Brendan Lane to transfer

UCLA head coach Ben Howland confirmed that junior forward Brendan Lane intends to graduate early and transfer to a mid-major conference school to complete his master’s degree and play his senior year of basketball.

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Guerrero backs Howland

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero released a statement declaring that Ben Howland’s job is safe:

“As I have stated before, at the conclusion of each sport’s season, a program and its coaches are evaluated. That evaluation includes a comprehensive review of the performance of the team, including its competitive success and its continued commitment to academics, but where other aspects related to the overall management of the program are also considered.

I had several discussions with Head Coach Ben Howland before deciding on what was best for the future of UCLA Basketball. Subsequent to these conversations, and in consultation with Chancellor Block, I have made the decision that the UCLA men’s basketball program will remain under Coach Howland’s leadership and direction.
Obviously, we are aware of the recent criticisms of our men’s basketball program; Ben understands full well that the management and oversight of the program needs improvement. He has assured me that, going forward, both the character and performance among our student-athletes will reflect the University’s values and the basketball program’s storied tradition. I believe that his overall record and performance proves he is more than capable of delivering on these assurances.”

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Spring football schedule announced

From UCLA:

The UCLA football team will begin Spring practice on April 3rd at Spaulding Field. The Bruins will practice every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with the Annual Spring Game to be held at the Bruins’ home stadium, The Rose Bowl, at 5:00 pm on Saturday, May 5th. All practices, as well as the Spring Game, are open to the public.

Tuesday and Thursday practices begin at 3:45 pm. Saturday practices will begin at 9:30 am or 1:00 pm. Check UCLABruins.com and twitter (@uclaathletics and @uclacoachmora) for finalized practice times.

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UCLA not selected for postseason NIT

UCLA had its hopes dashed when it was snubbed for the postseason by the NCAA on Selection Sunday.

Only not the NCAA Tournament, as the Bruins’ March Madness fantasies faded in a 66-58 loss to Arizona in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday.

No, UCLA was jilted by the postseason NIT and will not accept a bid from another postseason tournament, cementing the team’s record at 19-14, the third time in Ben Howland’s tenure that the Bruins have not won 20 games. No UCLA head coach has had three sub-20-win seasons since John Wooden in the late 1950s.

The Bruins concluded the season with an RPI of 127, according to CBSSports.com, and Howland said emphatically after the now season-ending loss to the Wildcats that the team would accept a bid, if offered. It was not.

“If we have the opportunity to play in postseason in the NIT, we would accept,” Howland said. “It’s something that I want for our players. I think that the experience for our younger kids as well as our seniors having a chance to try to win their 20th game of the season would be a good benefit for our program.
“So, yeah, no question; we would not snub our nose at the opportunity to play in the NIT.”

The Pac-12 was still represented well in the tournament, which concludes on March 29 at the Madison Square Garden, as Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Stanford were selected. The conference got two NCAA Tournament bids, with Pac-12 Tournament champion Colorado getting an 11-seed and Cal playing in the play-in game for a No. 12 seed.

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UCLA’s Tournament hopes disappear in loss to Arizona

For the second time in three seasons, UCLA ends its basketball season with a measure of sanity.

There will be no March Madness for these Bruins.

UCLA last-ditch hope for an NCAA Tournament appearance went out with not a bang but a whisper on Thursday afternoon in a 66-58 loss to Arizona in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Buried by a 10-minute stretch to open the first half that rivaled the worst in the team’s recent history – the Bruins managed just six points in the game’s first 11 minutes, 28 seconds – they now wait to find out if they’ll even receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
“No question,” Howland said about accepting an NIT bid, if one were offered. “We would not snub our nose at the opportunity to play in the NIT.”

Now Howland has to hope the selection committee turned the game on late.

If UCLA fans thought the Bruins’ win over USC in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday set offensive basketball back 50 years, the team’s first-half performance on Thursday pushed it back another 300.

And the game wasn’t even invented until 1891.

The Bruins drove to the lane in horse-drawn carriage, exchanged errant passes with bumbling dribbling and struggled to even attempt a shot. Players even tripped over their own feet and Arizona was not much better, making just 6-of-20 attempts in the first half. UCLA was able to keep it close for much of the half, eventually heading into the locker room down 29-23, only because of the Wildcats’ woes.

