UCLA came in looking to get back on track after losing back-to-back games away from home against Notre Dame and North Carolina.
The Bruins battled late but ultimately fell short while suffering a 77-74 upset loss to Cal State Fullerton at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, snapping a seven-game losing streak against UCLA.
The Titans (4-10) earned only their fourth win of the season, while the Bruins (7-6) lost its third consecutive game after a disheartening performance.
“I apologize to our fans for our defensive effort once again,” UCLA coach Mike 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.”
Sophomore guard Wayne Arnold had 19 points, converting four 3-pointers off the bench for Cal State Fullerton and senior forward Jackson Rowe added 17.
Redshirt freshman guard Tyger Campbell led the Bruins with 18 and nine assists, redshirt freshman forward Cody Riley added 12 and freshman guard Jamie Jaquez Jr. had 11.
The Titans shot 58.3% from 3-point range and 50.9% from the field, while the Bruins made only five 3-pointers on 25 percent shooting from distance.
“We’re not holding each other accountable,” said junior guard Chris Smith, who had eight points and six rebounds. “Nobody’s getting on anybody. We’re playing soft, to be honest with you, and we’re not holding each other accountable and we gotta change both of those things.”
A back-and-forth first half resulted in a 33-33 score through 20 minutes of play, but it was the second half when the game began to unravel for the Bruins.
The Titans made nine of 13 threes and led by as many as 14 with the Bruins unable to keep pace offensively and defensively. UCLA controlled the rebounding margin (39-28) but did not matter due to the team’s poor 43 percent shooting effort.
“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 its 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.”
Campbell nailed a three late in closing minutes of the game to inch the Bruins closer within one, but the Titans came up with a response of their own.
Senior guard Austen Awosika converted a tough floater with 22 seconds remaining to extend Cal State Fullerton’s lead to 77-74. On the next possession, UCLA missed a three-point attempt with 15 seconds left, Awosika then missed the first of a one-and-one free throw but redeemed himself on the other end after getting the game-winning steal to end the game against UCLA’s Prince Ali.
“Cal State Fullerton came in today like they were playing against UCLA,” Cronin said later. “The problem is they came in with the humility that they were playing against guys up on the rafters with their attitude and the way they approached the game. They’re not too good to do every little possible thing that goes into winning. And that’s what I got to change here. … We’re not going to win until we’re humble enough to do the things that it takes to win games. The name of your jersey has nothing to do with who wins basketball.”
UCLA next travels to Washington to face the Huskies (10-3) on Thursday in its Pac-12 Conference opener. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 PM at Alaska Airlines Arena.