As for the Bruins, the first half against Weber State looked pretty similar to many of the previous games against low-major opponents. The Bruins were, for the most part, efficient on offense. They had a decided height advantage and Tony Parker converted on several easy opportunities. Parker was helped by the fact that Weber State post Kyle Tresnak sat the majority of the first half with two fouls. But at least Parker was scoring against an out-manned opponent. In many similar situations earlier in the year he couldn't take advantage against guys several inches shorter than him.
Kyle Anderson shot the ball very well from the perimeter, looking relaxed and confident with his shot. That's one area that Anderson has clearly improved from a year ago. His stroke is much smoother and there's no hesitation now. He made good decisions with the ball and it seemed like he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. He also had a good game on the boards as he finished with a team-leading ten rebounds. Bryce Alford came off the bench and provided a spark at the offensive end, knocking down a couple quick shots and providing a few good post entry passes to Parker. David and Travis Wear knocked down a few jumpers, with David also converting on a couple lay-ups early in the game.
Jordan Adams was the one Bruin that looked really out of sync. His body looks fleshier than it did a month ago. He actually looked pretty trim when the season started, but he doesn't look good physically right now. It may be that he's one of those players that can't afford a bad week, or two, of not eating right. He looks out of rhythm and, while he's never been quick, he looks particularly lethargic right now. Obviously, the Bruins will need Adams at his best if they're going to do anything meaningful in the Pac-12.
The Bruins started out the game a bit shaky with their transition defense. They were slow getting back a couple times and then didn't stop the ball on another occasion. When they gave up a bad offensive rebound, Coach Alford took the Wears and Norman Powell out of the game, inserting Alford, Parker and Zach LaVine. It was around the fifteen minute mark, which is typically about the time he brings in some subs, so it may not have been strictly due to the Bruins failing to get the defensive board. But the subs gave the Bruins a spark and they went on a 19-4 run. However, once they built the lead, they seemed to relax a bit. They had a couple questionable shots and the defense got a little lax again. Alford was good at the offensive end, but got beat off the dribble twice for lay-ups. Anderson, LaVine and Adams all had moments in the zone defense when they were standing and watching. Weber State closed the deficit to seven and it could have been even closer if they knocked down some wide open three-pointers against the zone. Kyle Anderson hit a three at the buzzer to give the Bruins a 44-34 lead at the half.
I spoke with David Woods after the game and he thought the Bruins had a couple stretches of fairly solid defense in the second half. He thought they showed a little more energy than they did in the first half. He said they didn't sustain it once the game got out of hand, but he did think it was an improvement on the first half.
It's too bad that the Bruins didn't get to face one of the Weber State teams of the past few years, as any one of them would have provided a much better test than this year's version. At this point, we know what UCLA can do against mediocre low to mid major talent. They're going to score very easily and not have to extend themselves too much to secure a victory. They did seem to have a little better focus overall on defense and with their rebounding (they had a 42-28 advantage on the glass). But this game didn't really provide much of a test to see if they're making any real progress.
Saturday night they'll take on an Alabama team that's been just decent so far this year. I haven't seen the Crimson Tide play this year but, sight unseen, I'm pretty sure they'll at least have a few high major athletes. That game should give the Bruins a little better measuring stick as to where they stand heading into conference play.