UCLA has made overcoming adversity its March Madness signature

Instinct will likely be to level to Saturday evening as proof of why UCLA received’t win a nationwide championship.

Calmer heads will supply the escape towards Northwestern as a cause the Bruins will. Ignore the slim margin of victory. Mick Cronin’s workforce is on its means.

The Bruins couldn’t rating within the second half. They have been troubled by the Wildcats’ 7-foot heart, Matthew Nicholson. There have been stretches through which they couldn’t cease guard Chase Audige.

Somehow, they by no means relinquished their lead. Somehow, they received.

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

“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 at the moment are certainly one 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 could be the fourth, by defeating Texas Christian on Sunday.

This isn’t an accident.

In their first two video games of this NCAA match, the Bruins obliterated the notion that the lack of their greatest defensive participant would finally catch as much as them.

The Bruins have confirmed to be as ferocious with out Jaylen Clark as they have been with him. They have contested each shot, thrown themselves at each unfastened ball.

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

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

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The mindset produced a 35-25 lead at halftime. The Bruins dedicated only one fewer turnover than the Wildcats, 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 fastbreak factors and an 11-3 edge in factors scored off turnovers.

Boo Buie, who entered the sport because the Wildcats’ main scorer, had solely 5 factors at halftime. Audige, the second-leading scorer, had none.

UCLA’s concentrate on the perimeter created openings for Nicholson, who completed the sport with 17 factors.

Northwestern additionally had a noticeable benefit on the glass, the Wildcats ending the sport with 34 rebounds to the Bruins’ 28. The Wildcats tried 59 subject objectives, 15 greater than then Bruins.

“If we rebounded the ball, we control the whole game,” Cronin mentioned.

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

Jaime Jaquez Jr. completed with 24 factors, 14 of which have been scored within the first half. Amari Bailey scored 14 factors.

They assist make up for a sluggish offensive evening from Tyger Campbell, who missed all seven of his field-goal makes an attempt. But Campbell contributed what he may, sinking all 12 of his free throws.

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Forward Adem Bona was restricted in his return from a shoulder damage. But like Campbell, he did what he may. With the Bruins holding on to a 59-56 lead and a pair of:23 left within the sport, Bona missed a pair of free throws. However, on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession, Bona blocked a layup by Audige. David Singleton made a 3 and the Bruins’ lead was abruptly again to 6.

Cronin additionally tailored, making adjustments to decelerate Audige, who scored 16 factors within the second half.

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

Cronin should make extra changes in future rounds. He’ll have to determine cope with dimension. He’ll need to get the ball into Bailey’s arms extra. But he’s already taken care of crucial half. He’s already taught his gamers win.