The University of Colorado Buffaloes host the No. 4 UCLA Bruins Thursday night at Coors Events Center. To get some information on the 16-1 Bruins, the CU Independent’s Justin Guerriero reached out to TuAnh Dam of UCLA’s Daily Bruin to find out more about the team facing the Buffs in the impending Pac-12 duel in Boulder.
Justin Guerriero: I’m looking over the Bruins’ stat sheet and wow — how has this team been able to manage a .534 conversion rate from the floor? It seems like this team just doesn’t miss a lot of shots. Are these guys simply that good?
TuAnh Dam: They’re good talent-wise. But their shooting percentage isn’t .534 just because they’re good.
Most of it is because they’re taking good shots that they want to be taking. Their ball movement lets shooters like Bryce Alford, Aaron Holiday and Isaac Hamilton stretch the floor and open it up for TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh.
JG: How does this starting five hurt enemy teams? You have six Bruins who average points in the double digits per contest. Do these guys move the ball around well? Is it discipline or good coaching? What’s their secret?
TD: No secret — the catalyst of their success starts with their point guard. Lonzo Ball is one of the best players in the country, and he has complete control of the offense. The Bruins are essentially playing a style of basketball similar to the Warriors and Spurs in the NBA. That means fast-paced playing and lots of ball movement that leads to an off-balance defense and lots of wide-open looks at the basket. Lonzo facilitates this with how he sees the court, but the rest of the team are making those shots, which feeds into their game plan.
JG: Colorado has established a routine so far this year in which the team plays in a very lackluster manner early in the contest before waking up and playing better late. In general, how can UCLA take advantage of this Buffaloes team that’s struggled to play 40 minutes of sound basketball every game?
TD: To be honest, UCLA has struggled with that too. For most of the season, they’ve been more of a second half team. In three of their conference games so far, they’ve been the opposite, putting up double digit leads in the first half, but then letting teams like Cal and Stanford creep back later in the game. If Colorado struggles and UCLA is firing on all cylinders, the Bruins could open up a big enough lead that puts the game out of reach really early and puts less pressure on their defense.
JG: It seems hard to pinpoint the weaknesses of a 16-1 squad, but is there anything that the Bruins have struggled with this season?
TD: There’s actually a lot this team can and has been working on. For how good they are offensively, they can be inconsistent on the defensive end and could use some work on rebounding. When they’re focused on defense, they’re actually really good. But they haven’t always stayed focused and sometimes get lax when they’re ahead by 15-20 points. Leaf is averaging almost a double-double per game, but Welsh is still trying to get his feet back under himself after a knee injury knocked him out for a couple of weeks. They’ve tried focusing on offensive rebounding this week in practice, so we’ll see how they perform this weekend.
JG: Score predictions for this one? Do you take the over or under line on the Bruins scoring their season average of 92.8 points per game?
JG: 98-75 UCLA. I’ll take the over on the 92.8 — most of the season they’ve been in the upper 90s, but haven’t been there with Isaac Hamilton going pretty cold over the last couple of games. He should be breaking out of his slump soon and could have a big game this weekend.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.
Contact Daily Bruin Sports Editor TuAnh Dam at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @tueydam.