UCLA’s basketball team knows it has a problem. The Bruins’ low points in an up-and-down season correspond to their failings on defense.
“We go a couple possessions in a row, or even a couple games in a row, where we play pretty decent defense,” guard Bryce Alford said. “And then all of a sudden, I don’t know what it is, but all of a sudden you have a lot of shutdowns, a lot of places where you break down. And you can’t have that.”
UCLA is second to last among Pac-12 Conference teams in scoring defense, giving up an average of 77.5 points per game. During conference play, the Bruins are even worse, giving up 85.6 points per game.
“You just can’t do that,” UCLA Coach Steve Alford said. “Those are astronomically high numbers.”
After a loss to USC last Wednesday, UCLA focused on finding a fix in what Bryce Alford called the Bruins’ best stretch of practices this season.
USC forward Chimezie Metu (4) celebrates after an 89-75 victory over UCLA on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
USC guard Julian Jacobs (12) scores over UCLA forward Tony Parker (23) on Wednesday night.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA guard Aaron Holiday (3) scores against USC forward Chimezie Metu (4) during their game Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
USC guard Katin Reinhardt (5) drives to the basket against UCLA guard Bryce Alford (20) during the second half.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
USC guard Elijah Stewart (30) falls to the court after colliding with UCLA guard Bryce Alford (20) during the second half.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
USC forward Darion Clark (0) and UCLA center Thomas Welsh (40) battle for a rebound in the first half Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
USC forward Chimezie Metu (4) drives to the basket against UCLA forward Tony Parker (23) during the first half Wednesday.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
USC Coach Andy Enfield questions a call during the first half of the game against UCLA on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
USC forward Nikola Jovanovic (32) grabs a rebound against UCLA center Thomas Welsh (40), guard Isaac Hamilton and guard Bryce Alford (20) during the first half.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
UCLA forward Tony Parker tries to score against USC forward Darion Clark during the first half.(Gus Ruelas / Associated Press)
Steve Alford cited poor fundamentals for the defensive woes rather than a lack of effort, and said the long minutes logged by his starting backcourt was no excuse.
Bryce Alford has averaged more than 37 minutes per game, Isaac Hamilton has averaged 35 and Aaron Holiday more than 32.
“To make the excuse of being tired, that’s a pretty soft approach,” Bryce Alford said.
UCLA’s trip, which begins Wednesday at Oregon State, provides an opportunity for improvement. Oregon State is 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring, and Oregon, UCLA’s opponent on Saturday, is ninth.
“It’s not the [Denver] Nuggets of the ‘80s,” Steve Alford said, referring to a high-scoring NBA team. “We’re not going to win 112 to 108.”
Gyorgy Goloman is expected to see more game action during the Bruins’ Oregon trip.
Goloman missed the first 17 games of the season with a stress fracture in his leg. His season debut came against USC, but the sophomore forward played only two minutes, scoring one point, grabbing one rebound and picking up two fouls.
Steve Alford said Goloman bounced back well from his appearance and that UCLA’s medical staff had cleared him to play without limiting his minutes.
Share and share alike
When USC began the season with two starting point guards, Julian Jacobs and Jordan McLaughlin, there were some concerns.
How would the two share the ball?
The answer: willingly.
Jacobs leads the Pac-12 in assists, with 5.7 per game. McLaughlin is tied for second, with Bryce Alford, at 5.2 per game.
The duo has a chance at history. Since 1975, when the Pac-12 began tracking assists, no teammates have finished first and second in the category.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand