The Gonzaga game serves as a good test not of UCLA so much as of Steve Alford a coach. For if you match up the two teams, one could make an argument that UCLA's starting five has more potential talent. Yes, Gonzaga has a much better bench and experience but really this was not a case of one squad having superior talent over the other. Yet the game was never really in doubt.
The Bruins never gave up and showed good effort. Gonzaga would extend its lead and UCLA would come back. The team kept playing hard. The veterans looked okay to good in the man to man defense. Bryce Alford put out some effort on the defense end and helped Kevin Pangos into a bad night.
Even better was Tony Parker. Parker was extremely animated picking up 9 rebounds in only 25 minutes to go along with 2 blocks and 3 steals. Even Parker's bad plays involved hustle as some of his fouls and one of his turnovers was when he saved a ball going out of bounds only to throw it over half court. Tony was animated and active. Most encouraging when Parker was in the game matched up against a bigger center, 7'1" Przemek Karnowski, Karnowski was 0-3 with zero points. Parker won the center matchup against a bigger player.
Gonzaga's half court offense was so good, it made playing zone impractical. But the freshman on defense are just not ready to play man to man. Kyle Wiltjer schooled Kevon Looney early and the best that can be said is Looney did not foul. It was ugly and Looney was completely exposed.
Just as in the USD game, when he was in the game, Gonzaga went at Thomas Welsh. Karnowski was subbed back in to face Welsh and scored all 10 of his points against Welsh going 4-7 and 2-2 from the line when Welsh was in.
Welsh and Looney are much more effective in a zone. Welsh can patrol the center of a zone and is good at blocking shots. But against an offense and well coach players like Gonzaga they were eaten up and spit out in man to man.
Isaac Hamilton was just awful and played his second worse game since North Carolina. No effort on defense and incredible selfishness on offense.
Which brings us to the ugly. This may have been the worst set offense I have seen in a while. There really wasn't any. It was all individual effort. The motion offense was nowhere to be seen.
It starts with the point guard Bryce. In our three losses Bryce has 8 assists and 9 turnovers. Bryce is not a high major point guard.
However, I honestly don't think Bryce is the biggest problem. Bryce seemed to look to pass in the first half . Bryce did not have a good point guard game but overall he was not the problem. In the three losses Bryce has shot 18-42 (43%) not good but acceptable. Remember Steve Alford has emphasized his offense does not need a point guard. And to be clear the problem is not Looney who led UCLA with 4 assists or Parker who hardly touched the ball.
On the other hand, Isaac Hamilton was ridiculous. Every time Isaac got the ball he was going to shoot. He shot a career high 16 flipping times in the game and they were almost all forced shots. He actually shot more but got bailed out by some questionable favorable foul calls. Isaac is at his best as an open jump shooter, yet Steve moved him on the ball (probably to get Bryce more shots) with the result that Isaac went on a shooting but not making rampage. In the three losses, Isaac has shot 9-35 (26%) and has had 3 assists and 12 turnovers. By contrast Looney has shot 15-31 in the three losses.
Why the heck put the ball in Isaac hands? Why is Isaac shooting more than Looney? That question is easy to answer because in the second half hardly anyone passed to Looney. Looney had one shot in the second half that was not off a rebound.
The Spurs won the NBA championship with the passing mantra of "Ball doesn't stick", in contrast UCLA looked like a pickup game where passing was frowned upon at the Wooden Center. While Isaac was the worst offender, Norman Powell had the ugliest play when on a 2-1 break he forced an ugly missed shot when had an easy pass to an open Parker under the basket.
Isaac, Bryce, and Norman shot 16-41 (39%) and had just 5 assists. The other five players shot 9-19 (47%). The non-guards has more assists with six. Norman and Isaac should not have the same number of assists as Tony Parker. Bryce should have more assists than Looney.
UCLA was able to put up 74 points against Gonzaga despite not having any sort of half-court offense. That speaks to the fact this team has talent. Gonzaga destroyed UCLA's talented youngsters with their offense. That proves that coaching matters.