UCLA 69, Utah 59: Steve Alford talks about Bruins’ biggest win yet

Head coach Steve Alford talked after UCLA’s 69-59 win over No. 11 Utah, easily the Bruins’ biggest win of the season and their first against a ranked opponent.

Key to the upset was senior guard Norman Powell, who scored a game-high 23 points and opened scoring with a steal and a fast-break layup. He also helped hold Utes point guard Delon Wright to four first-half points.

“He’s a senior and he made a lot of big plays for us tonight,” Alford said. “As a senior, when you get that kind of leadership, guys are going to follow. I thought it was even more than Norman. it was a tremendous team effort. Everyone trusted each other.”

Full game story here.

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VIDEO: Jonah Bolden practices with UCLA after being cleared

Jonah Bolden practiced for the first time in front of Los Angeles media on Tuesday, providing a glimpse at the type of player that could have changed the arc of UCLA’s season.

A four-star recruit, the 6-foot-10 wing was ruled ineligible to play this season, but this week the NCAA cleared him to begin practicing. Bolden said that he had been able to get individual training with assistant coach with Ed Schilling over the past few months. He described those as being tailored for his frame and body type, name-dropping Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as a pro comparison.

Added head coach Steve Alford: “He’s a big guard, or he can play a stretch four and really do a lot of things helping both bigs and guards.”

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Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s big men, preparation for Utah

Steve Alford talked to reporters today before UCLA’s practice, touching on the Bruins’ preparation for Thursday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against No. 11 Utah at Pauley Pavilion. The Utes blew out UCLA in Salt Lake City on Jan. 4, winning 71-39.

Some of the main notes:

– Center Tony Parker is still “day-to-day” with back spasms. He returned to practice with UCLA on Tuesday, but only did non-contact work. Senior guard Norman Powell did not practice on Tuesday with an illness — the latest setback for him after a bruised hip and two dislocated fingers.

– If Parker isn’t ready to play against Utah, true freshman Thomas Welsh will likely make his third career start. But at this point in his career, the 7-footer is more of a jump shooter — one who isn’t capable of anchoring the inside-out offense that worked well during UCLA’s three-game winning streak. He has taken just 39.4 percent of his shots at the rim this season, making 45.9 percent of them.

The key for Welsh, Alford said, is learning to initiate contact rather than bouncing away from it. The coach sees Welsh as a player who could be averaging around seven or eight points off the bench this season. Continue reading

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VIDEO: UCLA’s Jonah Bolden talks about being cleared practice

Jonah Bolden was cleared to practice with UCLA this week, four months after being ruled ineligible to play this season by the NCAA.

Today, the four-star wing spoke to reporters for the first time, touching on what he’s been working on in his game and what he sees in his future.

Asked if he’s considering entering the NBA draft over returning to UCLA next season, the 6-foot-9 Bolden said: “Most definitely, my goal is to get to the NBA, but my main priority right now is here at UCLA.”

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NFL draft roundup: Will UCLA produce another first-round pick?

Brett Hundley (17) runs for a touchdown in a 38-20 win over USC, as former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, right, celebrates at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Brett Hundley (17) runs for a touchdown in a 38-20 win over USC, as former Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, right, celebrates at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 22, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

One of the lows in recent UCLA football history was the 2012 NFL draft. That was the year that not a single Bruin was picked, becoming a sort of epilogue on the recently expired coaching tenure of Rick Neuheisel. The same drought occurred in the 2009 draft, which followed Neuheisel’s debut season, and in the 1997 draft. Otherwise, the program had produced at least one selection every single year since the draft contracted to seven rounds in 1994.

But in the last two years, UCLA broke out of that 2012 slump in a big way, producing four picks in 2013 and five in 2014. That included a pair of first-round picks in defensive end Datone Jones and linebacker Anthony Barr.

Those nine picks signaled the team’s highest two-year draft total ever in the seven-round era — giving head coach Jim Mora and his staff a nice selling point on the recruiting trail. No longer can the school be depicted as a place that failed to maximize its talent.

This time around, UCLA’s three best prospects are quarterback Brett Hundley, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and linebacker Eric Kendricks. None of them are locks for the first round, but all three have at least a chance to be among the first 32 taken. If that happens, it will mark the first time UCLA has produced at least one first-rounder in three straight years since 1994-96 — when Jamir Miller, J.J. Stokes and Jonathan Ogden all became top-10 draft picks.

Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa

Unsurprisingly, Odighizuwa impressed everyone in Mobile, Ala., during the weigh-in — looking as shredded as usual at 266 pounds and half an inch over 6-foot-3. He also measured out with 11 1/8-inch hands, the largest of any defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl, and a wingspan of nearly 82 inches.

He didn’t disappoint once practices and started either, drawing attention for his first step and fluid hips. Three years ago, Jones was the UCLA defensive end who started generating momentum with a big Senior Bowl showing, eventually becoming the first Bruin selected in the first round since 2006. If Odighizuwa follows up with a strong NFL combine, he could echo that rise. Continue reading

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Four-star foward Jonah Bolden cleared to practice with UCLA

Talented true freshman Jonah Bolden has been cleared to practice with the UCLA men’s basketball team, giving the Bruins a bit of help as they try to shake off seven losses in their last 10 games.

A four-star small forward, Bolden will remain ineligible to compete in games this season. The NCAA had ruled the 6-foot-9 recruit a partial qualifier back in September, with the troubles rooted in his transfer from Australia to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas.

Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Receiver Ryan Newsome picks UCLA over Texas

Receiver Ryan Newsome has verbally committed to UCLA, giving it a speedy threat that could add another dimension to Bruin offense.

Newsome, rated four stars by Scout.com and three stars by Rivals.com, picked UCLA over Texas — despite holding his announcement ceremony in the gym at Aledo (Texas) High, located west of Dallas and about a three-hour drive from the UT campus. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound prospect ran the 100-meter dash in 10.38 seconds last April, but also has the type of quickness that allows him to make plays in the open field.

He was named the Dallas Star-Telegram‘s Offensive Player of the Year earlier this month, helping Aledo to a state title with 1,073 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches.

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Linebacker Osa Masina commits to USC over UCLA, Arizona State

Linebacker Osa Masina picked USC in an announcement ceremony Friday morning, leaving UCLA and Arizona State hats on the table at Brighton High, just outside of Salt Lake City.

Rated one of the top three outside linebackers in the country by both Scout.com and Rivals.com, Masina is considered the top recruit in Utah — finishing with 97 tackles, 10 sacks and an interception as a senior.

The Bruins are also awaiting a decision today from receiver Ryan Newsome, who is picking between UCLA and Texas.

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UCLA’s comeback falls short in 66-55 loss at Oregon State

Give UCLA at least this: It didn’t go down easy.

Gill Coliseum has not been an easy place to play this season. Before the Bruins arrived in Corvallis for what would turn out to be a 66-55 loss to Oregon State on Thursday night, 10 other teams had entered the 9,600-seat stadium — and 10 teams had left empty-handed. That tally included No. 7 Arizona, which suffered a two-point upset there earlier this month.

So the location already bode poorly for UCLA, which has not won a game outside of Los Angeles since Nov. 28. The absence of center Tony Parker, who did not make the trip due to back spasms, hardly helped either. In his place was freshman Thomas Welsh, a 7-footer making his first career start.

And at the start of the game, it was Welsh who opened up scoring, sinking a jumper 17 seconds in. UCLA needed another eight minutes to hit a second field goal. Continue reading

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