Alford era at UCLA off to entertaining start

LOS ANGELES — UCLA’s second preseason basketball game showed that the Steve Alford era is already an entertaining one but there’s still plenty to build on as the No. 22 Bruins get ready to open the 2013-14 season.

UCLA shot an even 50.0 percent from the field against NAIA Cal State San Marcos in a 109-79 rout Monday night at Pauley Pavilion. It was a game that saw a revitalized Tony Parker, a dominant Kyle Anderson and star potential from freshman guard Zach LaVine.
But it also exposed a glaring defensive weakness, and with the Cougars playing small, it was not at all indicative of how the Bruins’ post players will fare this season.

“I was really pleased with the guys to be able to play against a team that was a very aggressive offensive team,” Alford said. “No post presence, five-out dribble-drive matchup zone — it’s a little bit different… I thought our guys really handled a lot of things well.”

Kyle Anderson had his first collegiate triple-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Tony Parker showed he is ready for the bigger role he never got under former coach Ben Howland. After shedding 20 pounds over the summer, Parker came out with a whole new look and attitude and scored 17 points, 16 boards and four blocks.

“The work ethic, new coaching staff and a fresh start,” Parker said. “The work ethic is huge. Going for every rebound is huge, I think that’s what’s going to make us a great team.

After going on a 12-2 run to build a 20-8 lead early, UCLA briefly allowed San Marcos to come back in before shutting the door and never looking back.

It was clear that there are still kinks to be worked out in the early in season and that different floor combinations are still being experimented with, but it was a solid starting point to gauge where the team is heading into Friday’s season-opener against Drexel.

The Bruins mixed in several different defensive looks with some more effective than others. After starting off playing man-to-man, the Bruins switched to a 2-3 zone and the lead slowly dwindled to two. The Cougars’ Malcolm Lemmons got hot from behind the arc and San Marcos continued to play close.

However, three-point shooting was problematic no matter the defensive formation. The Cougars shot 33.3 percent from behind the arc and the defense struggled with guarding the three when the tempo was pushed.

“We’ve got to do a better job of contesting shots,” Anderson said. “The defense will come along with time, we’ve got some freshmen out there who are learning as the season goes on and sophomores who are still learning even with a year of seasoning under our belt.”

Of the freshmen, LaVine, the gem of Ben Howland’s final recruiting class, made the play of the game when he tipped a pass and took it back for a massive one-handed slam on the break at a crucial point late in the first half. Bryce Alford also saw significant action with eight points and three assists in 27 minutes.