Long Beach State is the best team UCLA played so far and UCLA and UCLA just destroyed them. The entire UCLA game was clicking last night. This UCLA team is special on offense, as Long Beach State Coach Dan Monson said:
"They're the best offensive team we've seen."
This is not some meaningless praise from an early season patsy.
The 49ers were coming off 26-point loss to No. 5 North Carolina on Tuesday and a 36-point defeat at No. 12 Louisville on Thursday. But UCLA's 37-point winning margin topped them all.
Of course this is early and perspective is needed. Even if Long Beach is the best so far, they are not that good. They are ranked 159 in KenPom. UCLA is ranked 21 but #9 in offense by KemPom.
Of course, all season the worry has been defense. Steve Alford was very happy with the defense saying it keyed everything else:
I thought this was the best we have played. We had great energy, great focus and did tremendous things offensively again. Defensively I thought this was the best that we have been. We gave up some threes that we need to look at but overall defensively we did the things that we wanted to take away, especially early in the game. The start of both halves were really good for us and we were a basket away again from having seven guys in double-figures. . .
I thought a key to really what took us to another level as a team tonight was the way we defended. I thought in the first half we defended, we were active, we had 10 steals and probably had close to 20 deflections. That ignites our offense. Obviously we have a team that can score it and shoot the basketball so if we can get out and get our transition game going on top of that we are still going to be a work in progress on half-court offense we have a lot of things we need to work on and we will have time in December to work on those things. The defense really ignited our transition tonight. Our guys are outstanding sharing in transition. We are very good at half-court but we have to continue to prove it in half-court but in transition they share the ball like a team I have not seen.
It is nice for Steve Alford to talk defense but the lead story is Lonzo Ball. As the Orange County Register writes in "Lonzo Ball makes UCLA a must-see team":
In addition to scoring a career-high 20 points and equaling a season-high with 11 assists, Ball received his fair share of passes.
Of the three alley-oops Sunday night, two were contested and the third he caught off the backboard from Aaron Holiday to finish a two-on-none breakaway.
The entertaining style Ball was expected to bring to Westwood has delivered more than just a faster tempo. He is quickly spreading the word - through many channels - that the Bruins (4-0) are must-see basketball.
I think the fishwrap goes a bit overboard but Pat Riley was watching so let the hyperbole fly:
Showtime visited Pauley Pavilion on Sunday night, and not just because Pat Riley sat behind the UCLA bench.
The onetime Lakers coach, who orchestrated one of the most dazzling offenses in NBA history, was presumably on hand to scout Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf for his current job as president of the Miami Heat.
Ball made several passes that were reminiscent of Lakers legend Magic Johnson's work, and Leaf showed superb skill around the basket for a 6-foot-10 forward who may not be finished growing.
I think it is a little early to start comparing Lonzo and Leaf to Magic and Worthy. However this statement by Steve Alford I can agree with that Ball like Magic makes everyone better:
He is just a special talent. He can beat you. He makes two threes, has 11 assists, he rebounds the basketball, he is just a special passer. That just makes everyone else want to equally share it and so it has been really good this year in that our guards have very good assist-to-turnover ratios, they are all sharing it, they are shooting the ball at a higher level because I thought tonight was the best game in four that we had 40 minutes of taking really good shots. I have to look at the tape but I don't think we had more than one or two that I would say were tough, difficult, highly contested shots.
The box score is here. See you all Thanksgiving night and that weekend the real test begins.