Speed, defense and love were the keys to the UCLA Bruins’ 98-83 win over the UC Berkeley Golden Bears. It almost sounds like Bill Walton might be coaching. But that is the new way under Interim UCLA Basketball Coach Murry Bartow. Ben Bolch of the LA Times explains:
There was a theme to everything UCLA did in its first week under Murry Bartow, from meetings to film sessions to two-a-day practices that were a blur of activity.
“All we’ve talked about,” Bartow said, “is speed.”
Bartow sized up his team after taking over for the dismissed Steve Alford on an interim basis and saw one that should be maximizing its length and athleticism. He decided the Bruins would trap more on defense and feature a more attacking style on offense.
As I pointed out in the postgame article yesterday it was not all smooth. After a rocky start, Bartow quickly benched Moses Brown. It is interesting how Bartow described the benching (emphasis added):
The reason I took Mo out, he’d fumbled two or three balls and we just got him to the bench and loved on him a little bit and got him right back into the game fairly quickly. Moses is going to miss some free throws, he’s going to do some things, but Moses is a heck of a player. We’re a different team when Moses Brown’s on the floor. We brought him out, visited with him, patted him on the hip and told him to get back in. The other night he had 17 and 10, tonight he had 16 and nine. He’s not a great free-throw shooter, but I’m going to tell you, he can run and run and run and run and that’s what he does every day in practice. He never takes a second of a practice off. He’s a very fun player to coach.
“Loved on him a bit?” Interesting way to describe benching someone in the first two minutes. But, it worked and it is sure better than the alternative. While we focus on them being elite athletes and basketball players, they are teenagers too. The player interviews yesterday were three freshmen: Jules Bernard, Moses Brown, and David Singleton. Brown had some more on the love theme:
I feel like we’re watching each other get better and the more fun we’re having on the court, the more confidence we’re getting game by game and, also, in practice. It all starts in practice. We’re all happy for each other. We’re all like brothers. You see your best friend score a point, you get happy. Then he passes to you, you score a point. It just goes like that…We all want the best for each other. A stat line like this is a result of us coming together as a team.
I’m not sure I heard this earlier in the year. Ironically, Bartow has worked the players much harder than Alford with two-a-day practices AND weight lifting. Like taking Moses out “to love him up” the sort of tough love approach might be working. Thuc Nhi Nyguen points out in the Orange County Register:
The team-first emphasis showed up on the scoreboard.
The Bruins overcame moments of careless play and had six players score in double figures Saturday, a balanced effort that followed after UCLA had five double-digit scorers against Stanford.
During nonconference play, UCLA had never had more than four double-digit scorers in one game.
If there is one player that personifies the “new” Bruins of defense, speed, and “love,” it is David Singleton. I am starting to develop a man crush on David Singleton. Orange County Register columnist Mark Whicker writes about David Singleton:
“When everybody plays and the ball is moving and everybody touches the ball, we all get better,” Bruins guard David Singleton said. “We don’t want to just look good individually because anybody can do that. We want to look good as a unit.”
Singleton is the freshman from Bishop Montgomery High who might become that golden commodity in college basketball, a solid four-year factor. Or maybe he’ll be better than that. Here, the Golden Bears showed up more ready than the Bruins did, but Singleton came in and notched 14 points, hitting five of seven. He placated the fans and kept UCLA within range.
Things are good. The Oregon trip is up next. Oregon lost to Oregon State and is not that good without their star Bol Bol. Oregon State had a tough time with Oregon’s press. which is quickly becoming a UCLA strength. If UCLA can keep it going on the Oregon road trip, things will really be looking up.