“We just didn’t get as good of shots and we didn’t really handle it, like coach said, didn’t handle their pressure very well,” said UCLA senior guard Jerime Anderson, who scored 14 points and added four rebounds and four assists. “There are two different styles of play from last game to this game. USC backed off of us and we still struggled.
I just think that we didn’t execute very well in the first half, and that’s what led to us not making shots and not getting a good start.”
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UCLA trails Arizona 29-23 at the half

If UCLA fans thought the team’s performance in the first half of its matchup with USC on Wednesday in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournamentset offensive basketball back 50 years, they would have thought the Bruins’ erratic first 20 minutes against Arizona on Thursday sent the game back to the ice age.

UCLA could not have been colder.

The Bruins shot 10-for-29 from the field and committed 10 first-half turnovers and they needed a late-half spurt to avoid one of the worst first-halves in conference history, heading into halftime down 29-23.

With Arizona playing pinpoint defense, UCLA managed just six points 10 minutes into the game, but the Wildcats’ poor offense kept the game close. Eventually the Bruins cut it to a one-point Arizona lead, but the Wildcats went on a mini-spurt to push the lead back to six going into the half.

Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell combined for 5-for-14 shooting and six turnovers, but Arizona also got substandard guard play, and only Solomon Hill has really punished the Bruins, scoring 14 first-half points.

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UCLA beats USC in a laugher, 55-40

The first half of the UCLA-USC matchup in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament was so bad, so laughably bad, that it’s a surprise the teams mustered the courage to emerge from the locker rooms after halftime.

And with the Staples Center about as full as a sumo wrestler after a rice cake, each chuckle coming from the sparse audience was heard loud and clear.

Eventually UCLA cleaned it up, overcame an early eight-point deficit and cruised to a 55-40 win over the Trojans to advance to a 2:30 p.m. matchup today in the second round against Arizona.

“I didn’t think that we were starting to panic,” senior guard Lazeric Jones said. “Obviously you get a little rattled sometimes when things aren’t going your way. But I felt like we calmed down eventually. We started to take better shots and move the ball around better. But I mean, it happens. Basketball is a game of runs. They had theirs and luckily we had ours in the second half.”

The Bruins may not have been panicking, but the handful of fans in the crowd might have once they realized their tickets were non-refundable.

The Los Angeles rivals had not scored almost three minutes in, combined to make just 5-of-29 attempts to start the game and managed a combined 19 points in the game’s first 11:58. USC took control by way of the offensive inadequacies, settling down to grab a 21-13 lead.

The Bruins, though, responded by tightening up defensively and holding the Trojans scoreless for the last 3:58 of the half to take a 22-21 lead into the break.

“Obviously the first 10, 12 minutes of the first half we were really a step slow, out of sync,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said. “The premise of their defense is to pack everybody in and make you take jump shots. We took about five jump shots right away early in the game and missed all of them. It seemed like it continued to snow ball. Then finally Zeke hit a few and we got down 7 or 8 and brought us back.”

Howland almost negated the Bruins’ size advantage over the thin Trojans by benching sophomore center Joshua Smith for the first half for being four minutes late to the team bus, which traveled the short distance from the J.W. Marriott in L.A. Live to Staples Center, Smith actually beating the bus to the game on foot.

In his stead, David and Travis Wear tried to capitalize but could not, combining for 20 points and nine rebounds. Worse, UCLA was not making USC pay for collapsing into the post as the backcourt duo of Jones and Jerime Anderson opened the game a combined 2-of-10 shooting.

The Trojans faded quickly in the second half, however, and the Bruins opened with an 18-4 run, eventually putting the finishing touches on one of USC’s worst seasons in history.

“Honestly, I don’t know the answer,” Trojans guard Byron Wesley said. “We came out strong. We had lots of energy in the first half. We had lots of momentum. Second half, we had the same game plan. Wanted to come out strong, but things just didn’t pan out.”

UCLA now moves on to face a Wildcats team in a state of flux, as head coach Sean Miller announced the suspension of freshman point guard Josiah Turner for a violation of team rules. Turner had eight points and five rebounds in 35 minutes in the team’s Feb. 25 matchup in Tucson, a 65-63 Arizona win.

