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.

Without Parker to draw any attention in the post, freshman forward Kevon Looney fouled out in both games — leaving Saturday’s 82-64 loss in Eugene with nearly eight minutes left on the clock. The Bruins settled for bad outside shots and missed most of them, shooting 11 of 42 from beyond the arc against Oregon and Oregon State. They couldn’t move the ball, totaling 19 assists against 19 turnovers. Against the Ducks, middling wingman Noah Allen led the team with three assists.

But so much of defense often comes down to discipline and desire, and UCLA showed little of either in its past two games.

Senior guard Norman Powell, the team’s best athlete on-ball defender, pointed that out after losing to the Ducks:

This was a crucial stretch for UCLA’s postseason hopes. Even without Parker, the Bruins fielded a more talented roster than either of their opponents. That won’t be the case this coming Thursday, when UCLA will host a Utah squad that ran away with a 71-39 blowout in Salt Lake City earlier this month. Saturday’s rematch with Colorado won’t be easy either; the Bruins lost to the Buffs even when the latter lacked starting forward Josh Scott.

For those keeping an eye even further down the schedule, kenpom.com currently projects UCLA finishing at 16-15 to end the regular season. This would be the team’s worst record since going 13-17 in 2009-10.

RELATED: Examining Tony Parker’s importance to UCLA, which resonates even more strongly now given his two-game absence to back spasms.

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  • fromela

    People hated ben howlands slow-down offense & attention to defense style. Now were stuck with this wide-open offense, where no one plays defense. UCLA should of never fired howland.

    • UCLA owns LA Football

      All defense and no offense or time outs yield the same result – Basketball losses. UCLA lost 5 players from last year team; what do you expect Alford to do – pinch wins.

      • Charlie_Breakback

        Kentucky lost all their guys last year and it didn’t seem to hurt them. Excuses, excuses.

        • Coyote_Cypress

          That’s because Kentucky has remained basketball loyalty. UCLA was barely hanging on to elite status with Howland. UCLA is currently in the second tier of teams in Div. I, below a dozen or so Mid-Majors.

          • UCLA owns LA Football

            I swear you were discribing Clown U’s FB program.

          • Coyote_Cypress

            Who are you referring to as Clown U? Kentucky?

        • UCLA owns LA Football

          Where does SUCC reside? – in the Pac-12 hole.

          • ProbationU

            Just being better than SC is not an accomplishment nor a measuring stick. And it isn’t just about having a short roster. UCLA plays no defense and runs no offense. The Bruins are fundamentally unsound. There is no coaching going on here. It isn’t just about the losses. We are not playing team basketball.

          • Jethro G Sabbath

            Don’t try using logic or reasoning with him.
            Trust me.

        • Jethro G Sabbath

          Great point, Chuck. This “Owns” dude talks about not making excuses and the next thing you know, he’s making an excuse.

        • Pyperkub

          Last I checked, both of the Harrison twins returned from last year’s team, as well as some other highly regarded recruits. They wouldn’t have made the Final 4 (and probably lose in the 3rd round – their 2nd game) without them.

    • drakejr

      It’s like watching the Houston Rockets, without the talent. Or the coaching. Or the excitement. Or the fun. Or the winning.

  • Cliff Sakata

    Firing Howland wasn’t the mistake. Hiring Alford was the mistake.

  • fromela

    yeah how dumb of me to forget. however that style still managed howland to win the conference the year he got fired.

  • FreeShabazz

    Bring back Ben.

  • UCLA Dynasty

    We need to fire Alford now and begin pursuing an elite coach like Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens immediately. Otherwise next year’s recruiting class will already be lost. So disgraceful to Coach Wooden’s legacy.

    • Jethro G Sabbath

      Probably time for you to change your screen name.

      • ProbationU

        Dynasties, like sanctions, come and go. Sometimes they repeat themselves and sometimes they don’t. Alford and Sark seem to be birds of a feather.

    • 92104bruinfan

      Bruins went after both and were rebuffed before hiring Alford if my memory serves correct.

  • Mark

    Sorry but you’re going to be stuck with Alford for a long time. Go check the length of the contract and the buyout. Best thing to do is get behind him and the team and show support

    • UCLA owns LA Football

      Agreed!

  • VB

    This team is pathetic. This is by far the worst team UCLA basketball has fielded since the end of the Lavin era. Even Howland’s losing seasons there were some positive takeaways. This team has ZERO positive takeaways or reasons for hope. It is obvious now that Alford CAN. NOT. COACH. Fire him now and get a coach worth of representing UCLA.

  • Pyperkub

    How can a team be on a downward spiral after winning 3 in a row? Pretty poor headline writing Jack. I can’t see how anyone expected anything other than 2 losses in Oregon w/o Parker. With Parker, I think UCLA wins both of those games. The question now is whether Parker can get back.