UCLA continues downward spiral with two straight losses

That three-game winning streak looks like nothing more than a speck in the rearview.

Just a week after emerging from an ugly, five-loss slump during the holidays, the UCLA men’s basketball team looks as disjointed as ever — losing back-to-back games at Oregon State and Oregon, and all but certainly saying goodbye to already slim March Madness hopes.

The weekend trip north resulted in arguably the Bruins’ worst two-game stretch of the season, one that saw them shoot 35.8 percent from the field while allowing 57.3 to their opponents. And it’s not as if UCLA had the excuse of facing top-notch competition (neither the Beavers nor the Ducks are ranked) or being worn out by travel (a seven-day layoff before Thursday’s loss). And yet, this is a team that — as presently constructed — does not look capable of doing anything right on either end of the court.

It is easy to point at the absence of Tony Parker as the reason for the Bruins’ struggles. The junior center had been in the middle of what looked like a career breakthrough, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in four games and helping UCLA establish a consistent inside-out offensive attack. But during individual workouts this past weekend, he began suffering from back spasms and remained at home while his teammates flew up to the Beaver State. Continue reading

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Receiver Ryan Newsome picks UCLA over Texas

Receiver Ryan Newsome has verbally committed to UCLA, giving it a speedy threat that could add another dimension to Bruin offense.

Newsome, rated four stars by Scout.com and three stars by Rivals.com, picked UCLA over Texas — despite holding his announcement ceremony in the gym at Aledo (Texas) High, located west of Dallas and about a three-hour drive from the UT campus. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound prospect ran the 100-meter dash in 10.38 seconds last April, but also has the type of quickness that allows him to make plays in the open field.

He was named the Dallas Star-Telegram‘s Offensive Player of the Year earlier this month, helping Aledo to a state title with 1,073 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches.

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Linebacker Osa Masina commits to USC over UCLA, Arizona State

Linebacker Osa Masina picked USC in an announcement ceremony Friday morning, leaving UCLA and Arizona State hats on the table at Brighton High, just outside of Salt Lake City.

Rated one of the top three outside linebackers in the country by both Scout.com and Rivals.com, Masina is considered the top recruit in Utah — finishing with 97 tackles, 10 sacks and an interception as a senior.

The Bruins are also awaiting a decision today from receiver Ryan Newsome, who is picking between UCLA and Texas.

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UCLA’s comeback falls short in 66-55 loss at Oregon State

Give UCLA at least this: It didn’t go down easy.

Gill Coliseum has not been an easy place to play this season. Before the Bruins arrived in Corvallis for what would turn out to be a 66-55 loss to Oregon State on Thursday night, 10 other teams had entered the 9,600-seat stadium — and 10 teams had left empty-handed. That tally included No. 7 Arizona, which suffered a two-point upset there earlier this month.

So the location already bode poorly for UCLA, which has not won a game outside of Los Angeles since Nov. 28. The absence of center Tony Parker, who did not make the trip due to back spasms, hardly helped either. In his place was freshman Thomas Welsh, a 7-footer making his first career start.

And at the start of the game, it was Welsh who opened up scoring, sinking a jumper 17 seconds in. UCLA needed another eight minutes to hit a second field goal. Continue reading

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Tony Parker out with back spasms as UCLA faces Oregon State

UCLA is still without center Tony Parker, who did not travel with the Bruins to Oregon State on Thursday due to back spasms.

Barring a late flight up, Parker does not appear on track to play against Oregon on Saturday either. Without the junior big man, UCLA offense looked abysmal against the Beavers in the first half — shooting just 7 of 30 and falling into a 29-19 hole at the break.

Parker had averaged 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in the last four games, and even in losses, UCLA’s offense looked best when it could utilize him as part of an inside-out attack.

Freshman Thomas Welsh, who made his first career start in place of Parker, made the first basket of the game for the Bruins at Gill Coliseum. However, the team struggled to find rhythm after that, missing 14 straight shots.

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Defensive end Benning Potoa’e picks Washington over UCLA

Defensive end Benning Potoa’e has verbally committed to Washington over UCLA, choosing to stay close to home.

The four-star prospect was regarded as one of the top recruits in his state, and is a product of Lakes High in Lakewood — located an hour or so south of the UW campus. His older brother, Sione, was a former defensive tackle for the Huskies.

Washington has done a better job of landing in-state recruits since hiring Chris Petersen in December 2013. All but three of the top-10 prospects in the 2012 and 2013 recruiting cycles left the state, according to Rivals.com rankings. In 2014, the Huskies secured four commitments from similarly ranked recruits — and beat out UCLA for touted safety Budda Baker.

With Potoa’e, UW now has half of the in-state top-10 in 2015.

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UCLA recruit announcement schedule

UCLA’s recruiting class could change most dramatically on Feb. 4, when top prospects such as tight end Chris Clark and defensive tackle Joseph Wicker are slated to make Signing Day announcements. But there are a few other players scheduled to make their official decisions this week — ones that could provide surprise boosts to the Bruins’ haul.

Benning Potoa’e, DE, 6-4/265, Lakewood (Wash.)
Rating: Four stars, No. 18 position (Scout) … No. 21 (Rivals)
Announcement: 2:15 p.m. PT, Thursday, 1/22
Finalists: UCLA, Washington
Latest: Washington had most of buzz this week, but Huskies coach Chris Petersen reportedly moved his in-home visit from Thursday evening — which would have followed the announcement — to yesterday evening. Continue reading

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UCLA center Tony Parker day-to-day with back spasms

As UCLA prepares to leave Los Angeles, it might find itself shorthanded on yet another crucial road trip.

In the midst of a strong stretch, junior center Tony Parker is currently day-to-day with back spasms. The problems flared up this past weekend, when the Bruins reconvened for practice after beating USC last Wednesday. Parker is averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in his last four games, and has become a crucial part of the team’s inside-out offensive formula.

Head coach Steve Alford said Parker, who did not practice on Tuesday, is likely a game-time decision for UCLA’s Thursday game at Oregon State.

“We’ve just got to see,” Alford said. “At 6-9, 255, 260 (pounds), back spasms can be problematic. We just want to get it calmed down before we get him back out there.” Continue reading

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Brett Hundley among NFL draft early entries leaving with degree

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley poses for photos during Pac-12 Football Media Day at the Paramount Theater on July 24, 2014. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley poses for photos during Pac-12 Football Media Day at the Paramount Theater on July 24, 2014. (Andy Holzman/Staff)

In addition to his many spots in the UCLA record books, quarterback Brett Hundley has joined another small club.

The NFL draft early entry deadline passed last Thursday, and 84 players were declared eligible for selection. Of those, 10 — including Hundley, who majored in sociology — notified the league that they had already graduated.

The others are: Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes, Auburn receiver Sammie Coates, Akron receiver Zach D’Orazio, Louisville defensive back Charles Gaines, Colorado State running back Dee Hart, Kansas receiver Nigel King, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith, and Appalachian State receiver Tacoi Sumler.

The NFL granted the remaining 74 players special eligibility because they had been out of high school for at least three years. The Pac-12 accounted for 16 of those athletes, a tally that dipped from the 98 that left school early in 2014.

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