What to watch: Stanford at UCLA

Stanford (12-5, 3-2) at UCLA (14-4, 3-2)
Thursday, 8 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Ted Robinson, Don MacLean, Yogi Roth)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Pace. UCLA’s halfcourt offense has been a work in progress all season, as both coach Steve Alford and his players have acknowledged at one point or another. The Bruins like to run, but despite chucking up 129 shots in their last two games, converted on just over 40 percent of them. The sharp drop from their season-long average (50.2 percent) may be due to opposing playbooks as much as the their own execution; freshman guard Zach LaVine said this week that more teams were trying to limit UCLA’s transition opportunities. Continue reading

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UCLA could push for second straight top-10 recruiting class

Four-star tackle Kolton Miller’s commitment to UCLA on Tuesday night didn’t just add another big body (6-foot-8!) to a quickly improving offensive line. It may help put the Bruins into unprecedented territory — according to recruiting rankings, at least.

Through archives dating back to 2002, UCLA has not secured back-to-back classes ranked in the national top 10 by both of the main recruiting services.

With two weeks left until National Signing Day, the Bruins’ class is now ranked No. 17 in the country by Rivals.com and No. 18 by Scout.com. They currently have the highest-rated group of Pac-12 newcomers on Rivals.com’s list. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Steve Alford denies that UCLA is in shooting slump

Despite his team’s shooting percentage dipping by 10 percent in its last two games, UCLA head coach Steve Alford dismissed the term “struggle.”

On the season, the Bruins are hovering at just over 50 percent from the field. Through their recent swing into Colorado and Utah, they shot a sliver above 40 percent. Alford acknowledged some complacency as well as lack of execution, but said, “Two games that are on the road, that’s not a shooting slump.”

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Three-star quarterback Aaron Sharp commits to UCLA

UCLA has found the next dual-threat piece in its quarterback line of succession. Three-star prospect Aaron Sharp committed to the Bruins Monday night, according to multiple reports.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Houston product visited UCLA this past weekend along with six other recruits. Barring injuries to multiple quarterbacks, he will redshirt the 2014 season behind rising junior Brett Hundley and redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard.

Sharp was previously committed to Kansas State, and briefly to Utah. He was also reportedly set to visit Washington. Rivals.com ranks him as the 18th-best dual-threat quarterback in the country, while Scout.com has him as their No. 60 quarterback.

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Miami lineman Malcolm Bunche headed to UCLA

Former Miami offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche will transfer to UCLA for his final year of college football, according to multiple reports.

Rated a three-star prospect in the class of 2009, the Delaware native will be eligible to play immediately because he already earned his undergraduate degree last month — freeing him to shore up a Bruin offensive line that struggled with injuries this past season.

A physical load at 6-foot-7, 327 pounds, Bunche started 12 games at left tackle in 2012. His playing time dwindled this past season, as he switched between guard and tackle and only started the Hurricanes’ season opener.

His father, Curtis, told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that his son received a mid-round grade on his NFL draft evaluation. Continue reading

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Bruins’ comeback stalls in 74-69 loss at Utah

UCLA snuck back into the Associated Press poll a week ago, and will almost certainly drop out again on Monday after a loss to unranked Utah.

This is what the Bruins are now: a borderline top-25 team that followed up its first win over a ranked team with a 74-69 loss in Salt Lake City.

After beating No. 21 Colorado on Thursday, they opened the afternoon in Salt Lake City with a sloppy effort on both ends. The awful first half — 31 percent shooting, 48.3 percent allowed — sank UCLA, whose late run fell short before a crowd of 12,267 at the Huntsman Center.

After scoring a season-low six points at Colorado on Thursday, Kyle Anderson finished with a career-high 28 points, with 13 coming before halftime. He also chipped in seven rebounds and seven assists, but coughed the ball up five times.

He shot 10 of 16 from the field. His teammates were a combined 17 of 47. Continue reading

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Titans hire UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos

The Tennessee Titans have hired UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos as their new linebackers coach, the NFL team announced today.

Before joining the Bruins’ staff two seasons ago, Spanos had worked in the pros for 17 years, including a stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers marked by two Super Bowl wins.

New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was the Steelers tight ends coach, and later offensive coordinator, while Spanos was there.

“He has put together a great body of work during his career,” Whisenhunt said in a statement. Continue reading

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Bellevue standout Budda Baker decommits from Oregon

Four-star safety Budda Baker has decommitted from Oregon, opening up the possibility that UCLA adds another defensive back to its 2014 class.

Baker had Washington and the Bruins as his two other finalists before announcing for the Ducks last month. He played with UCLA linebacker Myles Jack at Bellevue High, and actually helped Jack with his pass coverage last summer. Continue reading

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UCLA scales Boulder, earns first win over ranked team

For the second year in a row, UCLA leaves Boulder victorious.

The No. 25 Bruins earned their first win over a ranked team Thursday night, beating 21st-ranked Colorado, 69-56. Junior guard Norman Powell led the team with a 19 points, including 13 by halftime. The total tied his season high, and was accompanied by three rebounds and four steals.

Sophomore Jordan Adams had 14 points on an uninspiring 4-of-15 performance from the field, but grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds — six on offense.

That latter number helped UCLA continue its recent trend on the boards. Following strong efforts against No. 1 Arizona and Arizona State, it edged the Buffs with a 41-37 rebounding margin. The team survived an off-night from sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson, who didn’t score in the first half and finished with six points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals. Continue reading

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What to watch: No. 25 UCLA at No. 21 Colorado

No. 25 UCLA (13-3, 2-1) at No. 21 Colorado (14-3, 3-1)
Coors Events Center, Thursday, 5 p.m. PT
Pac-12 Networks (Ted Robinson, Don MacLean, Jill Savage)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Can Colorado still compete without Spencer Dinwiddie? The Buffs have enough talent and a capable coach in Tad Boyle that an NCAA tournament berth isn’t out of the question. But losing their leader in scoring (14.7), assists (3.8), steals (1.5) and 3-point shooting (26 made, at a .413 clip) is a blow that no cumulative effort from the rest of the roster can replace.

Fellow guard Askia Booker already leads the team with 197 field goals attempted — 66 more than Dinwiddie — and is only shooting .381 from the field. Continue reading

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