UCLA has made overcoming adversity its March Madness signature

Instinct might be to level to Saturday as proof for why UCLA can’t win a nationwide championship.

Calmer heads will supply the escape towards Northwestern as a purpose the Bruins can. Ignore the slim margin of victory. Mick Cronin’s crew is on its approach.

Plenty went mistaken for the Bruins at Golden 1 Center. Yet, someway, they by no means let the Wildcats overtake them. Somehow, they received.

Their 68-63 victory over Northwestern was extra about their willpower than their shot-making potential, extra about their consolation doing no matter was essential to win than their domination in any explicit statistical class.

This was about Tyger Campbell lacking all seven of his field-goal makes an attempt however sinking every of his dozen free throws.

This was about Adem Bona lacking a few free throws, solely to provide you with a essential block on the Wildcats’ subsequent offensive play, resulting in a three-pointer by David Singleton that opened up a six-point benefit for UCLA with 1:52 to play.

“You gotta be able to play situational winning basketball,” Cronin mentioned, “because situations change.”

Situations additionally modified for Kansas earlier within the day. Situations modified for Purdue the day earlier than. Kansas and Purdue didn’t survive. UCLA did.

The Bruins are actually one in every of simply three groups within the nation which have reached the Sweet 16 in every of the final three years, the others being Arkansas and Houston. Gonzaga will 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 mentioned. “W-I-N. We got to teach guys how to win. There’s a lot of ways to win.”

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Like making the most of transition alternatives to construct a 35-25 halftime lead.

The Bruins dedicated only one fewer turnover than the Wildcats within the first half, however the distinction was in what they did with their opponents’ errors. Over the primary 20 minutes, the Bruins had a 13-0 benefit in fast-break factors and an 11-3 edge in factors scored off turnovers.

“I thought that was big because they’re such a good half-court defensive team,” Cronin mentioned.

The early lead proved useful.

Northwestern completed with a 34-28 edge in rebounds, together with 14-3 on the offensive glass. That resulted within the Wildcats’ trying 59 pictures to the Bruins’ 44.

“If we would have rebounded the ball,” Cronin mentioned, “we would have controlled the whole game.”

Instead, the Bruins discovered themselves tied at 45-45 with 11:26 remaining within the sport.

UCLA’s David Singleton (34) celebrates after making a three-pointer towards Northwestern within the second half Saturday.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Seven-foot heart Matthew Nicholson stored the Wildcats within the sport within the first half. Guard Chase Audige led the Wildcats on a run that critically threatened the Bruins within the second, as all 16 of Audige’s factors have been scored after halftime.

“We countered with a little trap on their pick and rolls that slowed their offense down,” Cronin mentioned.

The Wildcats missed 12 of their final 14 field-goal makes an attempt.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. completed with 24 factors. Amari Bailey scored 14 factors.

Still a freshman and already the crew’s most gifted participant, Bailey made 5 of seven pictures from the sector.

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“It’s my fault he didn’t get enough shots,” Cronin mentioned. “Still working on figure that one out.”

In their first two video games of this NCAA event, the Bruins obliterated the notion that the lack of their greatest defensive participant would ultimately catch as much as them. The Bruins have confirmed to be as ferocious with out Jaylen Clark as they have been with him. They nonetheless contest each shot, nonetheless throw themselves at each unfastened ball.

They might need misplaced the participant who greatest personified their defensive philosophy, however they nonetheless have their non secular chief on the sidelines. They nonetheless have Cronin. The gamers have adopted Cronin’s demeanor, enjoying with an depth that borders on anger. They don’t smile on the courtroom.

UCLA’s subsequent event cease might be in Las Vegas. Between from time to time, Cronin could have some issues to handle, together with the potential lack of Singleton, who sprained an ankle within the ultimate minute. But the coach has already taken care of an important half. Cronin has made profitable the type of sport the Bruins received on Saturday second nature.