Bruins attention to defense pays off
At the beginning of the season, UCLA head coach Ben Howland acknowledged his team's defensive inconsistencies noting that playing zone defense was not a choice but a necessity.
The Bruins' on-ball defense was weak and their help was often times a step late.
As the season has progressed, the Bruins have improved defensively and are dropping back into a zone less and less.
They played a 2-3 zone for just 12 possessions over the last three games — all victories for the Bruins. The fact that they've played less zone speaks to their improving man-to-man defense.
"I'm happy with how we're playing defense and the intensity were having on defense. I think that's the biggest thing — we're playing with a sense of urgency and not just relying on our teammates just to help us out all the time. We're taking pride in our defense and stopping our own man," said David Wear.
"I think we really grasp the fact of playing man defense and playing team defense," said Tyler Lamb. "We're communicating really well together and that's making everything easier."
"We always want to play man-to-man defense. Man-to-man defense is fun. You get stops and you get to go on fast breaks but the zone has helped us this year too. So we're still working on both and we'll continue to work on both and hopefully it keeps getting better," said Lamb.
The defense allows the Bruins to have the type of first half runs that have been the staple of their current three-game win streak. Last Sunday at USC the Bruins closed the half on a 28-10 run. They closed the first half on a 13-4 run against Arizona State and against Arizona it was a 10-0 run midway through the first half.
"I think we can't rely on that. We got to come out and get it going in the beginning and we're still going to try to do that but I think our defense has tightened up during the games and that has helped us go on runs and ultimately hold the other team going into halftime with a nice lead," said Lamb.
Over the last three games, the Bruins are holding opponents to 40.3% shooting.