Bruins get in the zone to beat Oakland
All it took was a glance.
Just that quickly, with a moment’s eye contact, UCLA guard Norman Powell let teammate Bryce Alford know that he wanted the ball.
“I just cut to the basket,” Powell said. “He threw it up and I went and got it.”
The one-handed alley-oop dunk served to punctuate an easy Tuesday night for the No. 24 Bruins, who cruised to a 91-60 win over Oakland at Pauley Pavilion.
This wasn’t a high-quality opponent, but it was the kind of victory that UCLA needed after barely escaping an upset against Drexel in the season opener.
“I always look, on a game-to-game basis, to get better,” Coach Steve Alford said. “I thought we got better.”
Jordan Adams led the way with 22 points, Powell contributed 18 and center Tony Parker had career highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Just as important, a relatively young UCLA lineup avoided foul trouble and dominated on the boards.
“UCLA really brought it to us tonight,” Oakland guard Travis Bader said. “They pushed it in transition, got some easy dunks and then escaped with the game.”
The early portion of the schedule -- featuring not only Oakland, but also Sacramento State and Chattanooga -- represents a training ground for the Bruins.
Rebounding figures to be an ongoing project, especially with forwards Travis Wear and Wanaah Bail out of action. The same could be said for defense.
UCLA started in man to man and, as expected, switched to zone midway through the first half when Bryce Alford and another freshman, Zach LaVine, entered the game.
“We are better in zone than man defense at this point,” Steve Alford said.
The change caught Oakland off-guard, creating three quick turnovers as UCLA opened a five-point lead. Oakland’s zone proved less troublesome.
The Bruins scored on drives and entry passes. Parker, who struggled with fouls in the opener, scored 11 points and grabbed eight of his rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
“I tried to do my dirty work early and get position,” the sophomore said. “It was hard for them to box me out so I just kept crashing.”
This is an Oakland team that, while losing 84-61 at No. 12 North Carolina last week, managed to outscore the Tar Heels by 14 points in the second half. That didn’t happen this time.
Not with Parker muscling inside for two more baskets in the second half. Not with Powell executing the thunderous dunk that brought a scant crowd of 4,771 to its feet and fueled an 18-2 run.
Sticking mostly to the zone, UCLA held the Golden Grizzies to 31% shooting and finished with a 49-28 advantage on the boards.
“I’m not pleased with our performance tonight,” Oakland Coach Greg Kampe said. “It was awful.”
Alford could breathe easier with a few more underdogs on the horizon, a few more opportunities for his team to improve before the schedule gets tough.
“When we hit full speed, we have a lot of guys who can hit shots,” the coach said. “A lot of that depends on how we play defensively and how we can rebound and go.”
Powell could be a major factor. Alford has talked to him about playing aggressively and setting a tone. That means using his athleticism to make plays at both ends of the court. And maybe scoring on a few more alley-oops.
“If you throw the ball up there,” Powell said, “I’ll go find it.”