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UCLA Basketball Coach Alford: Riverside is a Dangerous Game

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Head Coach Steve Alford spoke to the media Tuesday about the Wooden Legacy Tournament and looking forward to Kentucky.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins have played eight games in twenty days and have come out undefeated. They’ve had injuries, including Gygory Goloman’s turned ankle in the first half against A&M, and not a lot of practice time. Alford mentioned working with six or seven styles during last weekend’s tournament and how taxing it was to play three games in four days, particularly against SEC powerhouse, Texas A&M. A&M only has two losses so far this year, coincidentally, both are to Pac 12 schools (UCLA and Southern Cal). The championship game against A&M was after only one day of rest, but he focused on the importance of winning the “last five minutes”. Against both A&M and previous opponent, Nebraska, UCLA was able to push the last few minutes of the game and come out on top, even though the games had been challenging on the whole. Alford credits the game ending to defensive stops and creating turnovers. Both Bryce Alford and T.J. Leaf had steals, and he stated, “the more defensive stops we can establish, it helps our run game.”

Alford also discussed playing against a completely different style that was a much slower tempo. He said playing against a slower tempo is fine as long as it doesn’t slow down the Bruin offense. Opponents can eat clock as much as they want, but it shouldn’t change the way the UCLA offense operates.

UCLA is going into finals next week, so there are a lot of elements the team will not get to practice for a few weeks. Ike Anigbogu, for example, only had two practices before the tournament and wound up playing his first game against a Big Ten opponent. With no exhibitions or scrimmages, he basically jumped into the season with little to no experience and played against some of the biggest teams the Bruins will see all year.

On the injury front, there was no news on G.G.’s turned ankle, so he will be questionable for tomorrow’s game. Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski are both still out.

The media asked Alford about playing in Rupp Arena, and how the atmosphere will affect the team, specifically the freshmen. He said there is no comparison and Kentucky has “one of the best environments in college basketball”. The scary part about going to Kentucky is that not only the freshmen, but even the upperclassmen are yet to experience anything like it. He stated the importance of the veterans taking a leadership role and having a calming effect on the rest of the team. Additionally, this game is important for establishing the team’s identity. He said if they can go to Kentucky and play well this early in the season, it will give the team a lot of good tape to grow from.

Alford went on to discuss the dangerous nature of UC Riverside, all but calling it a trap game. UCR’s team has a lot of California athletes that want to have the opportunity to not only play in Pauley Pavillion, but look good doing it. UCLA must focus on their next opponent first before moving onto Kentucky. After coming off the Wooden Legacy tournament win, I got the feeling that Alford was acknowledging that the team could easily play down against UCR if they don’t have the proper focus. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a coach actually admit that this was a possibility, but the fact that it was brought up at least gives me hope that extra attention will be paid to this factor.

For those of you who need a little DaddyBall, Papa Alford mentioned Bryce’s ability to shoot threes and set up his teammates’ shots better than he ever could. The only thing he won’t relinquish to Bryce is the free throw crown, even though he says Bryce is in the top ten in UCLA history (apparently Coach Dad was once a 90% shooter). He talked about the team’s free throw shooting on the whole and how it slipped in the last two games of the tournament. He wants them over 80% and discussed the importance of beating opponents on the foul line.

Here’s the full video of Alford’s weekly press conference, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:

#11 UCLA will be seeking it’s ninth win in a row against UC Riverside tomorrow night at 8:00 at Pauley Pavillion.

Go Bruins!