for third place in the Pac-12, UCLA men’s basketball to face Bay Area teams

UCLA men’s basketball junior guard Lazar Stefanovic dribbles past Oregon center Mahamadou Diawara during the game between the Bruins and Ducks last weekend. (Jake Greenberg-Bell/Daily Bruin staff)

Men's basketball


Stanford
Wednesday, 6 p.m.

Maples Pavilion
Pac-12 Networks
California
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

Haas Pavilion
Fox

By Lauryn Olina Wang

Feb. 6, 2024 11:36 p.m.

The Pac-12 tournament is just over a month away, and no team has won more than eight conference games.

No. 8 Arizona stands alone at the top with an 8-3 record, while Washington State and Oregon follow one game behind in a tie for second.

The Bruins trail close behind in a four-way tie for third.

Packed into tight conference rankings and touting a winning record in Pac-12 play for the first time since December, UCLA men’s basketball (11-11, 6-5 Pac-12) may spur further upward movement in the standings with successful matchups against Stanford (11-10, 6-5) on Wednesday and California (9-13, 5-6) on Saturday. The Bruins previously dropped both contests to the two schools at home amid a four-game losing streak beginning Dec. 30.

Since then, UCLA has turned the tide with five victories in its past six outings and will return to the road for the first time in two weeks.

“The hungry dog gets the bone,” said coach Mick Cronin. “We finally became hungry enough to fight for the bone in the alley. We’ve been willing to get scratched and clawed to get these victories.”

And for Cronin, the road atmosphere is the least of his concerns.

“I don’t address it, I believe it’s an excuse for the road team,” Cronin said. “Teams do play harder at home – their girlfriend’s probably at the game – but it’s not okay to lose just because you’re on the road. That’s the softest mindset you can have.”

Cronin attributed the most disciplined mindset on the team to junior guard Lazar Stefanovic, whose preparation Cronin claimed is the best he has ever coached. The Utah transfer has seemingly found his shooting stride, averaging just over 16 points per game in the past six games.

Sophomore forward/center Adem Bona said the team is beginning to emulate Stefanovic’s habits.

“I see him stretch, I want to stretch, too. I see him stay on the court for 20 more minutes after, I want to stay on the court, too,” Bona said. “It’s contagious, it’s passing down the whole team.”

(Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)
UCLA sophomore forward/center Adem Bona rises with the ball in hand while being guarded by Oregon State center KC Ibekwe. Bona had 18 points against the Beavers. (Shane Yu/Daily Bruin staff)

With 55 career starts under his belt, Stefanovic is the most experienced player on UCLA’s roster – which features only three upperclassmen. He said Cronin has instilled trust in his shot, which translated to the stat sheet particularly in the down-to-the-wire win against Oregon on Sunday.

“I did a better job being ready to shoot right away and then playing off of it, … trying to beat them off the dribble,” Stefanovic said. “He’s (Cronin) been telling me for a long time, (I) need to step up in that area. It helped a lot with confidence.”

Bona added that the increased shooting production from a 3-point range has helped space the floor while also posing a conundrum for the opposing defenses to decide whether to double-team Stefanovic, redshirt sophomore guard Will McClendon or sophomore guard Dylan Andrews.

The three guards are a combined 43.5% from beyond the arc in the past six games, a marked contrast considering the team had only eclipsed the .400 mark from deep in a game once before Jan. 14.

Andrews alone averaged 19.5 points, five assists and 1.5 steals against Oregon State and Oregon at home last weekend, in addition to his .536 shooting clip and combined 5-for-6 mark from 3-point range. He proved a composed point guard for the Bruins down the stretch and garnered the Pac-12 Player of the Week award in return.

“I texted him, called him, let him know that’s what we deserve, that’s what we need,” said freshman guard Sebastian Mack. “As a point guard, he’ll lead us to continue winning games.”

With five weeks until the Pac-12 tournament – where a top-four regular-season finish would guarantee a first-round bye – UCLA could inch closer toward that goal with a road sweep this week.

The recipe for success may lay in the young Bruins buying into Cronin’s philosophy.

“I wouldn’t call him a wizard, but the stuff he does say usually ends up happening,” Mack said. “All of us as a unit are tuned into whatever he says.”

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
Lauryn Olina Wang | Sports senior staff
Wang is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women’s basketball, men’s basketball, NIL and football beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women’s basketball, men’s soccer, men’s golf and track and field beats, reporter on the women’s basketball beat and contributor on the men’s and women’s golf beats. Wang is also a fourth-year history major and community engagement and social change minor.
Wang is currently a Sports senior staff writer on the women’s basketball, men’s basketball, NIL and football beats. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women’s basketball, men’s soccer, men’s golf and track and field beats, reporter on the women’s basketball beat and contributor on the men’s and women’s golf beats. Wang is also a fourth-year history major and community engagement and social change minor.
COMMENTS
Featured Classifieds
Roommates-Private Room

WESTWOOD, Campus 5-minute walk. Own room in large furnished two-bedroom. Only occupant travels. Fireplace, cat, book/movie/video collections $1,295 w/utilities. [email protected]

More classifieds »
Related Posts