Before the season I wrote:
A lot of UCLA fans are worried or expecting an early season choke by the Bruins . . . I don't think that is going to happen or that that fear is relevant. This is not a Ben Howland team . Ben Howland coached "Hoosiers" style as in the movie . In Hoosiers, in the opening scenes the coach won't even let the players shoot. He was tearing them down to build them back up again. That was Howland. An early season Howland team would play under its potential. When there was less talent and not much margin for error, there were problems. That is not Steve Alford. Alford's last four teams at New Mexico started 12-0, 10-1, 15-2 and 12-0. At UCLA last season he started 8-0. . .. UCLA is going to start 4-0 until the Battle for Atlantis.
Alford achieved his fourth win by UCLA beating Long Beach State on his fiftieth Birthday.
All UCLA coach Steve Alford wanted for his 50th birthday was a win.
It was stressful at times, but Norman Powell made sure the Bruins gave their coach what he desired.
Powell scored 24 points to lead all five starters in double figures and UCLA beat Long Beach State 77-63 on Sunday night to celebrate Alford's birthday with a victory.
"After the game (coach) told us we better have won it," Bryce Alford said. "It was fun to be able to play on his birthday and go out and get the win." Long Beach State: Monson gave Alford a cane before the game as a birthday present. The two coaches are longtime friends.
UCLA won the game despite shooting poorly.
UCLA (4-0) led by 11 at the half after a 15-0 run in the first, but Long Beach got within four points in the final period and within five with three minutes to play.
Looney then had a key putback to stretch the lead, and Bryce Alford made a jumper on the Bruins' ensuing possession, after former UCLA guard Tyler Lamb missed a 3-pointer.
. . . The Bruins shot 40 percent from the field for the game, and 37.5 percent in the second half, when Long Beach played zone defense.
For a team that plays zone a great deal, UCLA was not prepared to play against a zone according to Steve Alford.
We went to zone more than man. They haven't seen a lot of zone in their games yet, and I think it showed, and we haven't, and I think it showed. I think both teams in the second half really slowed to almost a crawl, and we have to work on that. We have to work on zone offense. We haven't seen it that much in our first three games. We just haven't had to go against a zone for the most part, so we have to work on that. I thought we got stagnant, and I felt they got a little stagnant. It was just two teams that were trying to figure out how to go about zone offense.
However, as Alford also points out, we won because of turnovers.
Looney's three steals were topped only by Powell's six, as the Bruins forced 19 Long Beach turnovers while committing just five. Alford thought that was the difference.
While Looney was a stats stuffer with a double-double three assists, two blocks , 7 offensive rebounds, the star was Norman Powell.
But every time Long Beach (2-3) drew close, UCLA (4-0) rode Powell.
"We know that we can count on him to get a basket," Looney said. "He makes plays."
Powell, who had long played a secondary role, was finally expected to be the go-to option for the young UCLA team this season. Yet in the early going, the scoring remained evenly distributed. Before Sunday's game, Bryce Alford led the team in points. Powell averaged 20 points but hadn't taken over a game.
On Sunday, Powell scored 24 points on eight-for-14 shooting. He played all but three minutes. His re-engineered shot yielded four three-pointers in seven attempts - he's now shooting 55% from three-point range this season.
"I'm really confident with the way I'm shooting the ball," Powell said.
UCLA did what it was supposed to do in the first four games. Will it slip into the top 25 now? However, we will get a better idea of where this team really stands in the Battle for Atlantis starting with Oklahoma on Wednesday at 11:30.