He high-fived Gyorgy Goloman, who was needed in surprise duty in overtime. He embraced Kevon Looney, who brought UCLA back from 14 points down. He ruffled the hair of Bryce Alford, whose late three-pointer sent the game into two overtimes.
It had been a long, five-game losing streak for the Bruins. Steve Alford had been counting the days. So the comeback, double-overtime win over
"It was player after player after player coming up with incredible play after incredible play," Steve Alford said. "I've been doing this a long time, 24 years, and been proud of an awful lot of teams after certain games, but no more any prouder than this group of men."
Rarely does a midseason game among unranked teams evoke that type of response, but then again, rarely has UCLA (9-7, 1-2 in the Pac-12) been on a streak this rough. On Thursday, the Bruins finally broke out of troubling tendencies and rediscovered their shooting.
Bryce Alford, the coldest shooter of all, made the biggest shot of the game. Down two with about eight seconds left in the first overtime, Steve Alford called up a play. There were several looks, but, he told his team, if the three-pointer is there, take it.
"I was just praying that we got a shot," Bryce Alford said.
Never mind that he had missed his previous 19 shots entering the game. He caught the inbound and fired a three, which splashed through.
Down one, Stanford's
Randle was the Pac-12's best free-throw shooter, but late in regulation, he had split an important pair. Now, he made the first, but, again, his second attempt hung on the front rim and dropped out. The game went to a second overtime, where UCLA's defense suffocated Stanford.
"It was big time," Tony Parker said. "We knew we had to get a win."
The Bruins had trailed by 14 with 10 minutes left in regulation. Stanford (10-4, 2-1) had made a slew of three-pointers — 15 of 31 overall — and Randle connected on seven of 13 three-pointers for 32 points.
But then Looney took over. He hit a three-pointer, converted a three-point play and later took the ball the length of the court for a slam. He finished with 27 points and 19 rebounds, both season highs.
An Alford three-pointer gave UCLA a one-point lead before Randle's split free throws tied the game at 66 heading into overtime.
Alford shot five for 13 and had 15 points. Parker added 22 points and 12 rebounds.
In the first overtime, Goloman was needed to replace Norman Powell, who had fallen hard twice on his hip. Steve Alford said Powell begged to be back in the game.
"I didn't want to do it," Alford said.
But he relented after Bryce Alford fouled out.
The mood afterward was buoyant. Steve Alford was congratulated on his 500th career win. Looney and Parker played around with Bryce Alford's microphone during the news conference. Parker praised "Ms. Tanya," Steve Alford's wife, for her husband's outfit.
The players, it seemed, were releasing a month's worth of anxiety.
"It was must-win," Looney said.