UCLA earns first top-10 finish in Associated Press poll since 1998

For the first time in 16 years, UCLA has finished the season as a top-10 team.

The Bruins earned a No. 10 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, released a few hours after Monday night’s conclusion to the first-ever College Football Playoff. It marks UCLA’s highest year-end placement since its No. 8 ranking following the 1998 season.

That campaign ended in a Rose Bowl loss, and since then, the Bruins have been left out of all but three final AP polls. They finished No. 16 after both the 2005 and 2013 seasons.

You can see the complete final 2014 rankings below: Continue reading

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UCLA forward Kevon Looney named Pac-12 Player of the Week

After the best weekend of his UCLA career, true freshman Kevon Looney earned his first Pac-12 Player of the Week honor.

The rangy 6-foot-9 forward helped the Bruins break their five-loss streak with a dominant effort in Thursday’s double-overtime win over Stanford. In the 86-81 victory, Looney poured in an absurd line: 27 points, 19 rebounds, three assists and a block. He was the first UCLA player to have that many points and rebounds in a game since Ed O’Bannon in 1994.

His follow-up effort against Cal on Sunday wasn’t bad either. Looney led UCLA with 15 points in the 73-54 win, and also chipped in seven boards, two assists and two steals. Continue reading

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Anthony Jefferson, Malcolm Bunche to play in NFLPA Bowl

UCLA defensive back Anthony Jefferson and offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche have agreed to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, one of the many postseason all-star events for draft-eligible players.

The game will be played on Jan. 17 at 1 p.m., and be broadcast on ESPN.

Jefferson was the most experienced and versatile member of the Bruins’ secondary, capable of playing both cornerback and safety. He finished third on the team with 72 tackles, and also had an interception and eight pass breakups. Bunche, a graduate transfer from Miami, began the season as UCLA’s starting left tackle — but was later shifted to left guard and eventually benched entirely. He did not travel with the Bruins to the Alamo Bowl due to academics.

Former UCLA defensive linemen Keenan Graham and Seali’i Epenesa played in last year’s NFLPA Bowl, but neither was drafted.

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UCLA 86, Stanford 81: Kevon Looney, Tony Parker, Bryce Alford

After UCLA’s 86-81 win over Stanford in double overtime, Kevon Looney, Tony Parker and Bryce Alford talked to reporters about the game that finally snapped their month-long, five-loss streak.

“We couldn’t lose,” Looney said. “Nobody wanted to lose. I just picked up another gear and got going.”

Looney was the star of the night, setting career highs with 27 points and 19 rebounds. He scored 10 of UCLA’s 12 points during a crucial second-half run, one that powered the Bruins back from a double-digit deficit.

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UCLA 86, Stanford 81: Head coach Steve Alford

UCLA head coach Steve Alford talked about the Bruins’ 86-81 double-overtime win over Stanford, one that snapped the team’s five-game losing streak. Freshman Kevon Looney set career highs with 27 points and 19 rebounds, helping UCLA survive a barrage of 3-pointers by the Cardinal.

“I could not be more proud of that group of young men,” Alford said.

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Linebacker Zach Whitley leaves UCLA after month of uncertainty

Linebacker Zach Whitley has left UCLA for good.

The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Houston-area native withdrew from school on Monday, ending a short stint for a prospect that had once looked like one of the gems of the Bruins’ 2014 recruiting class. He played in nine games as a true freshman and recorded one tackle.

A month ago, Whitley had reportedly been dismissed from the team — but head coach Jim Mora soon insisted that nothing had ever changed in the player’s status. Continue reading

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Tony Parker: UCLA’s NCAA tournament chances ‘in question’

After five straight losses, UCLA is sitting with an 8-7 record and in serious danger of missing the NCAA tournament.Junior center Tony Parker admitted as much on Tuesday, shortly before the Bruins practiced at Pauley Pavilion.

“That’s definitely in question,” Parker said. “You have to win games to make the tournament. That’s a big-time thing for us. We have to win games to make the tournament. … We have a chance. We have a shot. It’s early. The line is going to draw in every conference pretty soon.”

He left the window open for his team by citing Oregon’s stretch of eight losses in 10 games before eventually winning eight straight and earning a No. 7 seed in March Madness.

UCLA hosts Stanford at 6 p.m. Thursday.

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Jim Mora: ‘I have not made any overtures towards any NFL teams’

In what has seemingly become an annual tradition, Jim Mora has again dismissed talk that he might leave his position as UCLA head coach.

This time, Mora squashed speculation that he had any intention of leaving the Bruins to return to the NFL — with the most recent reports indicating that he had agreed to an interview with the New York Jets. On Tuesday morning, he reaffirmed his commitment to UCLA during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show. (The relevant segment starts at around 7:10 in the above video.)

“I think it’s always a compliment to your program and the success that your program is having, when other people mention you — whether it’s real or fabricated,” Mora said. “I’ve never wavered from saying that I’m very happy at UCLA. I love college football, and I love coaching the UCLA Bruins. I have not made any overtures towards any NFL teams. My agent hasn’t. Continue reading

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