Have we hit a turning point? That’s exactly where the media started today with UCLA Men’s Basketball head coach Steve Alford—was Thursday’s win against Oregon a sign of things to come? Alford fully admitted that the team did not play well against Arizona or Southern Cal last month (he forgot to say they weren’t coached well...) and the break following those games allowed the team to reboot and get some W’s. They are currently on a four-game winning streak, which no one else in the conference has at this juncture.
This week, the team only has one game on Saturday, and it’s a big one. They are in the midst of their last break of the season, so practices are reduced and the team is spending more time on film and in the weight room. He was asked if the current losing streak to Southern Cal has resonated with anyone (worst since the 1940’s, according to one member of the media), and he said he didn’t think there was much motivation behind it (why on Earth not????). He went on to say that with the in-city rivalry and caliber of both teams (he feels Southern Cal should be ranked), they just want to win. He said something else that was a bit disturbing though...he said:
I mean, if you want to talk history, ten national championships in an eleven, twelve year span, you know, at one time, so we’re not going to do that.
Well, not with that attitude!!!!!!!!
There was more talk about a silly Enfield quote (“If you want to go slow, go to UCLA”), and he said he doesn’t worry too much about what other coaches say about us. I don’t like how he downplays the rivalry. We should want to tear these guys apart. But I digress.
The level of talent T.J. Leaf brings to the team was discussed, Alford mentioned some amazing statistics: not only is T.J. leading the league in field goal percentage, but he also has a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio. This statistic is relatively unheard of in the rest of the country. Way to go, T.J.!
The zone defense that Southern Cal played gave UCLA a lot of problems in their previous match up, and Alford attributed it to their lack of experience playing against the zone (we’ve seen more since then) and playing four guards was admittedly a bad choice (so, are you saying the loss was also due to bad coaching?). They looked tired and really needed to get the ball inside more to be successful against the Southern Cal defense. They are hoping to be more successful this time out.
Looking back on the win against Oregon, Alford attributed the win in part to the atmosphere and involvement of the crowd. He said the energy from the fans and students made a difference in the game, and there is no doubt in my mind that the same will hold true this weekend. It’s a Blue Out, so get your blue gear ready! Bennie Boatwright is back in the lineup for Southern Cal and will be a good match up with Leaf. The last time these teams met, UCLA had 17 turnovers, 14 of which were live ball turnovers, so of course minimizing turnovers will be a big key to winning on Saturday.
Here is the full video of Alford, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
And here is Aaron Holiday, Lonzo Ball, and Thomas Welsh, courtesy of UCLA Athletics: