LOS ANGELES (AP) — UCLA coach Mick Cronin made no secret of his distaste for his team’s defense or disposition following a shocking 77-74 upset loss to Cal State Fullerton.
The Bruins (7-6) fell behind by 14 points in the second half to a team that had won just three games all season and rallied but couldn’t stop the Titans’ hot outside shooting that led to 14 3-pointers.
“I apologize to our fans for our defensive effort once again,” Cronin said. “Our metrics are horrible. You can’t defend, you can’t win. ... if you hold the ball long enough, we’ll break down. We’re not good enough to win with offense. We have to win with defense. I apologize to people that took the time out of their Saturday that had to come and watch this. Our defensive effort is beyond sickening. Beyond sickening. Sickening at the highest level.”
Wayne Arnold had 19 points — including four 3-pointers — off the bench for Cal State Fullerton and Jackson Rowe added 17 as the Titans had another program-building victory on Saturday.
This was the first time Cal State Fullerton (4-10) beat a Power Five school since December 2011 when it won at Utah.
The Titans shot 58.3% from 3-point range and 50.9% from the field.
“I liked our shot selection. We we had an emphasis on paint-touch, in-rhythm shots and our group bought into that,” Titans coach Dedrique Taylor said. “We were consistent in that. Very few came from a first-side shot. Everything was paint-touch, in rhythm 3s. We were consistent, even when things weren’t going our way, it was about the process of getting a good shot, not taking and making a bad shot.”
Tyger Campbell scored 18 points for UCLA.
Austen Awosika made a floater in the lane with 22 seconds left to extend the Titans lead to 77-74. Jake Kyman missed a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. Awosika missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw, but later made the game-clinching steal to end the game in the final seconds.
The Big West Conference Titans beat the Bruins on their home floor, providing another signature win for the program. It’s the second time in school history the Titans beat the Bruins.
“It means a tremendous amount to them because we’ve been through some adverse times,” Taylor said. “For the first time all year, we’ve had almost our full roster. We’re still missing one guy but it shows when you do get healthy, what we’re capable of.”
UCLA worked its way back into the game and went on a 17-0 run to take over the lead at 68-65, with Campbell's 3-pointer putting UCLA back on top after it had fallen behind at 65-51.
The Bruins (7-6) have lost three consecutive games. This was their last nonconference game.
In the second half, the Titans went on a 15-1 run to build a 55-45 lead. During that run, UCLA called a timeout and then turned the ball over in the backcourt. The Titans shot the ball well from the outside and inside.
The Bruins returned home after losing their last two games, at Norte Dame and a neutral site game against North Carolina. Still, UCLA struggled against Fullerton, which last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2018.
For Cronin, it wasn’t just the defense that drew his ire.
“I’ve talked about it before and I talked about it over the holiday break. We need to get some humility,” Cronin said. “It’s my opinion that some of it's youth and some of its arrogance for no reason. Our fate isn’t going to change until we get some humility ... If all you're worried about is getting 12 points, regardless of the outcome for our team, it’s going to continue. My message was, at what point are they going to challenge each other? I can only do so much.”
He then said he might have to ask football coach Chip Kelly if he could be loaned a couple of guys for his post defense.
UCLA is 10-2 all-time against Cal State Fullerton.
The Bruins shot just 27.3% from 3-point range in the first half.
Cal State Fullerton shot no free throws in the first half.
CS Fullerton: The Titans played well, breaking UCLA’s press and shooting well from outside. They should forget their overall record and concentrate on strengths as they approach a new season of conference play soon.
UCLA: The Bruins have found, once again, there is plenty to figure out defensively before Pac-12 Conference play begins.
THE BILL WALTON EFFECT
Bill Walton, who broadcast the game for the Pac-12 Network, was at Cal State Fullerton’s practice on Saturday. Taylor thought that was cool but didn’t think any of his players were star-struck.
“We had Bill Walton in our gym yesterday and that’s unheard of,” Taylor said. “The experience of what these guys are going through, good and bad, we hope will continue to teach lifelong lessons. He’s one of the best, if not the best, to play the game. Unfortunately, some of our guys had never seen him play so we had to tell them who he was. You know how millennials are. They’re not amazed by much, especially if it’s not tangible. I think in time they’ll appreciate the experience of meeting him and who he is.”
UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. suffered what appeared to be a right leg injury in the second half. He had to be helped off the court, didn’t put any pressure on his right leg, and went straight to the locker room. He returned to the game.
CS Fullerton: Hosts St. Katherine Friday in its final game before Big West Conference play begins.
UCLA: Plays at Washington on Thursday in its Pac-12 Conference opener.