“They’ll rally,” Howland said. “I mean, they’re coming off a tough loss against a rival school, Arizona State, and you know they’re going to want to play well. I think they suspended Josiah back in November, and they played very well without him. So I don’t know that they’re going to skip much of a beat in that respect, and probably brings their guys even more unified.”

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Pac-12 Roundball Roundtable Pt. 10

These are no Siskels and Eberts, but a handful of Pac-12 beat writers had the best – or worst? – view of what was one rotten men’s basketball season. Jeff Faraudo of the Oakland Tribune (Cal), Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic (Arizona State), Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune (Washington) and Tom Kensler of the Denver Post (Colorado) join the Daily News’ Jon Gold for a roundtable discussion on what doomed the conference…and what it can do to fix itself.

10) How many NCAA tournament picks does this conference deserve?

Jon Gold: Only Washington and Cal will go, but plucky Oregon deserves a shot, and might get it.

Two — Washington and Cal. Unless someone else wins the Pac-12 tournament . . . which certainly could happen.

Doug Haller: I think Oregon will win the automatic bid at this week’s Pac-12 Tournament, so I think three. Washington, Cal and the Ducks.

Bill Oram: I think Oregon, Cal and Washington all deserve bids, but I’d be shocked if more than two are rewarded.

Ryan Divish: Probably two at least, if Oregon were to win the Pac-12 tourney title then three. Because I feel like Washington and Cal should be in.

Tom Kensler: Three.

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Pac-12 Roundball Roundtable Pt. 9

These are no Siskels and Eberts, but a handful of Pac-12 beat writers had the best – or worst? – view of what was one rotten men’s basketball season. Jeff Faraudo of the Oakland Tribune (Cal), Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic (Arizona State), Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune (Washington) and Tom Kensler of the Denver Post (Colorado) join the Daily News’ Jon Gold for a roundtable discussion on what doomed the conference…and what it can do to fix itself.

9) Who is your pick for 2012-13 player of the year?

Jon Gold: Maybe it’s just husky to husky and Husky love, but if UCLA’s Joshua Smith and Washington’s Tony Wroten return, they split the award. Though Smith might want seconds.

Jeff Faraudo: Tony Wroten, if he stays and Terrence Ross leaves. Ross, if he stays and Wroten leaves. Or Jared Cunningham, if he stays and both UW guys leave. If all three leave, maybe UCLA incoming recruit Kyle Anderson.

Doug Haller: Terrence Ross. Something tells me he’ll return for his junior season. And with Tony Wroten gone, he will lead the Pac-12 in scoring. (If I had any faith that UCLA’s Joshua Smith would work his tail off this summer, he’d be my choice in a heartbeat.)

Bill Oram: Assuming the Beavers don’t fall apart (again) in conference games, Jared Cunningham, with Stanford’s Josh Huestis in the mix, too. I really think Huestis is on the cusp of being a great college player.

Ryan Divish: Hmm, that’s tough because you are basing that on a team is likely to finish in the top three and I really think either Terrence Ross and/or Tony Wroten will leave for the draft. If either returns that’s my pick. Otherwise it would be Jared Cunningham of OSU

Tom Kensler: Incoming Arizona signee Brandon Ashley.

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Pac-12 Roundball Roundtable Pt. 8

These are no Siskels and Eberts, but a handful of Pac-12 beat writers had the best – or worst? – view of what was one rotten men’s basketball season. Jeff Faraudo of the Oakland Tribune (Cal), Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic (Arizona State), Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune (Utah), Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune (Washington) and Tom Kensler of the Denver Post (Colorado) join the Daily News’ Jon Gold for a roundtable discussion on what doomed the conference…and what it can do to fix itself.

8) Predict next year’s top three teams?

Jon Gold: Arizona, UCLA, Washington

Jeff Faraudo: Kind of depends on who comes and goes between now and then. Most of the conference should be improved. Let’s say: 1. Arizona. 2. UCLA. 3. Oregon . . . or Oregon State or Cal or Stanford or Washington.

Doug Haller: Arizona, UCLA, Washington

Bill Oram: Arizona, UCLA, Colorado

Ryan Divish: UCLA, Arizona and Washington. Of course, the Huskies could be dramatically different if both Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten leave. So that could change my pick to Colorado or Oregon State.

Tom Kensler: 1. Washington, 2, Arizona, 3, UCLA.

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