UCLA holds off Ducks in back-and-forth road thriller

Oregon pressured Kyle Anderson all night, and it resulted in the UCLA point guard tying a season-low in points. What the Ducks couldn’t do was limit his contributions elsewhere.

Anderson hit just one field goal in the Bruins’ 70-68 road win, but made several key plays late in a game that see-sawed wildly for 40 minutes. With under a minute left, the sophomore cut down the right side of the lane, drawing an extra defender before dishing the ball to a wide-open Jordan Adams.

The shooting guard hit the layup and drew the foul, tying the game at 68 on the ensuing free throw. When Anderson front-rimmed a jumper on the next possession down, Adams quickly reached out to force a held ball — giving UCLA one more chance with 8.5 seconds left.

Adams lost the ball on a baseline drive, but it bounced right to forward Travis Wear for the go-ahead jumper. Continue reading

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What to watch: UCLA at Oregon

UCLA (16-4, 5-2) at Oregon (14-5, 2-5)
When:
6 p.m., Thursday, Matthew Knight Arena
TV: ESPN2 (Bill Walton, Dave Pasch)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Point guard matchups. Backup Johnathan Loyd, the team’s assist leader, will be limited and in a mask after breaking his nose earlier this week. That leaves a bigger load for Dominic Artis, who started last season but was suspended for the first nine games of his sophomore campaign for selling school-issued apparel.

Despite rejoining the first five, however, Artis has not logged more than 20 minutes in his last five games. He has made more than two field goals in only one of his ten appearances, and is shooting just 35.3 percent from the field. Continue reading

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Tony Parker not frustrated by mercurial sophomore season

UCLA forward Tony Parker has tripled his playing time, going from 6.3 minutes per game as a freshman to 18.9 as a sophomore.

Other than that, he said, there isn’t anything else new about his second go-round with the Bruins.

“I play,” he said. “That’s the difference. That’s the only really big difference, is I play.”

That alone has been enough to keep him patient. Parker insisted this week that he isn’t frustrated by his up-and-down season under first-year head coach Steve Alford, one captured in his performances this past week: a career-high 22 points against Stanford, followed by 0 points against Cal.

He committed two fouls in 85 seconds on Sunday against the Bears, and said he should have adjusted his play more quickly to what the officials were calling. Continue reading

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Adoree’ Jackson has UCLA in top four

Five-star prospect Adoree’ Jackson announced his final four last night: Florida, LSU, USC and UCLA. Ranked No. 6 in the country by Rivals.com, the 5-foot-10, 172-pound athlete is the top uncommitted player left on the board.

The Gardena Serra product can be an impact player as a cornerback, receiver or returner. He has one official visit left, but has not said where he will take it.

Jackson is also a state long jump champion, and has Olympic aspirations for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

Of his four finalists, Florida has by far the strongest track and field program. Continue reading

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Alford talks up Oregon’s speed

UCLA’s Thursday trip to Oregon will pit the Bruins against the team most capable of matching their pace. The Ducks are 21st in the country in adjusted tempo, second in the conference to Steve Alford’s squad (15th).

“They play a lot of guards,” Alford said. “They usually have four guards in their lineup. Sometimes it looks like they have five guards in their lineup. … Our transition defense is going to come to a test.”

Oregon, which has lost four of their last five, rank 15th in adjusted offense — five spots above UCLA — but rank 130th in adjusted defense. Only Washington and Oregon State are worse in the Pac-12.

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Kyle Anderson named Pac-12 Player of the Week

Point guard Kyle Anderson was named Pac-12 Player of the Week, becoming the first UCLA player to earn the honor this season.

The sophomore averaged 15.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists in the Bruins’ wins over Stanford and Cal. He now has 11 double-doubles this season, including a triple-double against Morehead State in November.

Despite the recognition of Anderson, UCLA remained unranked in the latest Associated Poll. The team received 39 points in voting, which would place it 28th in the country if rankings extended past the top 25.

