Before we get to the game last night, let's focus on two overview stories. Inside UCLA has the following incredible headline: "UCLA basketball links: Steve Alford's job looking more secure". Let's get this straight. It is November and Clay Fowler is already declaring this. In fairness, he does add some caveats and is focusing in part on the great incoming recruiting class.
ESPN had a lengthy piece that was not really newsworthy but does put it in better perspective, including that recruiting class:
Alford's critics say the fourth-year coach had talent in the past and still missed the mark. UCLA has produced four first-round picks and a second-round pick during his three-year run, but only one of those picks (Kevon Looney) was an Alford recruit. So why should those critics get excited now? . . .
Win or lose, Alford will return to those tidy courses penciled into his Calabasas neighborhood.
Perhaps to relax after restoring UCLA's name and its image among the faithful.
Or maybe he'll wander the fairways and wonder how it all went wrong.
This is the right approach. Alford's job security is not going to be determined in November unless he is getting fired for failing miserably early.
As far as the actual game, as Nirya writes it was hard to learn much from the game in which the Bruins got done what they were supposed to do. However, I guess the one highlight was the TJ Leaf show as in Thunderous Jams Leaf:
Bruins freshman power forward T.J. Leaf put some verve into the drowsy proceedings early in the second half, dunking four times in the first 61/2 minutes.
"We wanted to try to give it to them inside a little bit," said Leaf, who finished with a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds to lead six Bruins in double-figure scoring. "They were tough but undersized a little bit, so we really wanted to make our presence around the basket and I think we did that."
UCLA needed the easy baskets because it missed its first 12 three-point attempts before Holiday and Ball made back-to-back shots from beyond the arc midway through the second half. Ball was strong across the board with 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Welsh also contributed in a variety of ways with 12 points and 11 rebounds in addition to his blocks.
As the Daily Bruin added:
Leaf scored 12 of UCLA's first 17 points to push a 41-33 halftime lead into double-digits. His 12-point scoring barrage came in just over six minutes off four dunks and two layups.
He ended the night shooting 11-of-13 from the field, taking advantage down low against a smaller San Diego team.
It was a good thing that the Bruins were able to take control inside with 46 points in the paint because the 3s were just not falling against the Toreros. After shooting 50 percent from behind the arc in its first two games of the season, UCLA came out ice cold.
The key to Leaf's success was a team passing effort to set Leaf up. As Steve Alford noted:
"I told our guys at halftime that we don't want to settle on offense," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "We want to be aggressive and get the high-percentage shots by attacking the rim.
"We had only four assists in the first half but finished with 21. That's a good indication of us moving the ball, working the ball for good shots and not settling."
The inside passing games success was shown by the number of dunks:
Leaf got things started with a one-handed dunk on a give-and-go with Isaac Hamilton and followed with another one-handed jam on Ball's assist. The freshmen reversed things, with Leaf feeding Ball for a dunk before Leaf scored inside.
Leaf kept up the theatrics with another dunk before finishing off the 16-8 run with a two-handed dunk on Ball's alley-oop pass that extended UCLA's lead to 58-45.
This was nice game against an undersized opponent with UCLA winning when the three point shot wasn't falling. However, this is November. We need nice games in March before anyone should write Steve Alford's job is secure.