Tony Parker was the talk of last night, as his career-high 22 points helped power UCLA to a 91-74 rout of Stanford. The win gives the Bruins a chance to tie for second in the Pac-12 on Sunday, but marked yet another tantalizing effort in the big man’s uneven career.
In arguably his best college game yet, the 6-foot-9 sophomore created many of his own chances, grabbing five of his seven rebounds on the offensive end. It echoed his showing against Arizona earlier this month, in which he snatched five of eight there.
I’m still not convinced Parker can ever produce a 20-and-7 night on even a semi-regular basis, but his effort on the offensive glass has improved. A freshman season spent mostly on the bench saw him grab 6.5 percent of available offensive rebounds. This year, that mark is up to 13.6 percent. Among the conference’s significant contributors (minimum 40 percent of minutes played), that puts him second-best behind Oregon’s Elgin Cook.
“After the Utah game, I watched a lot of clips of Kevin Love and Zach Randolph, who are my favorite players, and I noticed that they stayed around the arc and were active,” said Parker, whose seven free throw attempts were also a career high. “So tonight, I decided to stay around the arc and I kept moving.”
The performance was so surprising that after the postgame press conference, teammate Jordan Adams looked at the box score and snickered at Parker: “You had 22?”
Before his joke about Parker’s clothes, head coach Steve Alford did have a, erm, interesting response when asked how he motivates players: “That’s always on players. The players play. We obviously hope.”
Effort, though, isn’t the main issue for Parker right now. Instincts are. Shedding roughly 25 pounds over the offseason hasn’t been as transformed his game as much as some expected: he’s still a step slow in many situations, particularly on defensive rotations; he struggles with fouls, but has also dropped his per-40-minute rate down from 10.4 to 5.8; he doesn’t have the softest hands.
But there is, as always, promise. He benefitted from the frequent easy looks that Stanford gave up, which allowed UCLA at least a dozen layups and dunks.
Up next is Cal, whose big man duo of Richard Solomon and David Kravish has helped keep opponents shooting 43.4 percent on 2-point attempts — 33rd in the country and second in the Pac-12 behind Arizona (40.0). If Parker can put up, say, 14 and 5, maybe he’s found a switch.
— UCLA’s 15 steals was one shy of a season high, a total it balanced with a season-low six turnovers. The Bruins coughed up the ball just twice in the first half against a Stanford defense that was largely unsuccessful in generating pressure.
— Sophomore Kyle Anderson had 13 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season and the 18th of his career. That tally includes the triple-double he had against Morehead State in November.
Senior forward Dwight Powell had 17 points and 13 rebounds for his sixth of the season and 18th of his career, but had zero assists to six turnovers. He entered the game averaging a team-high 4.2 assists. (Note: The greatest casualty of Johnny Dawkins’ failed stint at Stanford is Powell’s wasted career. The sixth-year head coach has yet to reach the NCAA tournament, despite a top-15 recruiting class in 2010, and four four-star recruits since then.)