Zach LaVine is just six of 29 in his last five games, a slump that has spotlighted the pockmarks on a once stunning freshman campaign.
Most glaring remains shot selection, something that was apparent even during his eight straight double-digit scoring games. It’s just that when contested 25-footers find net, forgiveness comes easy.
Lately, those tough jumpers have been clanking more often than not. His 1-of-6 showing during UCLA’s 92-74 win over Colorado even prompted Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs’ injured star, to chime in from his bed during the game:
Lavine shoots god awful shots
— Spencer Dinwiddie (@SDinwiddie_25) February 14, 2014
Asked if LaVine’s drought was of any concern, head coach Steve Alford said no.
“He’s a freshman,” Alford said. “He’s going through growing pains, just like all freshmen do. I just want him playing hard. … He’s got to relax and do some of those other things.
“Get to the free throw line. All of a sudden, jump shots aren’t going down, do something else. Rebound. Pass.”
It’s a fair point. LaVine will break out of the drought at some point, whether it be on Saturday or next Wednesday or even later. He’s still the best pro prospect on the roster.
But that list of “other things” Alford reeled off? There’s one category where the freshman is sorely lacking: free throws. LaVine doesn’t handle the ball well enough at this point to attack the paint through traffic, and that has resulted in just 38 free throw attempts on the season.
Though over a third of his shots have come at the rim, most are transition dunks or layups rather than in a halfcourt set. This has suppressed his free-throw rate to 18.9. Besides David and Travis Wear, no other Bruin sits below 39.2. (Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams lead at 50.6 and 49.3.)
— Bryce Alford continues to alternate good and bad shooting nights. In four of his last eight outings, he finished without a field goal for a combined 0-of-19. In his other four, he’s 14-of-29.
His 14 points against Colorado may have been his best stretch this season. He hit four 3-pointers to tie his career high, including two that bumped UCLA’s lead from 55-53 to 61-53 in 25 seconds.
“When you make two in a row, it ends up being a lot easier to score,” he said. “Your eyes start opening up. The hoop seems to be a little bit bigger.”
— UCLA has now trailed at halftime in five of its Pac-12 games, looking unusually lethargic in its last two outings. Steve Alford chalked up last Saturday’s 37.1 percent first-half shooting at USC to having to work out of a loss, but had less to offer after beating Colorado.
“I don’t have an answer to that,” he said. “The last couple of games, we’ve had subpar first halves and really, really strong second halves, for whatever reason that is.”