No. 2 UCLA aims to tighten up defensively vs. North Florida

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UCLA coach Mick Cronin isn’t consumed by his second-ranked team averaging 93.7 points per game.

He’s more concerned with the ole’ defense that is occurring too often entering Wednesday’s nonconference game against visiting North Florida in Los Angeles.

“We better (score 93.7 points per game). If I had a pair of sneakers, I think I could score on some of our guys,” the 5-foot-7 Cronin said after Monday’s 100-79 home win over Long Beach State. “I turn 50 this summer, just to remind you.”

The Bruins (3-0) allowed Long Beach State to make 58.2 percent of its shots, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range. Cronin made it clear the defensive results are unacceptable.

“I’m just trying to search for somebody who can actually guard the ball, help who they are supposed to help and follow the scouting report,” Cronin said.

UCLA is allowing 71.3 points per game. Perhaps part of Cronin’s methodology has to do with the looming Nov. 23 showdown with top-ranked Gonzaga, the squad that beat the Bruins in last season’s Final Four.

Regardless, Cronin wasn’t interested in discussing the 100 points his team put on the scoreboard. Also wasn’t impressed that Johnny Juzang scored 25 points and Jules Bernard added 22.

Asked if his team can regularly win with the defensive performance against the Beach, Cronin said, “completely unsustainable. Completely.”

Juzang, who is averaging 23.0 points, understood why his head coach was upset despite the team winning by 21 points.

“We have a team where everyone is returning, so we know the level that we’re capable of playing at, so just winning a game isn’t always going to satisfy us,” Juzang said. “It’s how you performed, how you won the game or lost the game. You know when you’ve made too many mistakes.”

The Bruins did force 25 turnovers in the win over Long Beach State.

UCLA doesn’t figure to have much trouble with North Florida (0-4), which is wrapping up a season-opening stretch of five road games in nine days. The losses have been by an average of 14 points.

The Ospreys faced a Pac-12 school for the first time on Monday night while falling 72-63 at Arizona State.

North Florida opened the game with a 16-4 burst and later trailed by two points with under four minutes to play. But the Sun Devils controlled the final stretch to keep the Ospreys winless.

“I’m really proud of the fight,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said, “but our guys understand and we know we’re not about moral victories, we’re not about close and playing cornhole and getting it on the board as opposed to getting it in the hole.”

Jose Placer scored a season-high 25 points to increase his scoring average to 11.5.

Carter Hendricksen, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh career double-double, leads the team in both scoring (15.0) and rebounding (5.0).

Hendricksen is 69 points away from becoming the 18th player in program history to reach 1,000 career points.

The Ospreys have also lost to Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Grand Canyon on the long trip. But the setback against Arizona State left Driscoll encouraged about the effort.

“We did a great job of competing for 40 minutes,” Driscoll said. “We have to continue to take that to another level with quick travel and playing UCLA on Wednesday night.”

–Field Level Media

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