Three Thoughts on UCLA’s Win Over ColoradoPosted by Andrew Murawa on February 14th, 2014
Here are three thoughts from UCLA’s convincing win last night over Colorado at Pauley Pavilion.
- Kyle Anderson’s 22 points, 11 assists and seven boards; Bryce Alford’s second-half explosion behind a perfect four-of-four from deep; Jordan Adams and Norman Powell out-physicalling Colorado defenders around the paint on the way to a combined 27 points, ten boards, eight assists and five steals: these were the flashy performances, the things that probably caught the most eyeballs. Did anyone ever realize any UCLA frontcourt players showed up to this game? Did anyone notice the Wear twins and Tony Parker combine for 26 points and 14 boards (not to mention four blocks)? Did anyone realize that between the three of them, they made 12 of their 14 field goal attempts and knocked in a couple of threes on the way to a 92.9 eFG%? Well, they did. And with guys like Anderson and Adams and Powell being highly consistent offensive performers around the perimeter and with Alford and fellow freshman Zach LaVine capable of offensive explosions on a regular basis, if the Bruins can get that type of performance from their frontcourt in any way, they are going to be awful hard to beat. How hard? Let’s put it this way: UCLA has not lost a game this season when the trio of the Wears and Parker have combined for at least either 21 points or 13 rebounds. That’s not a high bar to meet. You figure the UCLA wings and guards are going to get theirs; if Steve Alford can continue to just cobble together a solid combined performance out of his trio of bigs, this team is a serious sleeper come March.
- Kyle Anderson has gotten, and deserved, a lot of press this season for his versatile game. You know about his great passing ability (he hands out assists on better than 35% of his teammates buckets when he’s on the court). You know he’s a floor general for a flashy offensive team. You may not realize he’s shooting 52.4% from three on the year, but you probably have recognized that his perimeter jumper is vastly improved. You know he uses his 6’9” frame and long arms to rebound at high rates on both ends of the court; in fact he’s particularly good on the defensive end (his 24.5 DR% is in the top 50 in the nation). But that last point, his defensive rebounding, really only barely begins to scratch the surface of what he’s doing on the defensive end. The scouting report on Anderson has long been that he’s an amazing offensive talent, but that he can’t guard. And sure, if you try to make him check Jahii Carson or Chasson Randle, he’s going to struggle with their quickness over the course of a game. But given that he is regularly checking the opponent’s forwards, he’s actually turned into a really good defender. Thursday night, he was on Colorado’s Xavier Johnson for the bulk of his 36 minutes of action. In the first half, Johnson was largely absent on his way to four points. Then in the second half, Johnson’s back-to-back buckets on either side of the under-eight media timeout came when Anderson was getting a blow. Anderson used his length and growing stretch to deny Johnson the ball repeatedly. And then when he did get the ball, he used that length to bother Johnson into either bad shots or giving the ball back up. While Anderson is certainly not the type of defender than can guard the smaller and quicker point guards, that needn’t be held as a strike against him, as he is solid enough when he gets switched onto those guys on occasion and if above-average when defending a three or a less physical four.
- If you didn’t watch the game, you’ll look at the final score and just see Colorado losing by 18. Just another awful road loss for the Buffaloes, right? There was the 17-point debacle at Washington where their season changed. There was the 21-point loss at Arizona State. And now this one. This team just can’t win on the road, right? Well, certainly their road losses are disturbing, especially considering the fact that four of their final six are on the road (and the two home games are tough ones against Arizona and Arizona State). But, it seems like progress is being made on this team. Askia Booker has seemingly embraced a change in role, working to more often get teammates involved, as evidenced by his 12 assists tonight, while still being able to get his own when needed. Josh Scott was dominant offensively at times, knocking in eight of his 12 field goal attempts in the way to a 20-point night. Xavier Johnson may have had some trouble with Anderson, but he still wound up with 14 points on 12 shots. And Xavier Talton has established himself as a guy who can chip in some extra points from deep (he his three threes Thursday). And given that freshman big Wesley Gordon was out for his second straight game with an injured ankle, this team wasn’t playing at full strength. Offensively, this team is looking like their very close to as good as they’re going to get without Spencer Dinwiddie. But – and this is a big but – defensively they are atrocious at times. Since the Dinwiddie injury, this team is allowing 1.03 points per possession in all games. In road games, that number balloons to 1.165 points per possession. This is not good. And Tad Boyle knows that, of course. Gordon’s presence in the middle will improve things somewhat, but the biggest problem is perimeter defense and while Booker has improved his offensive game, he is in no way comparable to Dinwiddie defensively. And sure, guys like freshmen Jaron Hopkins and George King, for example, may have big upside on the defensive end, the fact is, they’re not there yet. Maybe Boyle can figure out a way to fix the Buffs defensive problems (he played a handful of possessions of zone – to little positive effect – to open the game tonight), and if that happens this team will be fine. But odds are this team doesn’t get past their opening round NCAA Tournament game.