Steve Alford spoke to the media today about the elephant in the room—bouncing back from a home loss to conference rival Arizona. Bruin fans have been screaming about the lack of defensive play going back to the beginning of the season and Alford acknowledged that this is something the team is definitely working on. In the player interviews, Bryce Alford stated that yesterday’s practice was the “best defensive effort” they’ve given all year. He mentioned a nice long film session and how the team is definitely working to change their mindset and focus just as much on defense as they do on offense. He went on to say that Arizona did not overpower them physically, but rather UCLA gave up way too many easy baskets due to a lack of focus on defense.
The media asked Coach Alford how practices have been different and, while the tone is similar, the focus has been on learning to play defense the way they play on offense—unselfishly. While the Bruins are great at setting each other up for shots and don’t seem to care who scores the points, on defense they “leave guys on an island”—bigs get left in the post or on the perimeter, so their opponents get scoring opportunities like we saw last Saturday. The Bruins wound up giving up the most points they have allowed all season at home, and this deficiency not only kills the defense but puts pressure on the offense as well.
When questioned about the UCLA/Southern Cal rivalry, Alford said it reminds him of his playing days and the Indiana/Purdue rivalry. This year, UCLA and Southern Cal will face off twice in three weeks and, when asked about losing to Southern Cal three times last year, he said, “it wasn’t as good as the feeling I had when we beat USC five times. I like that better”. Yeah, so do we.
Tomorrow’s game against Southern Cal marks a midpoint in the season, the last game in January before moving on to the last full month of regular season play. There are only five home games remaining, and every win matters for post-season seeding.
To give fans some encouragement, here is a tweet from Clay Fowler:
#UCLA's last basketball national champion lost on the road at #Oregon and at home to #Cal...then won 19 straight to take 1995 NCAA title.— Clay Fowler (@Clay_Fowler) January 25, 2017
Here is the full video of the press conference, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
And here is Bryce Alford and TJ Leaf, courtesy of UCLA Athletics: