Notes: Steve Alford talks Norman Powell’s breakout

Junior guard Norman Powell has steadily improved every part of his game since he arrived at UCLA, but his most dramatic jump this season has come on offense. Still the team’s best man-to-man defender, the San Diego native has bumped his 2-point shooting to 66.4 percent, up from 57.8 last season and 40.5 the year before that.

In conference games, the Bruins rank seventh inside the arc at 48.3 percent, a middling performance that stems at least in part from the roster’s dearth of dominant big men.

Arizona, first in the category, has three starters making more than 56 percent of their 2-point shots. The only UCLA player that clears that mark besides Powell is Tony Parker at 59.8 percent. David Wear and Travis Wear average 52.8 and 46.9 percent, respectively.

Powell scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in Sunday’s 76-64 win against Cal, an unspectacular but crucial contribution across 30 minutes — the most he has played against a conference opponent.

Head coach Steve Alford talked about Powell’s “breakout year” after the win, pointing out his propensity for driving down the lane and drawing fouls.

That becomes more important in the context of the team as a whole. UCLA’s 37.7 percent free-throw rate ranks just 10th in the conference, and 245th in the country. Powell’s 36.8 percent isn’t exactly hauling that number up, but besides Kyle Anderson (50.0) and Jordan Adams (49.4), he is the best option for generating trips to the line. Continue reading

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