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UCLA Basketball: Bruins Survive San Diego, 75-68 Led by Looney's 18-11

Which Alford needs a talking to tonight, Bryce or Steve? The Bruins survive San Diego, 75-68. Instead of using their advantage inside, the Bruins jack it up from the perimeter all first half.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In a startling and distressing reversal of the changes instituted over the last couple of games, the Bruins survived San Diego, 75-68 on a strong second half by Looney, and suddenly cold-shooting by USD. Looney has 18 points and 11 rebounds.  Bryce Alford and San Diego's Dee led all scorers with 22 each, after a hot start, it was ugly for Bryce.

Bill Walton started the pre-game making the point that UCLA's bigs would determine whether the Bruins could hang with some of their more elite competition the rest of the way. Well...then the game went in a direction that was totally opposite of what Bill (and we) predicted.

San Diego was up 35-33 at the half. They led in rebounding 17-12 including 5 O-rebs, and in points in the paint, 18-6. To add insult to injury, they also led in bench pints 11-5.

The game started with Bryce Alford taking two shots, a floater from the baseline and a three from the corner.  He was red hot hitting his first 5 shots.

USD kept it close all the way trailing only 13-9 at the 15:36 mark. Noah was the first sub off the bench for Hamilton who was again quiet with no points for the half. Welsh followed in for Parker who had 2 points but was barely involved in the action.

Coach Salford once again went to the hockey rotation with Allen, Welsh and Golomon in together at 10:18. Most of the starters were back at 7:45, but it was too late. San Diego continued on a run, outscoring the Bruins 9-0 to take the lead 29-27 at 4:15.

Welsh tied the score up on two free throws.  Inexplicably, Salford once again went with Allen (Golomon subbed when Allen picked up his third), Welsh and Bail together despite trailing by as much as 3 points.

The Bruins has a chance to tie with 22 seconds left in the half, but the ball wound up in Bail's hand, and he pushed it up under the rim.

San Diego's Dee got hot with Bryce covering him and led all scorers with 13. Norman switched to him later in the half. Bryce had 12 points for the Bruins but was going back to his old habit of over-penetration, and he jacked up to heavily-contested shots.  Tony Parker only played 9 minutes in the first half.

Kevon Looney willed the Bruins to a win in the second half. At 18:12, Bryce finally feeds Tony down low, and Looney dunked the follow-up. Then he gets a block on the other side, comes back to grab an O-reb off Isaac's shot, and tied the game at 37-37 at 17:17 with the next 4 points underneath.  Isaac scored his first two points of the night at 16:30 to put the Bruins ahead, 39-37.

Salford kept his starters in until 14:06 even though Looney and Powell had three fouls each, but then Norman picked up his fourth after an out-of-control spin move to the basket followed by a frustration foul on San Diego's defensive rebound. Dee came down on the next play and hit a three to tie the game again at 45-45.

Fortunately, San Diego went totally cold, shooting 3-16 even though Alford played a long stretch with his bench. They shot 40% in the second half compared to 50% in the first.

Welsh actually had a rebound contested by a 5'7" guy, and the possession arrow was in USD's favor.

The game looked like it was going into cruise control with the Bruins up by 10 at 4:20, but a sequence of three turnovers allowed San Diego to get within 4, 70-66 with 1:17 remaining. The Bruins closed out to win 75-68.

My takeaways:

  • What happened to pounding it down low to Parker and Looney? Parker only played 9 minutes in the first half, but played 16 more minutes in the second because the game was never decided. He didn't touch it much.
  • What up-tempo? The Bruins only scored 2 fastbreak points, had 70 possessions (below the season average of 78, 81 last season) and had a relatively long-in-the-tooth 17 seconds per possession. San Diego actually slowed them down.
  • Bryce regressed. He came out shooting, only had 6 assists, and proceeded to over-penetrate in the way he was famous for last season.
  • Salford used the three sub lineup at least three times in the game, including on the last possession of the first half, down by 2. Bail actually wound up with the last shot (don't ask what it looked like).
  • Speaking of ugly rotations, there was a four forward lineup that did not include Parker, and Isaac Hamilton was in the back of the 2-3 zone with Noah up front for two looks.
  • I ask again: is anything going on with Norman? Is he disenchanted? I actually don't think Bryce passes to him.
  • Isaac has unacceptably disappeared in the last two games (one caveat -- he may have shut down Dee at a crucial point in the second half).
  • The only strategic change I noted was the Bryce played off the ball a bit more with both Hamilton and Looney handling it more. I'd be okay with this if everything else was working well. How can Salford put him on Dee for even 2 seconds?