As Norman Powell walked into the visiting locker room at Galen Center on Saturday night, with his team trailing conference bottom-feeder USC after the worst half in a series of bad ones, an explosion of anger awaited him and his teammates inside.
Last Sunday, UCLA coach Steve Alford laid into his players in Corvallis, Ore., questioning their effort after a terrible loss to Oregon State. And on the brink of disaster again, this time he turned to Powell, ...
Powell responded in a big way.
Norman Powell scored 10 of his 21 points during a 3 1/2-minute span of the second half, Jordan Adams had 17 points and eight rebounds, and the Bruins completed a season sweep of USC with an 83-73 victory on Saturday night.
The Bruins, trying to avoid the second-half blahs that plagued them in their previous three games, stormed out of the locker room after intermission with a 10-0 run that turned a six-point halftime deficit into a 45-41 lead with 17:13 left in the game. David Wear capped the rally with a 3-pointer, one of 10 by UCLA in 20 attempts.
"We definitely came out flat," Powell said. "We felt like, and the coaches felt like we played soft and weren't executing together on offense. And we had a lot of defensive lapses. So at halftime, coach got on us about it. We needed to step up and play to the level that we all know we're capable of. We came out in the second half focused and got it done together. We really came together as a team. We started talking, playing together, playing tough, and we came out with the win."
Playing a really bad and poorly coached Just SC team you can get away with only playing half the game. As Jack Wang points out there are some matters of concern despite UCLA maintaining sole possession of second place despite the second half destruction of just SC:
And yet, it entered Saturday night 2.5 games behind Arizona and half-a-game ahead of a third-place quartet. In retrospect, the preseason talk of a vastly improved conference was perhaps overblown.
Despite its recent hiccups, the Bruins sauntered into the Galen Center and - after a sloppy start - smacked around rival USC in an 83-73 victory. Nothing like a game against the Trojans to get back on track; when the two teams last met, UCLA ran away with a 107-73 win to open league play.
. . . UCLA's zone defense has made it vulnerable to 3-point attempts this season, allowing opponents to take 42.3 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. Only five teams in the country give up 3-point attempts at a higher rate.
. . . Still, there was hope. In wins this season, UCLA had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.75. In losses that number dropped to 1.03.
Right now Steve Alford's solution to the problems seems to be some Bobby Knight style screaming at the players.
When asked what he said in the locker room with his team trailing, 41-35, at halftime, Alford said, "Defend."
But it wasn't so much what he said as how he said it, and whom he said it to - Adams, Powell and Kyle Anderson.
"Coaches, they get tense," Adams said. "They get mad. Coach Alford got on me and Kyle and Norman."
. . . "We're fine getting chewed out," Adams said. "We're getting used to it."
It is ironic he chose those three players to chew out. As they scored almost all UCLA points in the first half. One of those three, Norman Powell, as the player of the game gets the last word.
"We really wanted them to shoot the ball at an angle," Powell said. "They're a team that drives and looks to kick out, so we wanted to prevent that. And since I'm the defensive stopper, I needed to take it upon my shoulders to lead the team that way. I wanted to keep attacking and lead the team defensively. That's what happened, and the team fed off that."