Bryce Alford leaned into the microphone and his face turned red.
How often, he was asked, does he practice his behind-the-back moves?
“Not a whole lot, actually,” Alford said, still blushing.
Though Alford looked sheepish about it after the game, the UCLA basketball team looked a bit flashy Thursday at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins ran away from Nicholls State, 107-74, and did it with style.
Alford showed off his ballhandling. Norman Powell threw down an alley-oop, followed by a string of UCLA dunks. Gyorgy Goloman swatted a ball into the stands.
The game was never close. The Colonels (0-2) had lingered for the first six minutes, but then came a furious UCLA burst. A 15-0 run gave the Bruins (3-0) a 23-point lead, and that was that.
For the third time in three games, UCLA Coach Steve Alford walked up to the podium after the game and said the same thing.
“Really, really pleased,” he said.
Three Bruins finished with 20 points or more.
Alford finished with 28 points on eight-for-14 shooting and 13 assists for his second double-double in three games. He had only one turnover. Powell contributed 23 points (making three of three three-point tries) and Tony Parker had 20 points.
Earlier this week, Steve Alford admitted there was much he hadn’t known about the team before the season began. Last season, Alford said, he knew where his team stood. This time, he didn’t.
“To be honest with you, two games in, I don’t know what my expectation was with a new team,” Alford said.
Shortly after practices began, Bryce Alford predicted the team might improve defensively compared to last season. The offense could take some more time, he said.
Except once play started, the offense exploded and the defense has lagged slightly behind.
Again on Thursday, the offense hummed. The Bruins shot 56% from the field and 52% from three-point range. Kevon Looney had his second double-double in a row with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
UCLA is averaging 101 points a game.
“When we get rebounds and we let those guards play,” Parker said, “it’s a good thing to watch.”
“It’s definitely been a little bit surprising,” Bryce Alford said.
Defensively, though, the Bruins gave up more than 70 points for the third game in a row — partially due to the pace and a lopsided score. But they did surrender a run of seven three-pointers in the second half. UCLA outscored Nicholls State by only two points after the break.
“We got a little bit sloppy and played kind of to the scoreboard,” Steve Alford said.
Amin Torres, scoreless in two minutes in the first half, scored 18 points in the second half for the Colonels.
By that point, his efforts were futile.
The punctuation came with 36 seconds left in the first half. Alford split two defenders with a behind-the-back dribble, then threw a behind-the-back, no-look pass to Isaac Hamilton in the corner.
Alford ran down the court before Hamilton even shot the three-pointer. He didn’t need to look. The basket was a foregone conclusion. And by then, so was the game.