LOS ANGELES (AP) — A couple of 30-point victories while averaging 102.5 points in their two exhibition games. Things are sure looking different at UCLA.
The 22nd-ranked Bruins open the school’s 95th basketball season on Friday against Drexel at Pauley Pavilion, where new coach Steve Alford takes the place of fired Ben Howland on the sideline.
“Openers are always scary,” Alford said Wednesday. “It’s scary for both sides because you don’t have an identity yet.”
The Bruins’ exhibition wins over two Cal State schools — San Bernardino and San Marcos — offered some clues, though.
They unveiled a high-octane offense rarely seen during Howland’s 10 defensive-minded years in Westwood. Sophomore Kyle Anderson had a double-double in the 96-66 victory over San Bernardino and followed it up with a triple-double in the 109-79 win over San Marcos.
“It was good to put these numbers up to see where our offense was,” said sophomore Jordan Adams, who scored 20 or more points in his first four games last season. “Offensively, we’re ahead of schedule. We’re trying to focus on defense and rebounding.”
Adams averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals in the two preseason games. He is recovered from a broken right foot that ended his freshman year early.
Anderson and Adams, who are two of UCLA’s three returning starters, will be counted on to help make up for the 17.9-point average of Shabazz Muhammad, who left for the NBA after last season.
The two schools have played each other just once, with UCLA winning 57-56 in New York in 2005 under Howland.
“We definitely want to send out a message with this first game that we’re a tough team,” Anderson said.
The Bruins will be without senior Travis Wear, who is recovering from an appendectomy on Oct. 28, and freshman Wanaah Bail, who has yet to be cleared to practice after offseason knee surgery. Alford said both could be out another two to three weeks.
“Since losing Travis we’ve had to start playing differently,” Alford said. “We’re not very deep up front.”
Friday’s game tips off at 9 p.m. PST, which will feel like midnight to the Drexel Dragons from Philadelphia.
The Bruins began adjusting to the late start last week with a couple of practices that ended later in the evening. Their meal time on Friday will be moved back a couple hours, too.
“It’s a long time for coaches to wait for the tip,” Alford said.
The game will reunite Anderson, from Fairview, N.J., with Drexel guards Chris Fouch and Damion Lee, and forward Kazembe Abif. Like Anderson, Lee and Abif are from New Jersey.
“I haven’t seen anything on Drexel, but I’ve played against these kids since I was 11 years old,” said Anderson, who knows his family will be watching on TV.
“They do a very good job of staying up and sending me text messages with what I did wrong.”
Alford has known Drexel coach Bruiser Flint for years. Both men graduated from different colleges in 1987. Alford was hired at UCLA in late March, and has been busy remaking the program over the last seven months. Now, he’ll start to find out what kind of team he has.
“This time of year coaches get eager, too, because they want to play against somebody,” Alford said.