After loss at Cal, UCLA won’t have shot at winning conference record

After a 75-63 loss to Cal, UCLA coach Steve Alford is now 9-17 in Pac-12 road games in three seasons. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

After a 75-63 loss to Cal, UCLA coach Steve Alford is now 9-17 in Pac-12 road games in three seasons. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

Against the Pac-12’s stingiest defense, UCLA needed nearly five minutes to finally make its first field goal. The Bruins never erased that deficit.

A 75-63 loss at Cal on Thursday kept Steve Alford at just two Pac-12 road wins this season, and knocked him down to an uninspiring 9-17 record during his UCLA tenure. With just three games left in the regular season, the Bruins (15-13, 6-9) are now assured their a non-winning conference record for just the fifth time since 1978 — when the league expanded to 10 teams and an 18-game schedule.

The more immediate ramifications are the almost certain erasure of the Bruins’ chances at the NCAA Tournament. If so, it comes in a year that might see the Pac-12 produce as many as seven March Madness bids, the most in the league’s 12-team era.

While losing at Haas Pavilion wasn’t exactly a case of the Bruins playing down to an inferior team, they also didn’t exactly help themselves. They missed their first five shots, finally breaking through on a floater by junior Isaac Hamilton. Throw in three early turnovers, and that meant a 13-1 game-opening run by Cal — not the type of cushion you want to give to a team that is undefeated at home.

Unsurprisingly, a large portion of UCLA’s struggles can be traced to the performance of Bryce Alford. The Bruins succeed when the point guard plays well, and on Thursday, he didn’t. The junior shot 1 of 7 to start the game, and finished an uncharacteristic 5 of 9 from the free-throw line.

“I start missing free throws and they start gaining steam like that, it’s hard,” he said, when asked about crowd noise. “It’s very hard on you.

“But at the same time, I don’t make any excuses for missed shots. I’m not a guy who listens to that kind of stuff. I’ve heard that kind of stuff all my life. It’s something that I don’t pay attention to. I don’t hear it during games. I know that it’s there, but I’m just trying to concentrate and make a shot.”

He found his rhythm in the second half, scoring eight points of his team’s 12 points during a three-minute stretch. That cut the deficit to seven with 12 minutes on the game clock. By the six minute mark, a jumper by Jonah Bolden had trimmed the score to 59-55.

That was as close as the Bruins got. The Bears opened up an 11-3 run, pushing the lead back to double digits inside the final two minutes.

UCLA’s zone defense slowed Cal down at times, but junior Jabari Bird got loose with a game-high 20 points, doing most of his work from downtown. His five 3-pointers more than doubled the Bruins’ total output, an uncharacteristic 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.

Senior Tony Parker started his second straight game at center, and matched Alford’s 15 points to lead the team. Sophomore big man Thomas Welsh tied a career high with 16 rebounds off the bench, but was a point short of what would have been his ninth double-double of the season. Isaac Hamilton and Aaron Holiday combined for 22 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.

Bolden, who had showed flashes of offensive potential in recent games, was a non-factor on that end again. He only took two shots, and was whistled four times in 22 minutes.

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  • jim

    You can’t miss that many open shots and free throws and expect to win. This team isn’t very good. I always thought Steve Alford was an excellent coach. I’m starting to have 2nd thoughts about that.

    • gotroy22

      Down the stretch down only 6 points the ruins missed not one but TWO one-plus one free throw opportunities to cut the lead to a single basket. That’s what bad teams do.

      • JustOwns

        Jim Healy had a “bad team” soundbite that accurately describes UCLA’s 2015-16 BB team.

        Team has no I in it.

      • jim

        Like I said. These guys are not very good. Are they going to make the playoffs? It really doesn’t matter. Even if they do, they won’t go very far.

