Three things to watch as UCLA takes on No. 1 Kentucky

Let’s be honest here. Almost no one expects UCLA to upset Kentucky on Saturday at the United Center, the toughest challenge yet for a Bruin squad that has yet to gel into a team with a strong identity.

Last week, No. 8 Gonzaga already showed how just how far UCLA is from being one of the country’s elite teams, controlling the game the entire night at Pauley Pavilion and easily snuffing every semblance of a Bruin run. So what’s going to happen when Steve Alford’s squad takes on the top-ranked Wildcats, whose rotation consists almost entirely of former McDonald’s All-Americans? A UCLA win would require a number of things to break right. (An act of God wouldn’t hurt either.)

Here are a few things to keep an eye on today.

1. Can UCLA handle Kentucky’s assembly line of big men? The Bruins have outrebounded nearly every team they’ve faced this season, but their loss against Gonzaga finally pitted them against an opponent that could toss superior size their way. Against 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski and 6-foot-10 Domantas Sabonis, UCLA gave up a 34-30 edge on the glass and struggled to convert second-chance opportunities. It also allowed 65 percent shooting inside the arc, with Sabonis missing just one of his five field goal attempts.

The Wildcats have the biggest rotation in the country, starting with seven-footers Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA holds off Long Beach State in 77-63 win at Pauley Pavilion

UCLA moved to 4-0 on a 77-63 win over Long Beach State, but allowed the 49ers to get within five points with 3:00 left on the clock. Norman Powell and Bryce Alford combined for 41 points, while Kevon Looney logged his third straight double-double. Here’s the game story from Chris Trevino, who filled in at Pauley Pavilion tonight.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Kyle Anderson named UCLA’s most valuable player at team banquet

This was a no-brainer.

After leading UCLA to its first Sweet Sixteen since 2008, point guard Kyle Anderson was named the team’s MVP during Monday night’s year-end banquet at the Beverly Hilton. After averaging 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists — leading the Bruins in the latter two — the third-team AP All-American is headed to the NBA along with former teammates Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine.

Adams, who led UCLA with 17.4 points per game, won the J.D. Morgan Memorial Award for outstanding “team” player. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Report: Jordan Adams, Norman Powell file paperwork for NBA draft status

According to the Los Angeles Times, both Jordan Adams and Norman Powell have filed paperwork for NBA draft evaluations.

However, a source told me Powell will return to UCLA, though Adams is still undecided. The NBA draft early entry deadline is April 27.

Adams led the team in scoring last season with 17.4 points per game, and set a new school record with 95 steals. Bruin 247′s Neal Nieves first reported last month that Adams was exploring the possibility of going pro.

Powell was the Bruins’ best man-to-man defender, and ranked third on the roster with 11.4 points per game. The junior had a breakout year in Steve Alford’s transition offense, averaging 14.2 points on 53.8 percent shooting.

UCLA is already losing to the draft one of the most versatile players in the country in All-American point guard Kyle Anderson, as well as reserve guard Zach LaVine.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Basketball roundup: Halfcourt shots, postseason bonuses and David Grace

MEMPHIS — Norman Powell ended UCLA’s afternoon practice today with his arms raised, celebrating a shot he drilled from halfway down the FedEx Forum floor.

He said it’s the fourth half-court shot he’s hit after a shootaround this season, and tied an ongoing competition the players have with the coaches. Kyle Anderson leads the Bruins with six makes.

Powell said he isn’t sure what’s at stake in the competition besides pride.

Some other stories from this week:
– To get to UCLA, assistant coach David Grace took a circuitous path that followed a 20-year Air Force career.
– Steve Alford has earned $65,000 in performance bonuses on the way to his first Sweet Sixteen since 1999.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

What to watch: Colorado at UCLA

Colorado (18-6, 7-4) at UCLA (18-5, 7-3)
When:
Thursday, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Norman Powell vs. Askia Booker. Last time these two met, UCLA’s junior guard had 19 points to his counterpart’s game-high 21. Powell is a strong man-to-man defender, so it’s Booker — two inches shorter, 45 pounds lighter — that will likely be at a disadvantage. The Colorado guard picked up four fouls when the Bruins visited Boulder, mostly due to Powell’s skill at driving down the lane.

The two have since blossomed into increasingly important roles for their respective teams. With star guard Spencer Dinwiddie sidelined, Booker is a main reason that the Buffs have won three straight. In his past six games, he is averaging 5.67 assists.

No. 2: The 3-point line. Colorado allows 37.1 percent of opposing shots to come from beyond the arc, which is the worst mark of anyone in the conference besides UCLA (42.2). Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Norman Powell finding scoring niche near the rim

As a sophomore, Norman Powell mulled a transfer before then-head coach Ben Howland was fired. Looking back, can you blame him?

The 6-foot-4 guard ranked seventh among UCLA players in offensive rating in 2012-13, and 62nd in the conference. He last touched the ball on 14.5 percent of the team’s possessions, behind even little-used big man Tony Parker.

This year, Powell is the 12th-most efficient offensive player in the conference, four spots behind leading Bruin scorer Jordan Adams. The main difference has been taking more shots closer to the basket, but just how much his shot preference has changed is astounding.

Over three seasons, here are his percentage of shots taken at the rim, his field goal percentage on those shots, and how many of those shots are assisted:

% shots at rim FG% at rim % assisted at rim
2013-14 57.3 71.6 47.9
2012-13 31.9 69.0 55.0
2011-12 24.0 51.4 63.2

Statistics from hoop-math.com

Why the dramatic uptick? Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Notes and quotes: Norman Powell scores season-high 21 at USC

Norman Powell scored a season-high 21 points in UCLA’s 83-73 win at USC last night, 10 of which came in the first 7:08 of the second half as part of his team’s 27-6 run.

It’s not the first time the junior has played the spark plug role this season. In a 70-68 win at Oregon, he scored eight of UCLA’s first 10 points of the second half. In a 69-56 win at Colorado, he scored 19 and forced Buffs guard Askia Booker into early foul trouble.

What made his latest outing a bit different was the return of his shooting stroke. He entered the game shooting 18.4 percent from beyond the arc, but made 2-of-4 against the Trojans. It was the second time this season that he drained multiple 3-pointers.

His eight field goals on Saturday were also a single-game record for a UCLA player in the Galen Center, which was built before the 2006-07 season.

Powell’s improved play has come with increased playing time — though why that uptick hadn’t come earlier is still a pertinent question. The guard has played at least 30 minutes in three of his past four games. He had only cleared that mark in two other games: the first two of the season, against Drexel and Oakland. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email