UCLA (23-3, 10-3 Pac 12) started the game out slow and only had a 32-27 lead over hapless Oregon State (4-22, 0-13 Pac 12) at the half, but the Bruins played more like themselves in the second stanza winning for the fourth time in a row and securing a home sweep from the Oregon schools.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “I thought with our offense scoring 78 points and shooting 53 percent with the slow pace of the game was pretty good and pretty efficient.
“I thought we missed a lot of shots that we normally make so to get to 78 points and do the things we like to do was great. I thought we were great on the backboard, as they [Oregon State] got a lot of their rebounds in the last four minutes.”
“We made some adjustments at halftime, especially going with the press to start the half. We are not a pressing team but we thought that it would generate a little higher tempo than what they wanted to play at and I thought it got our guys going.”
The Bruins had two players who scored in double figures. True freshman point guard achieved game highs in scoring with 22 points and assists with nine. True freshman forward, TJ Leaf chipped in 13 points and tied with two other players for a game high nine rebounds.
What helped the Bruins in the second half was their defensive adjustments. They used zone press that sped the Beavers up taking Oregon State out of their very deliberate and methodical approaching the offensive end.
“It got us active,” Alford said of applying the zone press in the second half. “We are not a pressing team. It’s not something we are going to show a lot of, but against a team like this that wasn’t looking to attack the basket until late in the shot clock, we thought it would get them into some quick shots. And it worked.”
“In the first five or six minutes of the press they took some quick shots. Even if they made them it got the tempo to where we wanted it. So I liked it from that end. And it made our guys more active. We got more deflections off of passes.”
“It wasn’t so much with the press as what we did defensively. We wanted to trap [Drew] Eubanks and I thought we did a good job. He and [Stephen] Thompson are their leading scorers and I thought we did a really good job on those two.”
UCLA has picked it up on defensive end of late, especially during the recent four game winning streak. Alford talks about his team’s defense.
“We are just more efficient defensively,” Alford said. “We are in the right spots more, more active, getting in a stance more. There’s obviously a lot of talk about our defense and doing this [coaching] for almost 26 years is almost comical to be honest with you.”
“Other teams aren’t critiqued like our team is. We are 23-3 and I can find you teams all across the country that have our record or less than our record and people want to talk about their defense. But if you look at teams that have played us, they came in with one defensive efficiency and when they leave it’s a little bit different. It’s what you hang your hat on, it’s who you are as your identity.”
“Our team is a very efficient offensive team. In fact it’s number one and has been from day one. Yes, we want to continue to improve defensively. That’s a huge key for us. But we aren’t going to all of a sudden start playing a 50 possession game to hold people in the 50’s. That’s just not what we are going to do.”
“Now if we can get teams to around 75, that’s going to be more efficient for our guys. I think that our guys are focusing a lot more in February that we have made a lot more strides defensively. Our pick and roll defense is better, our rebounding is better, finishing plays has been better. I think those things have triggered not giving up as many threes in the month of February. So there are a lot of things that the guys have adjusted and done a good job doing.”
UCLA will need their best on both ends of the floor when cross town USC comes to Pauley Pavilion next Saturday, the next time the Bruins take the floor. It will be the only game of the week for UCLA and if your interested in going you better get your tickets early because it is expected to be a sellout.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00PM PST and will be televised on the Pac 12 Network.