The Bruins came dangerously close to an embarrassing loss to UC Riverside, a team that Utah beat by 46 points, behind Norman Powell's early second half explosion. UCLA only led by two, 59-57 with 5:30 left, but eventually won, 77-66.
Steve Alford gave Norman Powell an extra little pat on the back before he went out for the tip-off, and sure enough, Norman attacked on the first play of the game. Unfortunately, he bobbled the ball in the lane. After Hamilton missed a three, Parker put it in two rebounds later.
The Bruins first few possessions after that were mixed: feed into Tony who hit glass, Bryce Alford hits a three, feed into Kevon Looney who is tied up and UCR gets the ball on the arrow, Norman gets out on transition but is fouled before the shot and Bryce misses a jumper off the inbound. The score was tied at 5-5 after two minutes.
I wondered all half what UCLA was trying to do: pound it inside, run or shoot from the perimeter. They tried everything but their energy was so low and their execution was so bad that nothing worked. Oddly, looking at the stats, it didn't appear that Bryce shot much -- only four shots in the half. My eye test tells me no one cared enough to shoot. Norman took 6 shots in the half and Tony had 5.
UCR did two things that worked: double and triple team Looney and Parker whenever they got it down on the block, and slow it down. Their average possession was 22 seconds compared to 15 for the Bruins. Meanwhile, the Bruins were 1-7 from three, 7-14 from the line and had 8 turnovers. Besides the somnambulant Bruin play, UCR won the half because they were 7-17 from three and had 8 points off steals. And this was with their best player, Johns, sitting for five minutes with two fouls.
UCR led 36-28 at the half with UCR's Thornton the leading scorer with 11 points including 3 three's off both Powell and Looney. UCR's Kurt Rhambis' look-a-like coach was surely pleased. Powell had 10 points to lead the Bruins.
UCLA come out in the second half trying to get the ball inside, but UCR still wouldn't allow it, crowding the middle. They did, however, get into further foul trouble, with Larsson picking up his fourth. At that point, UCR had 17 PF's to UCLA's 10.
Fortunately, Norman Powell came to life. The Bruins took the lead for good at 15:46, 42-41 though the Bruins could never completely pull away, and Norman picked up his fourth foul at 7:20. Looney picked up his fourth shortly after.
Powell had 20 points at 15:46, and never scored again. Bryce Alford had 17 points (4 first half) and 8 assists. Tony Parker had 16 points and 15 rebounds.
- The substitution pattern was as expected: Welsh in for Parker at 14:30, Allen in for Hamilton at 11:38 and Golomon in at 9:28 for Looney. Bail played 1 minute in the second half after Welsh picked up his fourth foul although Bail came in for Looney and played with Parker. He was pulled instantly when UCR got four O-rebs in one possession. Welsh had 2 points and 3 rebounds to go with his four fouls. The UCR bench outscored the UCLA bench 12-2
- Interestingly, UCR employed an anti-Looney (or Looney/Parker) strategy instead of an anti-Bryce strategy. Looney did scratch out a double-double, 12-11, but the stats came late. It's amazing that a small team of limited talent can bottle up the Bruin bigs and the guards helped them out by going 33% from the field in the first half. Tony did have a solid second half, going 16-16. UCR did get into foul trouble as a consequence, but perhaps that's a worthwhile strategy against a poor free throw-shooting Looney.
- Norman came out attacking, scored 20 points by 15:46 of the second half and then got his fourth foul soon thereafter. He tied for the most shots, 11, with Alford, but I thought Bryce was fairly subdued until late in the game after both Norman and Kevon got their fourth fouls. Is it just coincidence that Norman is aggressive this game, and Bryce holds back? Remember that little pat on the back?