UCLA cruises past Colorado, 72-59

UCLA guard Normal Powell puts up a shot as Colorado forward Tory Miller defends during the Bruins' 72-59 win Saturday over the Buffaloes.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Late in Saturday’s game, Colorado called timeout, and UCLA Coach Steve Alford ambled onto the court and put a hand in the air. His team, the same team that had allowed Oregon to shoot 75% in a half less than a week ago, was turning a once close game into a blowout.

UCLA beat Colorado, 72-59, and they did it with defense.

“This our best defensive stretch that we’ve had,” Kevon Looney said.

If the defensive effort Saturday seemed incompatible with the performance against Oregon, the context was helpful. One was on the road. The other at home. For UCLA, that has made all the difference this season.


At home, UCLA (13-9 overall, 5-4 in Pac-12 Conference) averages 81 points per game. On the road, it averages 60. The Bruins have only one loss at home — to No. 3-ranked Gonzaga — but don’t have a victory in a true road game away from Los Angeles.

So it made sense that the cure for UCLA’s woeful trip to Oregon was a return to Pauley Pavilion. UCLA had been treading water early in the Pac-12 slate but has rediscovered a spark.

On Thursday, the Bruins picked up their first victory over a ranked team, No. 11 Utah, and Saturday avenged an earlier loss to Colorado (11-10, 4-5) in the Pac-12 opener. Next, they’ll travel to play two teams they had beaten at home in January — California and Stanford. The Bruins are one game back of Stanford for third place in the conference.

Against Colorado, UCLA led, 27-23, after one half but the Buffaloes tied the score early in the second half.

The game swung with about 10 minutes left, when UCLA led by seven points. The Bruins applied pressure, at times with a full-court press, a zone or a half-court trap, to smother Colorado. They forced five turnovers in seven possessions over a span of 3 minutes 30 seconds. UCLA forced a total of 15 turnovers.

“Even when they got open looks, they weren’t really open because they were rushing their shots due to our pressure,” Norman Powell said.

Looney, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, helped power a 14-0 run to extend the UCLA lead to 21 points, and Powell added emphasis with a one-handed dunk through traffic.

Powell shot seven of 11 and again led UCLA with 22 points, his third game in a row with 22 points or more.


The Buffaloes shot 36.4% from the field and Isaac Hamilton held Colorado’s Askia Booker, who scored 43 points in a three-overtime victory over USC on Thursday, to 16 points.

“I just tried to make it as tough as possible,” Hamilton said.

After the Oregon trip, Looney said, the coaching staff emphasized pressure defense. He said Alford noticed that body language would sag after a missed shot, and defensive effort would lapse.

“On the road, our defense, we weren’t concentrating on defense,” Looney said. “Coach really got on us about it, being tough.”


Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand