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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: New Boss Same as the Old Boss

UCLA goes back to Alford world on defense in 84-73 loss at home to Colorado.

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I going to break from protocol a bit and include my own thoughts in this roundup. I could just say the UCLA Bruins “suck” but last night was a “Steve Alford loss” on defense. Alford lost to a mediocre Colorado Buffaloes team last year at home when they shot 50% from three and some guy named George King made a career-high six threes.

Last night was similar with Shane Gatling for George King. As Thuc Nhi Nyguen writes in a story entitled “Shane Gatling, Colorado shoot down UCLA at home”:

A year ago, Colorado entered Pauley Pavilion without a single win over UCLA in the storied arena. On Wednesday, the Buffaloes walked out with a two-game winning streak on UCLA’s home court.

Colorado blistered the Bruins from 3-point range to win 84-73, claiming its third straight victory in the head-to-head series after a two-game sweep last season. . . .

Colorado’s Shane Gatling, who went 7 for 9 from 3-point range and finished with a game-high 28 points.

The Buffaloes (13-9, 4-6 Pac-12) entered the game as the worst 3-point shooting team in the Pac-12, but they finished with a season-high 54.2 percent (13 for 24) from long range to hand UCLA its fourth home loss of the season.

Like Alford’s defense of years past, the three-point line was wide open. But here is the thing: Colorado passed the ball patiently and earned those open looks. Jaylen Hands said:

They swung [the ball] well. Some of them were tough shots. [Shane] Gatling was seven-for-nine. That was part of it.

Interim Coach Bartow added:

Frustrating loss. Colorado played really well. [Shane] Gatling was incredible. Obviously, our zone had some holes in it and Gatling found them.

Of course, this is also the “never 40 minutes” Bruins of 2018-19. Although UCLA came back, the start of the game was unbelievable ugly. Ben Bolch details over in the LA Times:

UCLA got off to such a flat start Wednesday night that interim coach Murry Bartow subbed out four of his five starters after the first timeout, leaving in only Kris Wilkes.

So, Alford-style defense against the three and a slow start doomed the Bruins. There were a few individual highlights. The Daily Bruin’s Ryan Smith writes:

Despite the frustration levels running high, freshman center Moses Brown said he still has confidence in this season, and that it will be important moving forward the Bruins don’t let losses like the one they suffered Wednesday affect their confidence.

“I have 100 percent faith in (Bartow) and what he tells me to do and what my teammates do,” Brown said. “We work as hard as we can every single day in practice. So I have faith that we will do well this season. And a loss like this shouldn’t really keep us down or have us discouraged in any type of way.”

Brown was one of the few bright spots for UCLA in the loss, as he recorded 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting. The seven-footer also added eight rebounds, four steals and four blocks in 29 minutes.

This is a great example of why I won’t get down on the kids. I like Brown’s optimism and loved his effort. Speaking of not giving up on someone, Chris Smith was good last night. Again, interjecting my opinion, it is not hard to figure out why. Colorado was the first team in a long time to play mostly man. Chris Smith has struggled mightily against zone defenses recently, but he is a very tough match up man-to-man when he goes to the basket. Ryan Smith writes this about Smith:

Sophomore guard Chris Smith had a bounce-back performance for the Bruins as well, coming off the bench to score 14 points and grab three rebounds. Smith had not scored in double figures since UCLA played California on Jan. 5.

But, in part, this loss may be on Bartow for two reasons. First, on his use of Moses Brown for which Colorado had no answer. Bolch writes:

He did acknowledge some regret in removing center Moses Brown for more than three minutes late in the game when the Buffaloes (13-9, 4-6) started a 16-4 run that turned the Bruins’ two-point deficit into a 14-point hole.

“Probably a mistake,” Bartow said. “Moses just gives us a dimension that we don’t have when he’s not in the game.”

Second was sticking to a zone. This is obviously a more debatable point, but here is Bartow’s response on if he considered coming out of zone defense as Colorado repeatedly made 3-pointers:

I considered it, but I’m going to say this—no one knows this team better than I do, so I know what we’re good at, I know what we’re bad at. I know what defense to play because I know these guys, I know our team. I just know where we’re good and I know where our weaknesses are and we’re a lot better in either a 2-3 or a 3-2 right now than we are in man now. If we try to invest our time in man, then certainly I’ll give that some thought. Defensively, I’ll do whatever we need to do to try to win the game, but based on tape, based on numbers, based on stats, based on reality, we’re better in… what we call the 3-2, which we played in some tonight. But yeah, I did give it some thought. I did give it some thought because they got into a pretty good rhythm and, like I said, Gatling was really good. We just didn’t do enough good things tonight to win.

UCLA did okay last night at not turning it over. In a sense, UCLA found a new way to lose and that was the old Alford way.

Go Bruins!