Bruins open Wooden Legacy vs. unbeaten Portland
UCLA and Portland will both try to remain unbeaten when they meet in the opening round of the Wooden Legacy tournament Thursday at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Gym.
No. 14 UCLA (4-0) soared past its first four opponents, averaging 105.8 points per contest and winning by 27.8 points per game. The Bruins, who rank second in the nation in scoring, haven't averaged that many points per game over a four-game stretch since December 1990.
Portland (3-0) is also off to a strong start under first-year coach Terry Porter, who spent 10 of his 17 NBA seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. The Pilots are coming off a 98-52 victory over Lewis & Clark.
The tournament will also feature Cal State Northridge, Dayton, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech. The winner of Thursday's game between UCLA and Portland will face either Dayton or Nebraska in the semifinals Friday night. The championship and third-place games will be played Sunday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
UCLA has six players with double-figure scoring averages. TJ Leaf leads the team in scoring and rebounding, averaging 20.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. Bryce Alford (18.8 points per game), Isaac Hamilton (17.3), Lonzo Ball (16.3), Aaron Holiday (14.5) and Thomas Welsh (10.0) are also scoring in double figures.
Ball, a freshman guard, was named to the 50-person watch lists for the Naismith Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award. He is shooting 61.1 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range. In his college debut, he had 19 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in a 119-80 victory over Pacific.
"He is just a special talent," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "He can beat you. ... He is just a special passer. That just makes everyone else want to equally share it, and so it has been really good this year in that our guards have very good assist-to-turnover ratios. They are all sharing it."
Steve Alford was asked about adding Ball and Leaf, another freshman, to a rotation that also features seniors such as Bryce Alford and Hamilton.
"It's a good blend," Steve Alford said. "Obviously, with what they are doing, they have a high skill set. They are smart players and they can beat you in a lot of different ways. They can beat you on the backboard, they can beat you handling the ball, passing the ball and scoring the ball. With the guys around them, it kind of goes both ways. The guys they are playing with make everyone look good. When you are sharing the ball and you are working at a common goal on both ends, you can make everybody look good. I think that is happening."
UCLA expects prized freshman big man Ike Anigbogu to make his college debut this week, possibly against Portland. Anigbogu has been out with a torn meniscus.
Portland is led by Alec Wintering, who is averaging 18 points, eight assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Gabe Taylor averages 17.3 points and eight rebounds, and Jazz Johnson is averaging 14.3 points per game.
The Pilots are 7-58 all-time against Top 25 opponents. Their last win over a ranked opponent was an 82-73 victory over then-No. 18 Gonzaga on Jan. 9, 2014.
The Pilots seem to enjoy playing for Porter.
"He's a player's coach," Wintering told the Portland Tribune. "He just makes everybody feel so comfortable. He puts us in a position to succeed. He just does a good job of being calm and remaining calm and teaching us."