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UCLA Basketball: In a Cinch Win, Will the Defensive Effort Continue?

Talking Defense before a Lock Win

TJ Leaf is the leading scorer for UCLA's high octane offense.
TJ Leaf is the leading scorer for UCLA's high octane offense.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Times has interesting story talking about the UCLA Basketball defense in the win over Texas A&M. A highlight:

It started with just under three minutes to play against Texas A&M on Sunday at the Honda Center, freshman forward T.J. Leaf's steal leading to a three-pointer by teammate Lonzo Ball that nudged the Bruins back in front by two points.

It continued with a Hamilton block that resulted in another UCLA three-pointer, by Bryce Alford. And it ended with Alford's steal that forced the Aggies to foul the senior guard and send him to the free-throw line, where he made both shots.

The more interesting part of the defense story may have come later in the article when discussing Ike Anigbogu:

The freshman post player showed glimpses of his potential as an elite defender in his return from the knee injury that had sidelined him since last month, blocking four shots in 18 minutes during the two games.

"I was very proud of him," Steve Alford said. "I thought he gave us everything he had."

Usually it is Seniors inspiring freshman to work hard on things like defense. For this team it seems like it more like the other way around.

In any case, as the official game notes state:

The Bruins have opened the season with seven consecutive wins, UCLA's best start to a season since 2013-14, when the Bruins went 8-0 to open head coach Steve Alford's first season in Westwood.

UCLA should have no problem tying that 8-0 start tonight against the UC Riverside Highlanders. If you read between this lines, the Highlanders don't even believe they can win:

UC Riverside hopes to stop that streak when the teams meet at Pauley Pavilion tonight, but the Highlanders would likely be happy just to see the continued development of freshman Dikymbe Martin.

The Riverside North grad scored 15 points against Utah last week and has scored 41 points over his past two games for the Highlanders. Martin also has made six of his last seven 3-pointers, and has 10 assists and just two turnovers in those two games.

It is really nice to hear the team talk about the defense and it was more important to see that effort. However this team is still about the offense. Some more of the gaudy numbers from the official notes:

UCLA has averaged 96.9 points per game, having eclipsed the 100-point plateau in three of its first four contests. The Bruins averaged 105.6 points in their first four contests, the program's best such four-game average since Dec. 2-15, 1990, when UCLA averaged 115.8 points per game. Six UCLA players enter this Wednesday night's game against UC Riverside having averaged in double figures (scoring). Freshman forward TJ Leaf has averaged a team-high 17.1 points per game.

A key to that has been the passing:

UCLA has twice recorded a season-high 29 assists this season -€” versus Pacific (Nov. 11) and against Portland (Nov. 24). That marks the program's highest single-game total since dishing 29 assists against Washington on Dec. 31, 2006. UCLA last reached the 30-assist total in a game on Feb. 23, 1995, registering 32 assists at California (UCLA won, 104-88). The Bruins also had 32 assists on Nov. 27, 1993 (against Loyola Marymount) and on Feb. 23, 1989 (versus Washington). UCLA totaled 38 assists on Dec. 2, 1990 in the team's 149-98 win over Loyola Marymount.

And that, of course, starts with Student Athlete of the Week Lonzo Ball:

Freshman guard Lonzo Ball of the men's basketball team has been voted the UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week for the second time this season.

Ball, a 6-foot-6 guard from Chino Hills, Calif., also was voted the student-athlete of the week on Nov. 14. In three games last week at the Wooden Legacy tournament in Orange County, Ball averaged 15.7 points, 7.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds in UCLA's three wins.

Let's see if the Bruins can play defense early against UCR. We know they will score a lot.

Go Bruins! Beat Kentucky Saturday.