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Notes: Steve Alford talks Norman Powell’s breakout

Junior guard Norman Powell has steadily improved every part of his game since he arrived at UCLA, but his most dramatic jump this season has come on offense. Still the team’s best man-to-man defender, the San Diego native has bumped his 2-point shooting to 66.4 percent, up from 57.8 last season and 40.5 the year before that.

In conference games, the Bruins rank seventh inside the arc at 48.3 percent, a middling performance that stems at least in part from the roster’s dearth of dominant big men.

Arizona, first in the category, has three starters making more than 56 percent of their 2-point shots. The only UCLA player that clears that mark besides Powell is Tony Parker at 59.8 percent. David Wear and Travis Wear average 52.8 and 46.9 percent, respectively.

Powell scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in Sunday’s 76-64 win against Cal, an unspectacular but crucial contribution across 30 minutes — the most he has played against a conference opponent.

Head coach Steve Alford talked about Powell’s “breakout year” after the win, pointing out his propensity for driving down the lane and drawing fouls.

That becomes more important in the context of the team as a whole. UCLA’s 37.7 percent free-throw rate ranks just 10th in the conference, and 245th in the country. Powell’s 36.8 percent isn’t exactly hauling that number up, but besides Kyle Anderson (50.0) and Jordan Adams (49.4), he is the best option for generating trips to the line. Continue reading

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UCLA beats Cal, moves into second-place Pac-12 tie

UCLA is now tied for second place in the Pac-12, after a 76-64 win over Cal that saw one big man disappear and another rise.

Three days after scoring a career-high 22 points against Stanford, sophomore Tony Parker was a non-factor early on, picking up two fouls in 85 seconds and sitting most of the first half. He picked up his fourth foul with 11:58 left in the second half, and headed to the bench again.

He finished the game with a rebound, an assist and a missed shot.

His team hardly missed him. It was David Wear who starred, shaking off an illness earlier this week to score a career-high 18 points. He hit 6-of-10 from the field, including two 3-pointers, as well as four free throws. He added seven rebounds. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: A look at Tony Parker’s career game

Tony Parker was the talk of last night, as his career-high 22 points helped power UCLA to a 91-74 rout of Stanford. The win gives the Bruins a chance to tie for second in the Pac-12 on Sunday, but marked yet another tantalizing effort in the big man’s uneven career.

In arguably his best college game yet, the 6-foot-9 sophomore created many of his own chances, grabbing five of his seven rebounds on the offensive end. It echoed his showing against Arizona earlier this month, in which he snatched five of eight there.

I’m still not convinced Parker can ever produce a 20-and-7 night on even a semi-regular basis, but his effort on the offensive glass has improved. A freshman season spent mostly on the bench saw him grab 6.5 percent of available offensive rebounds. This year, that mark is up to 13.6 percent. Among the conference’s significant contributors (minimum 40 percent of minutes played), that puts him second-best behind Oregon’s Elgin Cook.

“After the Utah game, I watched a lot of clips of Kevin Love and Zach Randolph, who are my favorite players, and I noticed that they stayed around the arc and were active,” said Parker, whose seven free throw attempts were also a career high. “So tonight, I decided to stay around the arc and I kept moving.”

The performance was so surprising that after the postgame press conference, teammate Jordan Adams looked at the box score and snickered at Parker: “You had 22?”

Before his joke about Parker’s clothes, head coach Steve Alford did have a, erm, interesting response when asked how he motivates players: “That’s always on players. The players play. We obviously hope.” Continue reading

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Tony Parker scores career high against Stanford. Key? Anger.

UCLA’s 91-74 win over Stanford saw forward Tony Parker pour in a career-high 22 points — far beyond the 5.6 he had averaged against five previous Pac-12 opponents.

The key might have been a well-placed barb.

“You’ve got to get Tony mad,” said head coach Steve Alford. “It’s kind of hard to make him mad because everybody he sees, he’s friends with. It’s difficult to make him mad. Continue reading

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