Saturday, January 7, 2017

UCLA Basketball: Are the Bruins Reverting Back to Old Habits?

The UCLA Basketball team appears to have slowed down since starting Pac-12 play. Are they reverting back to old habits or just pacing themselves?

After last season ended, UCLA Basketball Head Coach Steve Alford vowed to make changes so that his team can avoid a meltdown as they did during the Pac-12 portion of the 2015-16 season.

Alford admitted that he did not have his team prepared for conference play and because of it, UCLA went 6-12 in the Pac-12.

Fast forward to November 2016 when the Bruins entered a new era with freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf. These two freshmen not only brought offense, but found chemistry with a solid group of veterans.

The results spoke for themselves. UCLA beat #1 Kentucky (in Lexington), went 13-0 in their non-conference schedule and rose to #2 in the AP Poll (they are currently #4).

Things are a little different since they recently entered this season’s Pac-12 portion of the schedule.

Though UCLA could easily be 16-0 right now, a lack of defense in their first Pac-12 game of the season allowed Oregon to hit a last second shot and gave the Bruins their first loss of the season.

In their next game, UCLA beat lowly Oregon State with a late push from Ball and Leaf. The uptempo Bruins had allowed the slower Beavers to dictate the pace for most of the game until the Bruins’ freshmen took over.

There did not seem to be a lot of urgency in that game and once again, UCLA struggled to get the “W” in Pac-12 play. True, it’s hard to get a win in Corvallis, but it should not be hard for UCLA to play their type of game against an opponent like OSU.

That brings us to UCLA’s win over Cal last night. The Bruins were at one point up by 24 points. With less then a minute left, the Golden Bears were within five points.

UCLA had a big lead and took their foot off the gas and tried to coast through the last ten minutes. This is something that has plagued Steve Alford’s teams since he arrived in Westwood. Take a big lead, take the rest of the game off.

As we have seen in their first three Pac-12 games, everyone in conference is coming after the Bruins. Alford must not let up on anyone. They are already inconsistent on defense, so their offense has to keep going for all 40 minutes.

Now if Alford is pacing this team so they do not burn out by the end of the regular season, fine, but what happened against Cal was inexcusable.

Yes, it was a win and UCLA woke up just in time to hold off the Bears, but if the Bruins let this happen again, it could end in a loss. This type of lackadaiscal apparoach has to stop or UCLA will surely get lost in old habits and that will not be good for Alford.

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