First off let me agree with Steve Alford on his post game comments:
"Before basketball, congratulations to Coach [Adam] Wright and his staff, the men's water polo team getting 112. That's bigtime, seeing UCLA get another national championship and beat USC today, congratulations to them. We have a lot going on right now with men's soccer and women's volleyball and the football team getting a bowl bid. So, it was a pretty special day on our campus with a lot of good things happening. But obviously, the biggest highlight was getting number 112, so congratulations to water polo."
However, his comments that we did not hear, were the more interesting comments:
Norman Powell (Senior, Guard)
On toughness in first half...
"Coach said that we were playing soft and that we didn't have that toughness in the first half. As a player, you have to take it personal and realize that you've just got to play better defense."
On Coach's halftime talk...
"The message was to not do what we did in the first half. He wanted us to go out in the second half and establish a sense of toughness."
USD was also led by [6'7"] sophomore center Brandon Perry, who scored a season-high 16 points (11 more than his previous best) and grabbed five rebounds in front of friends and family.
"It was a little homecoming for me," said Perry, who played at Taft High in Woodland Hills and started his collegiate career at Cal State Northridge.
Perry came in the first half at the same time Parker went out and went 4-4 scoring 8 points in less than 5 minutes all on layups until Parker came back. No offense but a kid who had to transfer out of CSUN is not on the same level as Kentucky players. Perry scored more baskets in this game then he had for the season. Can you imagine what Kentucky is going to do to UCLA's frontcourt and bench if they play like this? As the LA Times intern who is covering UCLA wrote:
In less than a week, UCLA (7-2) will play a pair of games against Gonzaga and Kentucky, two of the best - and biggest - teams they will play all season. The Bruins will have to handle Gonzaga's 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski and Kentucky's two 7-footers, Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein.
And here were the Bruins, being outrebounded, outmuscled and outscored by diminutive San Diego. They trailed by two at the half for the first time all season at Pauley Pavilion, and Steve Alford said his blood boiled.
Coming into the game, UCLA ranked eighth nationally in rebounds per game, with 44.3. In seven of eight games, the Bruins had won the rebounding battle.
But the first-half play was sobering for a team that will need its big men to play physically and clean the boards to challenge Gonzaga and Kentucky's length.
UCLA came back in the second half to win the rebounding margin for the game and not coincidentally won the game. (Actually UCLA won the second half by nine points, the same as the second half rebounding margin)
If that is not enough for you, Looney had 13 points in the second half (versus five in the first half) and 8 rebounds in the second versus 3 in the first. Parker after taking only one shot in the first half had 6 points and 4 rebounds in the second half. While not as good as Looney, the pass of the game was even by Parker when he got the ball with less than a minute left at the free throw line and made a nice pass to Powell for the three that sealed the win.
UCLA's Bigs have to win the battles inside for UCLA to win games this year. That is all there is to it. Inside does not mean more points, just the bigs have to outplay the other's team.
So while the media stories are going to talk about Bryce's 22 points or show Norman's spectacular dunks, the game was won by the big guys in the second half. As Steve Alford said about part of it, rebounding:
"I think we've played nine games now and we haven't been outrebounded in any of them, so I think that's a strength of ours. We're starting to develop identities, we're still a young team and we're learning. I talked to the players after the game about the things that we have to continue to learn. I talked about not committing fouls in inopportune times and having to deal with foul trouble. The board play has been consistent though. Other than two free-throw block-outs in the second half, our board play in the second half was really good."
Steve, the strength of this team is Looney and inside. If we don't win the battle inside no amount of points from Bryce or Norman is going to matter.