Kevon Looney was putting on a show last night in the 84-71 over a solid Costal Carolina team. While we lost last year's leader in Kyle Anderson, we have his replacement in Kevon Looney. An article before the game sums up Looney journey to UCLA and the quiet smiling laid back Looney well:
While California seems to have been calling the big man for a while, Looney also noted his connection with coach Steve Alford personally and schematically as reasons why he chose the Bruins. For instance, UCLA's motion offense seems ideal for the skills that the lanky combo forward possesses.
. . . After averaging nearly a quadruple double with 27.9 points, 12.7 rebounds, seven assists and eight blocks in high school on his way to Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball award, it's clear that Looney has the type of positional versatility that Anderson does. In fact, much like Anderson last year, that versatility and skill level is why Alford exclusively referred to Looney as a guard in his press conference on Tuesday despite his size. However, that's where the comparisons should probably end.
Whereas Anderson has a "point guard's mentality," as Alford called it, Looney feels most comfortable on the perimeter from the wing. There, he can receive the ball off of screens and slash into the paint to make plays both for himself and others. Plus, he's also an excellent rebounder and shows potential to block or affect quite a few shots in Pac-12 play from the weak side. There's also a pretty stark difference in the two players athletically. While Anderson's deliberate, economic, non-explosive movements earned him the nickname "Slow-Mo," Looney should have no shortage of energy-laden highlight plays this season as he slashes in from the wing or crashes the offensive boards for put-backs.
To be clear Looney is not Kyle. He is not a point guard, but he looks to be a better offensive rebounder and athlete. It will be fun to watch him develop. Looney was the player of the game last night and showed a new inside presence UCLA has not had in years.
Dominating the boards certainly helped the cause. After finishing one rebound short of a double-double on Friday, Kevon Looney grabbed his 10th rebound with more than 11 minutes remaining in the game, finishing with 14 to go with 17 points. He also shot much better from the free-throw line, knocking down 9 of 11.
Putting his 7-foot-3 wingspan to good use, Looney had seven offensive rebounds, terrorizing the Chanticleers with his length.
Looney joked on Friday that he and sophomore big man Tony Parker were competing for the team's rebound lead, and two days later, they certainly looked as though they were trying to outdo one another. This time, Parker followed Looney's lead, with an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double. Combined, they finished with 25 boards, just seven fewer than Coastal Carolina's entire roster.
For long stretches, UCLA had to adjust with its two established offensive leaders struggling in some way. Senior Norman Powell dealt with foul trouble and didn't shoot a single free throw - unusual, given his aggressive, slashing style. Sophomore point guard Bryce Alford, meanwhile, shot 0-for-4 to open the game and had zero points at the half.
That first half was not pretty.
Coastal Carolina stayed close in the first half and was still within one in the opening minutes of the second half. Alford scored his first points on a jumper with 15:22 left to give the Bruins a five-point lead and Hamilton's 3-pointer 38 seconds later matched UCLA's biggest advantage of the game at 45-39.
Looney and Alford then combined to score 13 points in a 14-1 run that put UCLA up 59-42 with 10:55 left in the game. Coastal Carolina pulled back within 12 with 9:33 on the clock but an 8-0 burst by the Bruins put the Chanticleers down 20 and ended the threat.
While as always too much is written about Bryce and Looney had a breakout game, the overlooked player who had another "quiet" good game was Isaac Hamilton.
Eventually, the message sunk in. UCLA went on a 13-0 run with smart passing and by muscling the ball inside to draw fouls.
"That's what good teams do," Isaac Hamilton said. "Make adjustments a little bit."
Hamilton, a reputed volume shooter in high school, picked his spots with precision. He scored 16 points on six-for-11 shooting.
It is too early to draw too many conclusions and this was Coastal Carolina, not Arizona. A few quick positive thoughts to conclude the roundup (more analysis tomorrow):
1. Kevon Looney is the real deal.
2. Isaac Hamilton is not the gunner or volume shooter his reputation says, he is playing smart and well for a freshman on both ends of the court.
3. It is nice to see UCLA bigs rebound to their height.
4. BEAT SC.