UCLA blows out Cal for first win at Haas Pavilion since 2010

BERKELEY, Calif. — For a moment in UCLA’s 86-66 win Wednesday night, Cal breathed in hope.

With less than four minutes left until halftime, senior point guard Justin Cobbs hit a running floater against heavy contact. He pumped his fist, and headed to the line. He hit the free throw.

What had been a double-digit Bruin lead less than three minutes ago was cut to four.

It would be Cobbs’ only field goal of the first half. He missed an 18-footer on the Bears’ next possession, and UCLA unleashed a 7-0 run in 88 seconds. The Bruins walked into the locker room with a commanding 44-32 lead, and never felt threatened again through the remaining 20 minutes.

Powered by Jordan Adams’ game-high 28 points, UCLA led by as much as 27 and never by less than nine after the break. Continue reading

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What to watch: No. 23 UCLA at Cal

No. 23 UCLA (20-5, 9-3) at Cal (17-8, 8-4)
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Haas Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (JB Long, Don MacLean, Ashley Adamson)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Which Cal team will show up? The Bears may be the Pac-12′s most perplexing team. They gave USC its lone Pac-12 victory after winning five straight to start conference play, only to turn around 10 days later and knocked off undefeated Arizona. They then proceeded to lose to Stanford at home by 11 points.

Cal is trending up a bit again with dominant road win at Washington, but the Huskies are on track for their worst record in six years. The Bears do score 59.1 percent of their points on 2-pointers — the second-highest mark in the league — so they’ll need 6-foot-10 forward Richard Solomon to establish himself inside and the rest of the team’s jumpers to fall. In eight losses this season, Cal shot 40.8 percent from the field, down nearly six from their season average.

On paper, UCLA enters tonight with the clear edge. The Bruins have suffered lapses this season, but that’s happened most often on the back end of road trips. Even if they get off to a slow start, they’ve proven that they can flip the switch coming out of halftime.

No. 2: Cal’s fifth starter. The Bears haven’t found a consistent contributor to finish out its first-string unit, with Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird and Ricky Kreklow getting 12, nine and seven starts, respectively. Injuries to Bird and Kreklow disrupted the lineup for weeks, but the former has seen the court just 29 minutes in his past three games — hardly building off his 12-point second half against UCLA. Continue reading

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Nick Pasquale’s brother, A.J., to become football intern

A.J. Pasquale, brother of deceased UCLA receiver Nick Pasquale, will join the Bruins as a full-time intern. Nick died in September when he was struck by a car in San Clemente.

Since Nick’s death, head coach Jim Mora has reiterated that he would continue to support the Pasquale family and to keep them close to the program.

A.J. tweeted Tuesday night that he accepted the internship offer.

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Report: Mike Tuiasosopo joins UCLA staff

UCLA has plugged a familiar family name onto its coaching staff.

According to Bruin Report Online, the Bruins hired Mike Tuiasosopo to fill the vacancy that opened when defensive coordinator Lou Spanos left for the Tennessee Titans. Linebackers coach/special teams coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was promoted to coordinator,

Tuiasosopo was most recently a defensive line coach at Colorado under Jon Embree in 2011 and 2012. He coached the same unit at Arizona from 2004-10.

His cousin, Manu, was an All-American defensive lineman at UCLA in the 1970s. His nephew, Marques, was the Bruins’ tight ends coach in 2012 and recently joined Steve Sarkisian’s USC staff.

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Steve Alford talks UCLA’s progress before Bay Area trip

UCLA coach Steve Alford talked to the media today about Jordan Adams and Travis Wear’s recent shooting, as well as freshman guard Zach LaVine’s struggles from the field. Heading into their Bay Area trip, the Bruins are ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 25 in USA Today — their first appearance in the top 25 since Jan. 13.

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Kyle Anderson makes latest cut in Bob Cousy Award list

Point guard Kyle Anderson was named one of 23 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, becoming one of four Pac-12 players to make the latest cut.

After acknowledging that it was an honor, he talked a little today about how his thumb injury threw off his shooting mechanics last season. After averaging 21.1 percent from the 3-point line as a freshman, he has more than doubled that number to 52.4.

Anderson originally injured his left thumb during St. Anthony High’s appearance in the state title game, then aggravated it further in three all-star competitions. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: Bruins make habit of second-half runs

– Steve Alford is doing something right at halftime.

UCLA flipped the switch again in Saturday’s 80-66 win over Utah, one that featured a 12-0 run to start the second half. The trend has been most apparent in their last five games — with the Bruins outshooting opponents 52.9 percent to 40.6 percent after the break — but holds across a larger sample size too.

In second halves of its Pac-12 schedule, UCLA is shooting 48.0 percent from the field while allowing 41.6 percent.

“That’s where we make our runs,” point guard Kyle Anderson said. “Coach told us about the old Lakers teams, the old Bulls teams — the third quarter in the NBA is where the best teams are normally the best teams.”

The Bruins need to limit the slow starts that have plagued them as of late, but they’ve at least proven themselves capable of overcoming early rough patches.

– Has the defense improved? UCLA is ranked sixth in conference in field goal percentage defense, up slightly from eighth a year ago, but that’s due more to the competition: the number is only down half a percent to 42.0. Continue reading

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UCLA cruises past Utah, moves within one game of Pac-12 lead

Warm applause greeted Jordan Adams as he sat down on UCLA’s bench, leaving a blowout win with over eight minutes left on the clock.

The sophomore guard could’ve easily topped his career-high, but his Bruins were already well on their way to a 80-66 victory over Utah — one that featured yet another explosive second half. No sense in risking injury to their leading scorer.

Even without needing him for nearly a quarter of the game, UCLA now sits just one game back from Arizona for first in the Pac-12.

Adams finished with 24 points, knocking down all three of his attempts from downtown and shooting 10-of-14 overall. Continue reading

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What to watch: Utah at UCLA

Utah (17-7, 6-6) at UCLA (19-5, 8-3)
Saturday, 2 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (JB Long, Don MacLean)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: How will Utah fare away from home? On Thursday, the Utes beat USC to finally notch their first road win since Jan. 19, 2013. With a trip through the Bay Area still looming, it may very well be their last of the regular season.

Most bothersome for the up-and-coming program is the inability to finish on the road. In their five road losses in conference play, they thrice blew double-digit leads.

The Bruins had one of their worst offensive halves of the season in Salt Lake City last month, and haven’t completely shaken the slow-start bug since. They can’t afford losing at Pauley Pavilion to a lesser team, not when first place is within sights again thanks to Arizona State’s upset of Arizona.

No. 2: Delon Wright. The younger brother of NBA forward Dorell Wright turned out to be a major recruiting coup for the Utes, transferring from the City College of San Francisco to become their most versatile player. Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: Zach Lavine still stuck in scoring rut

Zach LaVine is just six of 29 in his last five games, a slump that has spotlighted the pockmarks on a once stunning freshman campaign.

Most glaring remains shot selection, something that was apparent even during his eight straight double-digit scoring games. It’s just that when contested 25-footers find net, forgiveness comes easy.

Lately, those tough jumpers have been clanking more often than not. His 1-of-6 showing during UCLA’s 92-74 win over Colorado even prompted Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs’ injured star, to chime in from his bed during the game:

Asked if LaVine’s drought was of any concern, head coach Steve Alford said no. Continue reading

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