UCLA men’s basketball in ‘must-win’ mode with 4 Pac-12 games left – LA Daily News

UCLA coach Mick Cronin and sophomore Jaime Jaquez Jr. echoed each other after the win over Arizona on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion.

“These are must-win games,” Jaquez Jr. said after scoring a career-high 25 points in the 74-60 victory. “That’s the attitude we came into the game with (Thursday night), and I feel like we showed that.”

Cronin later said: “(Thursday night) was huge. We’re in a must-win situation. We knew it …

“With our résumé, the way our league is being disrespected … that’s where my mindset is.”

The only Pac-12 team ranked in the AP Top 25 is No. 17 USC.

Maybe, UCLA (15-5, 11-3 Pac-12) can change that with another decisive win this week over Arizona State (7-10, 4-7) Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.

The Bruins edged the Sun Devils in overtime 81-75 on Jan. 7 in Tempe.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has UCLA earning a No. 9 seed in his most recent bracketology release for the NCAA Tournament, yet Cronin’s approach to March had a humorous, facetious tone.

“We’re just trying to make sure we get into March Madness…,” Cronin said when asked about his team preparation for the big tournament, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

The Bruins are one of four teams with double-digit wins in conference play along with Colorado (10-6), Stanford (10-6) and USC (12-2). Two of those teams remain on UCLA’s schedule – at Colorado on Feb. 27 and the regular-season finale at Pauley Pavilion against USC on March 6 – and three of the final four games are on national television.

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After Saturday night’s game on ESPN2, the showdown against Colorado will be on ESPN or ESPN2, and the USC game will be on CBS. Marquee wins against top-conference talent in late February on national television might not gain respect for the Pac-12 the way Cronin thinks, but more importantly, it should garner more respect for UCLA.


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