Steve Alford talked with the media yesterday and spoke first about the trip to the Washington schools. I have to be honest—I didn’t think we’d blow out those schools like we did, but Alford seemed extremely pleased with that trip and said the team responded well to coming off a bye week. The results in Washington should make “for a fun Thursday night”. I certainly hope so!
Oregon will be a good match up, according to Alford. Both teams play similarly and, when asked about that horrendous last shot that cost us the game, he said he was only really worried about it during the next game at Oregon State. He doesn’t want that to come back and haunt the team and believes they have moved on from it.
He was questioned about the struggles and progressions the team has made on defense and he responded by talking about the team’s offensive identity. They play well at a fast tempo and he claims that has not affected the way they play on defense. It is a glaring issue, however, that this team has progressed much more slowly on defense and one of the members of the media pointed out that, right now, UCLA is ranking outside of the last ten years worth of Final Four teams in defensive efficiency. Needless to say, he dodged that answer fairly quickly.
Now that Bryce is a senior and wrapping up his career at UCLA, Alford responded to questions about coaching his son and he said the joys greatly outweigh the negatives. It was pretty nice, though, that Alford also pointed out that he has also enjoyed and is very proud of the other seniors.
A question I wasn’t expecting was about the shorter shot clock (going from 35 seconds to 30 seconds this year). He didn’t seem fazed by it at all, but added that they are continuing to recruit players that can play within our style—guys that have speed, can make shots and a basketball I.Q. to play at a fast tempo.
There were some final questions and comments about T.J. Leaf and the upswing he (and Lonzo) seem to be on. He said that, by the time, they got to the game versus Southern Cal, although the guys won’t admit it, they probably both needed a break. We saw that in their play, but they have responded well and are now able to stay fresh mentally to finish out the rest of the season. They are in a good spot with more home games left then road games and the entire team is in a good place and getting back into a good rhythm.
Here is the full video of the press conference, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
And here is Bryce Alford, T.J. Leaf, and Lonzo Ball, courtesy of UCLA Athletics: