Freshman guard Zach LaVine hung out with me and staff photographer Hans Gutknecht for a bit this week and showed off a few dunks. Here’s the story that ran in today’s Daily News, on the most exciting draw at Pauley Pavilion this season.
– UCLA’s 89-76 win was solid given that UCSB shot lights out early and looked like a team that could earn a March Madness berth. The key was a 27-of-36 showing at the free throw line, the first time the Bruins shot more than 30 in a game this season.
They are 8-0 for the first time since 2006-07.
– Freshman Zach LaVine led the team with 13 points at halftime, showing off his range with a number of deep threes. He still needs to improve his shot selection, but doesn’t seem fazed by a hand in his face or rushing defenders. I write more about him here. Continue reading
UCLA maintained its perfect record with a 95-79 win over Northwestern Friday night, closing out the Las Vegas Invitational.
Sophomore Kyle Anderson was named tournament MVP and nearly had his second career triple-double. The point guard finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, four steals and a block. He also made both his 3-point attempts, chipping in to the Bruins’ absurd 13-of-16 rate from downtown. 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 opened the season with a narrow 72-67 win over Drexel, sprinkling some good moments of transition offense in with uneven defense. Coach Steve Alford was generally positive afterward, and maintained that the problems he saw were very fixable.
“You either win that opener or you lose that opener,” he said, “and winning the opener feels a lot better than losing.”
Some notes and quotes from the game:
1. Kyle Anderson looks very comfortable at point guard. Continue reading
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.
Last June, Zach LaVine became UCLA’s first commitment of the 2013 class. A standout scorer at Bothell High, he was named Washington’s Mr. Basketball and also rated the No. 44 player in the country by Rivals.com. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams already praised LaVine as one of the top five athletes he’s ever played with.
We sat down and talked a bit about his game, his decision to stick with the Bruins despite a coaching change, and the state of UCLA’s dorms.
Q: What’s your impression of the team and how you fit in?
We’re going to be a lot of fun. What I bring is a scorer, athletic, can dribble. I do whatever coach needs me to do. We’re already a pretty close team. We’re all friends with each other, joke around. We’re going to be really good. Me and Noah (Allen) are roommates right now. Wanaah (Bail)’s right across the hall. We’re all in a little triangle right now. Continue reading
Like his father, Bryce Alford might have a chance to represent his country.
After excelling at Albuquerque’s La Cueva High, the son of UCLA head coach and former Olympian Steve Alford will head to Colorado Springs next month for a chance to join the USA U19 World Championship team. He might not make the final roster, but accepting the invitation already puts him in good company; the 24-man list only features four players without college experience, and includes established stars such as Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart.
The camp will be held at the U.S. Olympic Center from June 14-19, with finalists announced on the morning of June 16. The finalized 12-man roster will compete in the Czech Republic starting June 27.
Alford — New Mexico’s high school single-season scoring leader (1,050 points) and reigning Gatorade Player of the Year — could get minutes as UCLA’s point guard, and has already impressed forward Travis Wear. Bryce and his older brother Kory, a slated walk-on, visited the school for a day and played in a few games with the team.
“He can shoot the ball,” Wear said of the younger Alford. “He’s actually pretty explosive for a point guard. I saw him on the fast break go up, cock one back and dunk it, which caught me by surprise a little bit.”
He and fellow incoming freshman Zach LaVine — UCLA’s highest-rated 2013 commit — were both named PARADE All-Americans.
Freshman point forward Kyle Anderson will be a game-time decision for UCLA’s Thursday night game against James Madison. He was tested Wednesday after injuring his hand Tuesday night; preliminary results from an X-ray were negative, and an MRI indicated a bone contusion.
Anderson left briefly in the first half of the 80-79 overtime win over UC Irvine after he dove for a loose ball and landed on his right hand. Bruins head coach Ben Howland said that in watching film, he noticed that Anderson tripped over a cameraman’s foot on the baseline. Unlike photographers, the cameraman shot video was permitted to position himself closer to the court.
“I don’t like that rule at this point,” Howland said. “That’s not a UCLA rule, that’s a conference rule.”
Anderson shot just 2 of 7 from the free throw line against the Anteaters.
Junior guard Tyler Lamb, who is recovering from knee surgery, is also a game-time decision for Thursday’s tipoff against JMU.
— Four-star recruit Zach LaVine, who committed to UCLA in June, has officially signed his letter of intent. The 6-foot-4 combo guard out of Washington’s Bothell High is expected to play more of a shooting guard role next year, although Larry Drew’s graduation and Anderson’s potential departure for the NBA draft leaves a gap at the one spot.
“He is going to be a very good player,” Howland said. “Can really shoot it. … He’s got a lot of upside. He went from 6 feet going into his junior year and is now about 6-foot-4 going into his senior year.”
— Although the Bruins held UC Irvine to 39.7 percent from the field, their defensive performance was still a patchwork affair. The Anteaters shot 10 of 22 from beyond the arc, including two in the final three minutes that gave them a two-point lead. If it weren’t for Jordan Adam’s late free throws — and UCI’s subsequent missed free throws — UCLA likely would have lost in regulation.
“Our sense of urgency on defense was not great,” Howland said. “You could see the freshmen are all learning stuff for the first time. That last 3-point shot by (Michael) Wilder, Jordan had no clue. That guy was curling around and got a wide open three. These freshmen are going to make a lot of mistakes defensively. Kyle’s trying to learn how to play defense at this level for this first time. Everybody made mistakes.”
— The Bruins were outrebounded 51-39 Tuesday night, and were beat 16-8 on the offensive boards.
“Norman (Powell) continues to leak out on the shot like we’ve got Patrick Ewing down there rebounding for us,” Howland said. “That’s not the case. There was a lot of scramble situations. They beat us to a lot of those. Again, credit Irvine.”