Steve Alford (USA Today)

UCLA Coach Steve Alford Looked Ahead to Matchups Against UC Riverside and Kentucky

Nov. 29 -- UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford addressed reporters Tuesday as the Bruins prepared for an important week that includes a highly anticipated matchup against No. 1-ranked Kentucky...

On his thoughts following the Wooden Legacy tournament victory...

"Wednesday culminates the eight games in 20 days. We've had to deal with injuries through that stretch and, probably in those games now, we've played six, maybe seven different styles. To do that in three days in four days down in Anaheim, once against a Big Ten team and another one against an SEC team, to try to handle those types of things without a lot of practice on some of those styles, what I learned is how some of our guys can figure it out and fight through it. When it gets down to it, that's a good trend. I don't know if we can keep that trend going, but the trend of those last five minutes and really figuring things out and winning those minutes. In both those games against Nebraska and Texas A&M when we were challenged a little bit, we won the last five minutes and that's always nice to see."

On defense stepping up in those final minutes...

"We have talked to our guys about the more deflections and turnovers we can create and defensive stops we can establish, it helps our run game because we obviously are much better when we're running -- not just in transition but playing with pace. What we learned in this tournament is that Nebraska and Texas A&M played a whole different style and want to be slow in tempo -- that's fine with us but as long as it doesn't slow our tempo of how we cut and how we screen. That doesn't mean we can't quick-shoot and we did that a little bit in those two games and that can affect your defense, too. Moving forward, we've got to be able to play regardless of what tempo it is. If teams are going to cut slow on their end and eat clock, that doesn't mean we have to. If teams are sending four back in transition, when they see our half-court offense, it's got to be with pace and the way we play, whether it's 90 feet from the basket or 50 feet. Those are things we needed to learn offensively and defensively. Hopefully as we get into practice more next week more -- this is the week leading up to finals and obviously a quick turnaround with UC Riverside on Wednesday and Kentucky on Saturday -- it will be more the week after finals where we can hopefully practice a lot of these things we're talking about."

On what he saw from true freshman Ike Anigbogu...

"I don't know if we could have asked for more. To play your first game against a Big Ten opponent that had a really good big man and then to play your second game after having just a day off against one of the biggest teams we'll play all year, he's had a little bit different beginning than the other freshmen on this team where you get a couple exhibitions under your belt, a scrimmage, you get to start your season at home, Ike was thrown in and didn't get any of that. ... I was very proud of him. I thought he gave us everything he had and you could see him doing some of the things he was doing for us in Australia already with really no practices. He had one contact practice and one non-contact practice before we left for Anaheim, so it's not like he had been practicing for two weeks. I'm very proud of what he gave us and now he should be, after talking to the doctors, unlimited. We have no restraints on him as far as playing time moving forward."

http://www.scout.com/player/183615-ike-anigbogu

On status of other injured players...

"The only update we have is G.G. (Goloman) and I'm waiting to find out more about him. He did turn an ankle in the A&M game in the first half and, to his credit, he continued to play in the second half and we didn't even know about it. That did swell up once we got back. For right now, he's at least questionable for Wednesday night because I haven't gotten the feedback from the doctors yet.

"Prince (Ali) and Alex (Olesinksi) will still be out."

http://www.scout.com/player/185752-alex-olesinski

On the anticipation of playing in Rupp Arena...

"No comparison. I've played there and been a part of that and it's obviously one of the best environments in college basketball. Our freshmen haven't experienced that and not sure our vets have experienced anything like that, either. When it's your first game and that's what you're going to experience, obviously there are some concerns there but we've got to lean on our vets. They've got to do a good job of having a calming effect of what we're doing and then do everything we can to be who we are. The identity we're establishing, try to establish that on the road. If we can play well in that environment this early in the season, that's really going to help us moving forward. Regardless, playing a game like this in early December, it's going to give us a lot of stuff that we can always go back to with our team and say, 'This is what they did to us' or 'This is what we did to them.' It's going to give us a lot of good tape for our guys to look at."

On the game against UC Riverside on Wednesday with a bigger matchup looming...

"That's why all of our attention has to be right here on Riverside. This is a dangerous game. One, they've already played some good opponents away from Riverside so they are road tested. There are a lot of California kids on this roster that get a chance to play in Pauley Pavilion, so we know what that's like. We play enough teams here with homegrown guys that want to have a good game at Pauley. We're coming off a championship weekend then you've got Kentucky the following weekend, our attention and focus, we've got to make sure our guys are totally focused on Riverside. If not, we could have a tough night. We're going to have to play well."

On whether the Kentucky game could serve as a barometer...

"I think each step we take becomes a barometer for us. Whether that was Portland then Nebraska and Texas A&M, the next step is Riverside. We're hoping that when we get to league play, we get a big win. Now, can we back that up with another big win? That's our lesson that's going to be learned Wednesday. Can we go from having a big win on a weekend and then go ahead and get another one midweek? Or do you become satisfied? There are going to be lessons there. Then you get to the next step. Can you go on the road and play at a high level and give yourself a chance to win in the end? That's what we're going to get -- it's not a make or break thing. It's early December, but it does become a great test for our team this early in the season."

On Bryce Alford's free-throw shooting...

"It's not a competition. That's the one area I haven't relinquished to him yet. I told him he can shoot the three much better and dance with his feet much better than I ever could. He can create shots for himself and teammates much better than I could; I needed a lot of help with that. But I haven't relinquished the foul line yet. I've told him I've been over 90 percent at year's end. There is a difference. That's more of a dad thing, but I'm not giving up the foul line quite yet. Obviously it's been a weapon. We did not shoot it well, like I wanted them to shoot it, in the tournament. I thought we had some slippage there because I think this team has a chance to be about an 80-percent foul-shooting team and that's a huge weapon, especially when you get into January and February. Those are grinding games. If you can win the battle at the free-throw line, you could win games that way. I thought the last two games in particular we didn't shoot the free throw like we're capable of. (Bryce) is, I think, top 10 in school history at the foul line and he does a very good job there. He's getting there -- we're seeing him get there more this year which is going to be crucial, too. When you've got a weapon like that, you've got to make sure to get to the line a lot."

http://www.scout.com/player/157177-bryce-alford


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