Center Tony Parker made two tiebreaking free throws with 56 seconds left after rebounding a missed three-point shot by Norman Powell, and Parker got a key rebound with 43 seconds left on a miss by Alabama guard Trevor Releford.
"He's a winner," Alford said of the sophomore center. "He won four state titles in high school."
Parker said he was confident when he stood at the free-throw line at the end. "Maybe I don't always make them in practice," he said. "But in the game, that's different. I winked at the guys on the bench when I made those. That was big."
But it was a team effort, at least on the boards(emphasis mine).
"We got a huge shot in the arm with Tony Parker," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "I thought he was just terrific, especially in the second half."
Saturday night's game marked the first contest all season in which the Bruins trailed at halftime. Alabama overcame an early 20-9 deficit and took a 34-33 halftime lead. UCLA opened the second half with a 5-0 scoring run to take a 39-34 advantage at the 17:47 mark.
Alabama won the rebounding battle in the first half by a 17-11 margin, but UCLA took over on the glass in the final 20 minutes and finished with 37 total rebounds to Alabama's 26.
That great rebounding effort was not because of Tony, who was great on the offense glass with four, but only had one defense rebound (admittedly the most important). Technically UCLA's starting backcourt carried most of the load, Jordan Adams led UCLA with nine rebounds, followed by Kyle Anderson and Norman Powell tied for second with six. This led Kyle to say:
Only one Bruin had a criticism for Parker. "He only had five rebounds. That's unacceptable," said Anderson, who finished with 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
However, Tony deserves praise for a good game against a team with one star. That star, Trevor Releford, almost single-handedly beat UCLA:
Releford, who started the game on the bench because of disciplinary issues, scored a season-high 34 points and single-handedly tied the score with less than 2 minutes to play, but UCLA scored the final eight points to escape with a 75-67 victory.
. . .. With Alabama trailing for the majority of the second half, Releford sunk his sixth 3-pointer of the night and followed it with a steal and fastbreak layup to tie the score, 67-67 with 1:24 to play.
UCLA forward Tony Parker, a 44 percent free-throw shooter, sunk two free throws with 56 seconds to play to put UCLA back in the lead. Alabama never got a great look at the basket on offense the rest of the way and was forced to foul.
A Releford 3-pointer with 16:07 to play gave Alabama a four-point lead, but a UCLA 10-0 run ultimately put the Bruins on top until Releford's 5-point spurt.
Releford scored his 34 points on 11-of-15 shooting, as he hit 6-of-9 from beyond the arc to come up just two points short of his career-high. The senior point guard added five steals and two assists.
Again, credit to Tony. If you are an Alabama fan, you have to think you were unlucky to have the 44% free throw shooter hit the two clutch free throws. One more time on what Parker did:
In the final minute against Alabama, Parker had a block, two rebounds and made both of his free throws to give UCLA a 75-67 victory in the final tuneup at Pauley Pavilion before Pac-12 play begins.
Parker, who had a UCLA-best 16 points off the bench, was a 43 percent free-throw shooter before Saturday. After he made both free throws with 56 seconds left, giving UCLA a 69-67 lead it never lost, he said he winked at his teammates on the bench.
"That was definitely a good (win)," Parker said. "We needed another out-of-conference win. I had to make plays at the end of the game. The block was big and the two free throws were big."
Parker blocked the shot of Retin Obasohan, and UCLA's Norman Powell was fouled and made two free throws with 31 seconds left for a 73-67 lead to seal the victory.
So what does it all mean? Here is an interesting take that I don't entirely agree with but will say from a glass half full perspective there is a lot of talent on this team. From a glass half empty perspective there are some flaws that a good coach needs to overcome. (Emphasis mine)
I'm not convinced that UCLA is going to be good enough to compete for a Pac-12 title. They have as much talent, particularly on the perimeter, as any team in the country, but I'm not sold on their ability to defend dynamic ball-handlers. This is a team that has to play zone because their point guard is a 6-foot-9 forward nicknamed ‘Slo-Mo'. The other concern is interior play, but if Parker can find a way to continue to play the way he did tonight, the big bodies on the front lines of Arizona and Oregon before a little bit less of a concern.