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Following the UCLA men’s basketball team’s narrow 72-70 victory against Utah Thursday night, coach Mick Cronin was not pleased.

The combination of the team’s performance, and a way forward, was summed up in one word when asked what the Bruins (6-2, 2-0 Pac-12) need to work on.

“Everything,” Cronin said.

It’s hard to gauge what kind of UCLA team will show up Saturday evening against Colorado (7-2, 1-1) at Pauley Pavilion. Is it the one that paralyzes teams with its defensive intensity, or the team that is capable of making half its 3s in a game?

Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. on Pac-12 Network.

That’s been the tale of UCLA through two conference games, at least on the stat sheet.

In the lopsided win over Cal on Dec. 6, UCLA held the Golden Bears to 37% shooting in the opening half which created a 40-22 lead en route to a 20-point win. The defense was there.

On New Year’s Eve, Utah shot 50% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. However, UCLA’s shooting touch was on – making 10 of 20 from downtown, setting a season-high, a far cry from the six the Bruins made against Marquette and four made against Ohio State. Cronin was displeased with his team’s defense Thursday.

“This group of guys (UCLA) is trying to outscore their opponent because we shoot the ball better,” Cronin said after the Utah game. “To me, that’s the mindset of our players and that’s why we’re not where we need to be defensively.”

Cronin’s wants his teams to form an identity on defense. That’s the UCLA team that needs to show up against a good-shooting Colorado team led by a conference player of the year candidate in McKinley Wright IV.

The Buffs took down USC 72-62 at the Galen Center Thursday night. McKinley led the way with 19 points – a majority of his baskets coming while slashing to the basket. Colorado has three players averaging double digits in scoring: McKinley (15.9), forward Evan Battey (10.0) and Jeriah Home (10.8), who has come off the bench in eight of the team’s nine games this season.

“Right now, our biggest weakness is that we can’t stay between the man with the ball and the basket,” Cronin said simply. “We need to have a better commitment to that. If your defense is based off of constantly bailing your teammate out, teams are going to find the open man when you’re playing good teams.”

This post first appeared on ocregister.com

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