There were plenty of holes to poke in Tony Parker’s 2012-2013 game.
On Monday night, he poked much of the doubt away, leaving the floor to as thunderous of an applause as 4,023 fans can produce. The sophomore forward/center played his most effective game to date in a 109-79 UCLA exhibition win over Cal State San Marcos.
Last season, Parker was a defensive liability, often committing unnecessary fouls and trudging back to the bench dejectedly while the Bruins made due with a short staff. On Monday, he committed just one foul, which came nearly 30 minutes into the game. He also swatted away four of the Cougars’ 72 shots.
“Playing with my hands up,” said Parker when asked what triggered his improved defense. “Last year I played with my hands down. If your hands are down and you bring them up, you’re going to get the foul.”
As a freshman, he frequently was taken advantage of in the rebounding game, allowing bigger, hungrier players to box him out, even with the Bruins on defense. Against a Cal State San Marcos roster that had just one player taller than 6-foot-7, Parker dominated the glass, hauling in 16 rebounds.
His slimmed-down frame showed good durability in its 25 minutes on the floor and hands that once didn’t know what to do with the ball down low guided it into the hoop six of seven times from the field. Parker finished with 17 points, completing his first double-double since high school.
After the game, Parker mainly had strength and conditioning coach Wes Long to thank for his improved agility and ability to stay in the game.
“I spent a lot of time with (Long),” Parker said. “I spent a lot of time in the weight room. The bike really helped my endurance. It was the best thing for me.”
Parker said the key to losing 20 pounds in the offseason was giving up fruit juice. On Monday night, he and sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson squeezed the San Marcos defense for a combined 39 points.
After being in foul trouble for much of UCLA’s first exhibition game against Cal State San Bernardino, Anderson responded well Monday, leading the Bruins in field goal shooting in a 6-of-11 first-half display. He shot 60 percent from the field in the second half and added 10 assists and 12 total rebounds to his game-high 22 points to notch his first triple-double as a Bruin, all while not committing a single foul.
“The last time I had a triple-double was the Nike Peach Jam AAU 17U,” Anderson said. “I grabbed a triple-double the first game. It was pretty cool.”
Playing with a much smaller lineup, the Cougars relied on the three-point shot early and often. In the opening minutes of the game, it worked, with senior forward Zack Zaragoza sinking his first two three-point attempts. UCLA limited its opponent to just 33.3 percent from long range, but often struggled with closing out and contesting the Cougars’ favorite shot, allowing San Marcos to convert 14 times from long range. Meanwhile, the Bruins sank just four of their 17 three-point attempts.
According to coach Steve Alford, the long range woes don’t matter just yet.
“Stats in an exhibition game don’t mean a whole lot, but they do give you a picture of what can happen,” he said. “I think we have a lot of guys who are gaining some confidence here in these two games.”