UCLA basketball interim head coach Murry Bartow has the Bruins playing better in just two games under his guidance. Most of it has to do with simple tweaks he has made to game planning.
After going 0-4 in Alford’s final four games, the Bruins have truned things around and are 2-0 to start Pac-12 play. Though UCLA has played two of the conferences worst teams, it is apparent that Bartow’s influence is reaching the players.
Who knows how the Bruins would be playing if Alford was still in charge, but in the last two games, the Bruins have returned an element of fun to their game which has resulted into 90+ point scoring outputs.
UCLA beat Stanford (92-70) and Cal (98-83) in the last two games, bringing them to a total of five games on the season scoring over 90 points. This is not a coincidence.
What Bartow has done has been simple, yet effective. They are things that Alford never would have dared to do, but the results speak volumes.
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Since Bartow took over, he inserted Chris Smith into the starting lineup. Though the Bruins have started both games a bit slow, Smith’s presence seems to have helped the team play more consistently. Power forwards Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were starting in the 4-spot before Smith went in, which tells us that Bartow is playing the guys that are working the hardest and making smart plays. It says that Bartow is not afraid to punish players that are not putting in the full effort, something Alford failed to do.
Another thing that Alford failed to do that Bartow has no qualms about is benching players that are not executing and are consistently making mistakes on the floor. In the first half of the Stanford game, UCLA’s scoring leader, Kris Wilkes, only played five minutes, but when he went out in the second half, he put forth his full effort and scored in double-digits. There is no favoritism here or brushing over minor problems. Bartow is noticing when players are not giving their all and replacing them with players that are.
Relying More on Role Players
Freshman David Singleton, who has been scoring 4.9 points per game, has been given the opportunity to show what he is made of. Against Stanford, he scored a career-high 13 points. Against Cal, he had 14 points… in the first half. Another freshman, Jules Bernard, had 12 against the Cardinal which was backed by 4/7 shooting from 3-point range. Allowing the natural talents to flow is something that seems obvious, at least to Bartow, and it is giving the Bruins a boost off the bench.
More Cohesion, More Fun, More Points
In the 13 games that Alford coached, UCLA averaged 65 points and shot 41.6%. In the last two games, they are averaging 95 points on 52.3% shooting. Again, this is all based on a small sample size of two games, but the numbers are proving something.
They are not comparable to a Ben Howland defense, but there is improvement. It will take more than a week for this team to make massive improvements on defense, but the tweaks they have made are making all the difference. They are still sticking with a 2-3 zone, which teams are finding weaknesses in, but the Bruins are moving around a lot more, are more aware of their areas, and are rotating slightly better. Not great, but its improvement.
UCLA is also stumping teams in their press. With attention to trapping and cutting off lanes, UCLA has been a pest when it comes to opponents bringing the ball down court which have turned into key steals and points off of turnovers.
Again, the changes that Bartow has made are small, which is perplexing that Alford could not do the same, but it is making a difference for the Bruins. We will see exactly how much of an impact it will make when UCLA takes on Oregon in Eugene on Thursday.