UCLA basketball wants to set a fast pace

Opponents will try to keep UCLA in half-court game

The blueprint to defeat the UCLA basketball team isn't much of a secret. Bryce Alford spelled it out before a practice this week: Make the Bruins play half-court offense.

"That definitely would be the smart thing to do, take away our transition," Alford said. "That's our biggest strength."

Of course, that doesn't guarantee success. Coastal Carolina slowed down UCLA on Sunday, and the Bruins still won by 13 points. UCLA (2-0) can expect a similar strategy against Nicholls State on Thursday.

The Colonels, who began the season with a loss to North Texas, might lack the firepower of UCLA. But their defensive strategy could mirror Coastal Carolina's.

Norman Powell said the UCLA coaching staff has warned the Bruins that opponents will hurry back on defense. UCLA Coach Steve Alford advised the team to stay calm, make extra passes, set screens and keep moving.

"Just to stay with the offense, no matter what we're in," Powell said of the coach's message. "Let it work for you."

UCLA zoomed to a 113-78 win in a wide-open game against Montana State on Friday, and managed 84 points against Coastal Carolina despite a more methodical pace. Early in that game, UCLA looked confused and lethargic on offense.

In the second half, when players started moving and the ball circulated more, the offense improved.

One bonus of the strategy, Steve Alford pointed out, is in rebounding on the defensive end. As teams flee to stop the fastbreak, they sacrifice rebounds. Kevon Looney and Tony Parker finished with double-doubles Sunday.

Looney leads the team with an average of 11.5 rebounds and is a half point behind Powell for the team scoring lead. Looney, a freshman, already has shot 28 free throws in the two games.

Looney said the team wants to push the pace, but the more games the Bruins play the more comfortable they'll be in the half-court offense.

"As the year goes on, and we get more chemistry, I think we're going to be dangerous in the half court too," Looney said.

UCLA THURSDAY

VS. NICHOLLS STATE

When: 8 p.m.

Where: Pauley Pavilion.

On the air: TV: Pac-12 Networks; Radio: 570.

Records: UCLA 2-0, Nicholls State 0-1.

Update: UCLA is averaging 98.5 points per game. Freshman Kevon Looney is averaging 19.5 points and 11.5 rebounds, and all five starters have scored in double digits in both games. Nicholls State lost to North Texas, 71-57, on Monday.

zach.helfand@latimes.com

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