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 →
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:
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 →
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 →
UCLA had a chance to work on its dunking skills, and Norman Powell had five of UCLA’s 10 slams in this 106-65 win over Chattanooga.
Powell’s windmill dunk was the highlight of the evening as were the 106 points. UCLA hadn’t scored more than 100 points in a non-exhibition game in five years. And that’s because defensive-minded Ben Howland was coach.
This was a new kind of UCLA look to be sure. Kyle Anderson nearly had another triple double with 17 points 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Jordan Adams scored a team-high 22 points, and Tony Parker had a career-best 14 rebounds.
The Bruins are 5-0 for the first time since the 2007-08 season, when they won their first seven games.
UCLA moved to 2-0 Tuesday night, easily dispatching Oakland University 91-60. The Bruins ended the first half on a 27-9 run, then stretched out another 18-2 run midway through the second half.
Sophomore center Tony Parker set new career highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds, crushing his previous bests of 12 and five. After playing just 20 minutes due to foul trouble in last week’s season opener, he said he made an emphasis to keep his hands up. He also added three blocks through 34 minutes.
“I just try to do my dirty work early,” he said of his offensive performance. “Get in position early. … It was hard to box me out. I just kept crashing.”
Norman Powell also had a nice game, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He flushed in a pair of impressive alley-oops, both assisted by freshman Bryce Alford.
“If you throw the ball up near the rim, I’ll go get it,” the junior guard said. “I’ll finish it for you 9 out of 10 times.”
The Bruins have a new dunk champion. Last year, Norman Powell had clearly staked that title. Now, he’s been dethroned by true freshman Zach LaVine.
“The way he dunks the ball, no question,” sophomore Kyle Anderson said. “I wouldn’t put anybody in the conference up with him.”
According to Anderson, Powell may still be slightly better at finishing a stiffly contested dunk. When it comes to freestyling, however, LaVine has the edge.
UCLA’s point forward recalled a scrimmage at Pauley Pavilion over the summer. While sitting behind the basket, he watched LaVine turn rise up from outside the circle on a fast break, dunking under a defender before coming back up and finishing.
“It was one of the best dunks I’ve ever seen,” Anderson said.
Junior guard Norman Powell said this year’s UCLA squad feels closer than it did last season.
“We’re doing more team-building activities, which means a lot more time together,” said Powell, who thought about transferring out until Ben Howland was fired. “Everybody’s helping one another. The freshmen don’t feel left out. … We’re closer as a family.”
Since April, shooting guard Norman Powell has indicated multiple times that he thought about transferring to San Diego State had UCLA not fired Ben Howland.
On Wednesday, Powell said he likely would have stayed no matter who replaced the former coach.
“I’m not going to say too much about how I felt about Howland,” Powell added. “He’s a great coach and I learned a lot. I’ve gotten better since I came here as a freshman. He did a great job helping me with my defense, making my shot better. But I definitely wanted to see a change.”
He had heard about Steve Alford from Glen Worley, a coach at San Diego’s Lincoln High who once played for Alford at Iowa. However, Powell said his conversation with Worley had no bearing on his decision to stay or transfer.
The rising junior said the main difference between Alford and Howland was that the former felt “more in tune” with the players. He also quelled any lingering fears fans may have about big man Tony Parker not returning to UCLA: “He’s staying. He’s staying. Tony’s staying.”
UCLA did its best to give new coach Steve Alford a warm welcome, rolling out a grand stage for him on the Pauley Pavilion floor Tuesday at noon. Here’s the full scene from the day as well as a photo gallery featuring Shaquille O’Neal, but these are the main highlights. Continue reading →