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Bruins beat hobbled Colorado team, 69-56

UCLA BASKETBALL

Defense is more Norman Powell's thing, but he steps up against Buffaloes as teammates go cold.

January 16, 2014|By Chris Foster

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BOULDER, Colo. — People don't talk with UCLA guard Norman Powell about offense very often.

Defense, sure. Maybe a little chitchat about what others on the team are doing. Occasionally there will be one of those backboard-vibrating tomahawk dunks that requires a comment.

But not offense. Certainly not that fellas,-climb-on-my-back type of offense.

Yet there was Powell in the hallway at the Coors Events Center, getting to gab about a performance that got the No. 25 Bruins out of town with a 69-56 victory over No. 21 Colorado on Thursday.

This was set up for UCLA (14-3 overall, 3-1 in Pac-12 play) to win. It was the first game Colorado (14-4, 3-2) has played since losing leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie for the season.

The Buffaloes were also without reserve Tre'Shaun Fletcher.

Starting forward Xavier Johnson did not practice this week and hobbled around the court for 33 minutes, making one of six shots.

It was a wounded team.

UCLA Coach Steve Alford saw it differently.

"You have guys who are now trying to prove themselves," Alford said. "We knew we'd get a tremendous effort from them."

There was effort. The Buffaloes went eight minutes without a field goal in the second half, but they were intense about it. Colorado shot 40%.

The Bruins struggled to shake the Buffaloes, playing with leads of five to seven points before getting some traction to take a 58-46 lead with eight minutes left.

"Defense," Powell said. "Defense, defense, defense, defense. That's what Coach nails in our heads every time we go out to play a game."

The two teams might have spent that night in a defensive grab-and-shove game if not for Powell.

His numbers won't require a rewrite of the UCLA record book, but his 19 points matched a season high.

"I don't hang my hat on the offensive end," Powell said. "I know there are times when guys, and teams, are going to have off nights."

This was one of those nights.

UCLA shot 39%, and that was with Powell making eight of 13 shots from the field. The rest of the Bruins were 18 for 53.

It was clear early that the usual suspects were not going to drive the offense.

Jordan Adams? He was four for 15 from the field.

Kyle Anderson? He was two for seven.

Even Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford, the Bruins' spark plugs off the bench, were no-shows as shooters. LaVine was three for nine. Alford missed all seven of his shots.

"This team, a month ago, could not have won a game on the road shooting 39%," Alford said. "That's growth."

Alford could point to areas that showed that. The Bruins scored 20 points off Colorado's 17 turnovers. Adams had 13 rebounds and Anderson had six assists to offset their cold shooting.

The Bruins' shooters got off lucky. The game was televised on the Pac-12 Networks and might have gone unnoticed. Powell might be the only Bruin wanting a video copy.

Powell dropped two three-pointers — he had four on the season entering the game — and scored on drives and dunks.

"Norman is a load when you give him freedom in the post and on drives to the basket," Alford said.

Powell's 13 first-half points allowed the Bruins to slip off the court with a 36-29 halftime lead.

Returning to the court for the second half, Adams sidled up to Powell.

Said Adams: "I told him, 'Thank you for everything.' He kept us in the game. It would have been 12-12 if he didn't go off.

Others may have been surprised by Powell's performance. Not the Bruins.

"I think this is the first time anyone has asked me about Norm's offense," Adams said. "He gets overlooked. Everyone forgets how talented Norman really is."

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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