The news stories featured something we thought we would never hear this season: talk of a sustained defensive trend. The Orange County Register has an interesting story entitled; "No. 10 UCLA uses sustained defense to turn back Oregon State, 78-60"
Four games is officially a trend. Especially when one of them is against the fifth-ranked college basketball team in the country.
UCLA's late-season defensive evolution continued Sunday afternoon in the form of a 78-60 win over Oregon State.
Holding the last-place team in the Pac-12 to the second-lowest point total for an opponent this season may not shake anybody to their core. Combined with No. 10 UCLA's fearsome offense, the most efficient in the nation, any sustained improvement on the other end of the floor is noteworthy. Ask No. 5 Oregon, which made three field goals in the final 12 minutes of its loss to UCLA on Thursday.
For his part, Steve Alford is sick of talking about it as Ben Bolch writes in a story entitled: Steve Alford gets a bit defensive after UCLA takes care of Oregon State, 78-60:
It took just two questions from reporters about that defense for Alford's mood to sour a bit, even after the 10th-ranked Bruins surged past Oregon State, 78-60, at Pauley Pavilion thanks to a smothering second-half effort triggered by traps and double teams on the Beavers' best players.
Alford was asked what made his team's press effective and then got a little snippy after a follow-up question about what the Bruins had done different defensively the last few weeks.
Steve Alford's actual quote on the topic is:
We are just more efficient defensively. We are in the right spots more, more active, getting in a stance more. There's obviously a lot of talk about our defense and doing this for almost 26 years is almost comical to be honest with you. Other teams aren't critique like our team is. We are 23-3 and I can find you teams all across the country that have our record or less than our record that people want to talk about their defense. But if you look at teams that have played us, they came in with one defensive efficiency and when they leave it's a little bit different. It's what you hang your hat on, it's who you are as your identity. Our team is a very efficient offensive team. In fact it's number one and has been from day one. Yes we want to continue to improve defensively. That's a huge key for us. But we aren't going to all of a sudden start playing a 50 possession game to hold people in the 50's. That's just not what we are going to do. Now if we can get teams to around 75, that's going to be more efficient for our guys. I think that our guys are focusing a lot more in February that we have made a lot more strides defensively. Our pick and roll defense is better, our rebounding is better, finishing plays has been better. I think those things have triggered not giving up as many threes in the month of February. So there are a lot of things that the guys have adjusted and done a good job doing.
Putting aside Steve Alford's "defensiveness on defense," Bryce Alford's quotes were more interesting:
We had a team meeting after the SC loss, that was strictly the players. I kind of led that meeting and we just kind of talked it out and hashed it out and said if we want to do what we want to do and reach the goals that we want to reach, then we've got to play defense. We know we can play offense and that's the fun part of the game, but it's even more fun when you can shut somebody down and make a team frustrated that way.
Good to hear the senior talk that way. For what it's worth, Bryce's effort on defense has improved. However, no one should ever forget whose team this is and who is the star on both sides of the court:
Ball has also been more assertive as part of UCLA's efforts to increase its ball pressure. He held Oregon's Dillon Brooks scoreless over the final 15 minutes of the Bruins' comeback win Thursday and was again one of the most active players on the court against the Beavers.
And that is not just from a beat reporter, Oregon State's Wayne Tinkle stated (emphasis mine):
He's impossible to guard, you try to squeeze him in transition with another player and he comes flying by you. Lonzo's a great passer, has great vision, and he can catch fire from three. And defensively I don't think he gets enough credit for the things that he creates on the defensive end.
Oh speaking of Lonzo, need to close with a brief highlight clip from last night featuring one of his many talents, dunking:
So things are looking up now.
Let's end the four game losing streak to Just SC this Saturday!