    • Nicholas Le Mero

      UCLA relies only on individual one and one effort, without the individual talent to be successful within the new 30 second rules with too many forced shots like Hamilton did last night. Once again Bryce Alford brought them back but then could not sustain his effort. The college game is heading like the NBA circus which I stopped watching long time ago . The game has turned into a ridiculous 3 points contest where it is easier to make them than to score underneath. It was instituted to offset the big men presence in the paint ,when all they had to do is widen that paint especially along the base line by drawing both lines diagonally from both tip end of the
      foul line. The one and one free throw is penalizing the offense while calling a time out penalized the defense that traps the opponent player ball carrier in a corner. And everybody like sheep goes along with those current rules without questioning them.

      • guest

        a 35% 3 point shooter should not be shooting that much. Bryce needs to know his limitations because he has an awful lot of them. no defense. poor shooting. sure, if you’re a volume shooter, you can come back but volume shooters when cold put the team at a serious disadvantage. all the bricks cause the team to fall behind with the only hope of catching up is by getting hot. Steve tried his best to make Bryce look like an NBA prospect but the NBA knows that Bryce is no better than his dad at the NBA.

      • 88 Straight

        Bryce brought them back? By hitting 2 shots in a row? He was 4 for 13 and played no defense. He is a joke of a player and an embarrassment to the program.

        • Nicholas Le Mero

          A joke of a player? He was the main reason why UCLA advanced to the sweet 16 last year against SMU with his nine 3 points shots, the reason he brought back UCLA against WU and tied the game at the end of regulation time and first overtime. The reason UCLA beat Arizona .
          I am just noticing that when he does not score his points UCLA basically loses!

          • 88 Straight

            I guess you only want to point to the games when he is hot.

            How about the fact that he shoots the worst percentage of UCLA’s top 6 players (38%), takes the 2nd most shots and plays absolutely ZERO defense. He doesn’t even try to defend. He shoots even worse on the road. If you have a team that loses whenever one player shoots poorly, you have no “team.” Name one good team in the history of the game that is or was built around a 38% shooter.

            The only bigger joke? His Daddy as a coach.

          • gotroy22

            Let’s face it every team in the Pac 12 is the same- they live and die by the 3.

          • KW

            Absolutely correct. Caillou is not v good and I sense teammates do not respect or like him. Just like his dad.

        • gotroy22

          Alford missing the one plus one when they made their last run just killed them.

  • mark

    Turn off the lights…

  • mark hazelwood

    It isn’t helping that Tom Welsh has completely lost confidence in his shot. Last year, or even early this year, the 10 foot baseline shots were money. Right now, he can’t throw a pea in the ocean.

    • gotroy22

      He missed an open 10 footer near the end of the game and that was the end.

    • 88 Straight

      That is true but he also had 15 rebounds, 2 blocks and played defense. Sometimes your shot isn’t falling, but at least he kept playing the other areas of the game.

      • JustOwns

        Nothing wrong with good D.

      • gotroy22

        When he missed the shot at the end of the game it looked like he rushed it and wasn’t set. His fundamentals are bad now.

  • JustOwns

    My biggest gripe about this year’s BB team is they don’t play as a team. There’s way too much over dribbling and ugly, forced shots. That, and the total lack of D. I can’t name one player deserving a starting spot, based on this year performance, on next year’s team.

    It’s hard not to question Alford’s coaching. But if Mora gets a pass so should Alford. I think Alford can coach, the question is when?

    • UCLA OWNS…Nothing

      Based upon the amount of time you spend on all of these blogs, I doubt anyone associated with athletics will seek your advice…on anything… Except the skin flute. Play away professor!

      #CrazyPsychoResponseIn321…

      • JustOwns

        Yawn.

    • Jethro G Sabbath

      Plus they have a tool like you supporting them. That can’t be helping.

      • JustOwns

        JG, is the Bozo U men’s BB bandwagon still broken down and abandoned on Figueroa? LOL.

    • j metaphor

      I’m guessing the photo above is coach and son reacting to yet another Tony Parker brain fert play.
      Keep your chins up, boys, he’s gone to Italy next year and your freshmen will have some time to practice D.
      Should be interesting next year but Coach A has one season to figure it out.