It is true that the UCLA basketball team spent much of this week trying to improve its flow on offense.
It is true the Bruins worked on passing and cutting without the ball.
But this is still a Ben Howland squad, which means that defense takes center stage.
“I think we’re struggling defensively right now,” center Alfred Aboya said. “That won’t get you anywhere.”
The 13th-ranked Bruins, who face Florida International at home this afternoon, have allowed opponents to shoot 45% from the floor, a few percentage points higher than last season. Not good enough to satisfy their coach.
Howland was particularly concerned about the last minutes of his team’s loss to Michigan in New York, when the Bruins found some rhythm on offense but failed to get enough defensive stops.
So this week, swingman Michael Roll said, the team worked on “step-sliding on defense, keeping your man in front of you, a lot of box-out drills, help rotation. Just a lot of basics.”
It might help that they are facing a Florida International team that is shooting less than 40% this season.
Senior point guard Darren Collison also figures it might take a while for the freshmen on the team to appreciate the effort and intensity required to play good defense.
“I know I didn’t when I was a freshman,” he said.
This week, Howland insisted that Collison needed to carry more of the load on offense. He wants to see his point guard take more shots than anyone else on the team.
“The ball is going to be in my hands the majority of the time, so I have the decision whether I’m going to take that opportunity or not,” he said. “It’s not like I’m putting the whole team on my shoulders. I can’t do it by myself.”
However, Collison said he intended to be more aggressive in terms of penetrating the lane to break down opposing defenses.
That might lead to more shots, he believes, and more assists.
“I’m going to be attacking,” he said. “Every single time.”