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UCLA Basketball: Bruins Get Revenge Against Colorado

The Bruins won last night in Pauley, 72-59, avenging their loss to the Buffaloes in Boulder four weeks ago in the middle of their five game losing streak. Colorado kept it close for 30 minutes despite getting only 2 points from Askia Booker in the first half. Beast Mode Norman Powell led a 24-4 run in the second half to ice the game.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins beat Colorado last night, 72-59, on the strength of a 24-4 led by Norman Powell from 15:50 to 6:14 of the second half.

The OC Register thought the Bruins showed grit:

"We're getting tough," senior Norman Powell said. "We're getting gritty, and we're playing defense, doing the little things that open up our games."

The score was tied 33-33 at the 15:50 mark of the second half: How did the Buffaloes keep it close for about 25 minutes when Askia Booker had only 2 points in the first half (he ultimately had 16, but most after the game was decided)? Tony Parker drew two early fouls in the first half, and the picked up his third at 19:18 of the second half and then his fourth shortly thereafter. He played only 15 minutes, scored 5 points and had 3 rebounds.

Bryce Alford started 0-7. Sure he went around the baseline constantly, but his shot selection wasn't bad -- he was just missing. He was benched for a good part of that second half run, but did score 8 points -- six during the run.

Remember last weekend in Oregon? No, it wasn't that bad, but the point is that UCLA can't win without Tony.  I hate to say this, but Welsh getting his third foul at around the first TV timeout in the second half was blessing in disguise. He was getting thoroughly abused by Wesley Gordon. When Parker got his fourth, Alford went to Golomon instead, and Welsh didn't come back until garbage time. To be fair, the conversation might have been a little different if Thomas was able to get going in the first half. The Bruins were using the pick and roll with the center just off the top of the key. Bryce executed a beauty with Parker, but Tony was called for an offensive. Bryce then made the same play on two consecutive possessions with Welsh and drew the double team, but Bryce failed to make the pass to the open Welsh in the middle of the lane.

Although Looney had 14 points and 10 rebounds, he drew an easy defensive assignment, Dustin Thomas, and seemingly didn't help Welsh.

Norman went into beast mode again in the second half. Again, he started the game missing jumpers (although he stole the ball on the second play of the game and scored), but he turned it on again, igniting the big run. His final line was 22 points, 7-11 FG, 5 rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.

Kudos to Isaac Hamilton. Askia Booker didn't even take a shot for the first seven minutes of the game (and that was off Bryce), and only had 2 first half points on 1-5 shooting. For the sake of objectivity, Booker's arms were probably sore, and he was tired after shooting 23 times in a three overtime game at USC two days before.

My other takeaways;

  • Quote of the night by Bill Walton talking about the decline of college basketball: "it's become obnoxious guards dribbling around for no other reason except to draw attention to themselves." I think we know who he's talking about.
  • The Bruins came out determined to feed Tony, both down low in the post and on the pick and roll.
  • The Bruins didn't play zone until GG came in for Looney, and took his place at the top of the 3-2. After Colorado kept it close into the second half, the Bruins used the 3-2 and zone press with Looney more extensively.
  • GG had one of his best game (the line says 4 points but I thought he had six -- the baby hook, a mid-range jumper and a tip-in). He got minutes from Welsh when Tony picked up his fourth foul.

Next up is Stanford on the road next Thursday night. Since the 2OT, perhaps lucky (Randle's missed foul shot at the end of the first OT), win just over three weeks ago, I've been saying that this would be the game of the year. WSU did us a huge favor by beating the Cardinal last night, 89-88, despite Chasson Randle's 33 points. Can anyone win on the road? That's why DC called it a "lock loss." On the other hand, Bill Walton emphatically said the Bruins have the superior talent.

Here's my quick preview to the preview: it's guards versus bigs again. The coaches probably cancel each other out, but the home court looms large for Stanford. I predict the opening line will be Stanford -3. Tony Parker has to dominate Stefan Nastic for the fourth time over two seasons. With the back problem, I hope he's up to it because Reid Travis will be back to help. Travis clearly ready wasn't last night -- he played 13 minutes, had a minimal line, and was afraid to take contact. However, by Thursday, he will at least help take Looney off the boards. The x-factor is Beast Mode Norman. Can he keep Randle in check? Stanford can't win if Randle is in the mid-teens.

Finally, there's been a spirited debate on UCLA's chances of getting into the NCAA Tourney over several posts and comment threads -- especially here. Free90 and Matt.Garrido (forgive me if I misrepresent you) advocate that an 8-2 record with a good run in the PAC-12 Tournament would do it.  Those two losses would probably be Stanford and Arizona.

Stanford has road games left against Utah and Oregon State -- let's say two losses . If everything played out as above, Stanford finishes in third and the Bruins fourth. The PAC-12 would have to get four bids for the Bruins to make it. That's where I'm a bit skeptical. UCLA would be a bubble team, and although I've read that the name should get us in, I think it's the opposite. The Kentucky and Utah massacres along with the rest of the miserable OOC will keep us out.

All the scenarios mentioned are plausible, but I come down on the side of needing the Stanford win.