The same UCLA team that lost to Hofstra and Cal State Fullerton has now rattled off five straight Pac-12 victories and is position for a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Mick Cronin's first Bruins squad knocked off No. 18 Colorado 70-63 on the road Saturday to come within a game of the conference leaders Arizona and Arizona State. UCLA (17-11, 10-5 Pac-12) has won nine of its last 11 since starting 8-9 overall and 1-3 in the league.
Saturday's victory required a second-half rally. Colorado (21-7, 10-5 Pac-12) entered with a 7-1 record in conference home games and led by nine in the second half before the Bruins staged a run. Point guard Tyger Campbell keyed the comeback with a 15-point, 11-assist outing for the first double-double of his career.
UCLA closes with games against Arizona State, Arizona and USC. Each are competing for one of the four byes in the conference tournament.
The bye could be especially useful for the Bruins, who entered the weekend ranked 90th in the NET and not on CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm's NCAA Tournament bubble.
But that could change, Palm said.
"If this hot streak keeps going we could find this team in the bracket eventually," Palm said. "It's a remarkable run."
The Bruins' resume is stained by the Nov. 21 loss to Hofstra and the Dec. 28 loss to Cal State Fullerton. Both came at home as the Cronin era sputtered out of the gate. The former Cincinnati coach began his press conference after the Fullerton loss by apologizing for his team's defensive effort.
But nearly two months later, Cronin is crediting defense for his team's recent surge, and the Bruins have already surpassed last season's conference win total.
"In a lot of these games, for the last 10 minutes, or for us the last 12 minutes, we stopped giving up layups," Cronin told reporters Saturday. "Even some of the baskets they made were hard shots."