Steve Alford spoke to the media Tuesday and continued to field questions on how the team is progressing. Whether you support Alford or not, you can certainly jump on the Bruin bandwagon, family in tow, and enjoy the ride this team will take you on. Last week, he spoke about the “next 120 minutes”, and the first 80 turned out pretty well. We’re down to the last 40 before a three day break, and then conference play will start with a trip to Oregon. The team had just come off of looking at film and is looking forward to one more chance to learn how to adjust in-game to anything an opponent can throw at them,
He was asked pretty early on about tonight’s game against Western Michigan being a “let down game”, and he acknowledged that there are power schools that have lost over break, and even relayed his own experience with New Mexico losing an easy game. But he also stated that he trusts the team, and although that doesn’t mean you don’t cover everything, he has every reason to believe they will win tonight.
When questioned about what they are looking to improve on, he said they are getting better at pick and roll coverage and tagging, and their greatest improvements have come on ball pressure which gave them an upper hand during the Ohio State game. They are continuing to improve on screen cuts, reads, and continuing motion.
The element of having fun keeps coming up during these press conferences, and Alford continues to emphasize his desire for the team to love playing the game of basketball. While it’s easy to enjoy being undefeated, he wants their passion and love of the game to continue even if they eventually face adversity. The process of going from good to great is something to be enjoyed that he wants to impart to his players.
On the injury front, there is no update on Thomas Welsh, and he is doubtful for tonight. They will more than likely sit him for another week to keep him ready for conference play. Getting Tom, G.G., and Alex back will really add to the team’s depth once they are healthy.
After a three day break, although it isn’t ideal, the team’s first practice before leaving for Oregon will be Christmas night. With conference play opening on a Wednesday, it puts the team on an awkward practice schedule. However, with 13 games under their belt, they are in a select group that has played that much so early.
One of the last things Alford talked about was the fact that Aaron Holiday is playing off the bench when he started last year. Alford said they sat the team down in October and explained that they have four elite guards and starting four is not ideal. However, the minutes will be evened out, about five to eight minutes per half. Right now the big guys are hurting so look for the front court to be playing a bit longer. On the upside, the bench hasn’t been this productive since Alford’s first year, and I’d say this team has a hell of a lot more talent than they did a few years ago (T.J. and Lonzo, I’m looking at you!).
Here is the full video of the press conference, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
And here is video of Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, and Bryce Alford, also courtesy of UCLA Athletics. It includes a very short answer from Lonzo about whether TJ has gotten a reply from Taylor Swift along with some funny bits from Leaf.
Tonight the Bruins take on Western Michigan at Pauley Pavillion at 8:00. Come on out and watch us go for #13!