VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s 87-74 loss to Gonzaga

After UCLA’s 87-74 loss to No. 9 Gonzaga on Saturday, head coach Steve Alford said he was more pleased with the Bruins’ performance than he had been after Wednesday’s win against UC Riverside. UCLA staged a few comeback attempts, but never led against the Bulldogs — and tied for just 1:17.

» From Mark Whicker’s column: “UCLA seems less of a national factor than it has been in a long time, on any level, including the bright, blue and empty seats in many regions of the new Pauley, and the taken-for-granted nature of a loss like this.”

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Can UCLA get a marquee win against No. 9 Gonzaga?

UCLA hosts No. 9 Gonzaga tonight at 7:05 p.m., the first part of a tough five-game stretch that will tell everyone a lot more about what type of team Steve Alford has on his hands.

Kenpom.com currently projects the Bruins losing all five: to the Bulldogs (44% win probability), No. 1 Kentucky (12%), Alabama (44%), Colorado (44%) and Utah (27%). The latter four games are all away from Pauley Pavilion.

» Can UCLA handle Gonzaga’s big men, Przemek Karnowski (7-1, 288) and Domantas Sabonis (6-10, 231)?
» Mark Whicker looks back at UCLA’s memorable Sweet Sixteen win over Gonzaga in 2006, the last time the two teams met.
» Freshman Kevon Looney has been a consistent force inside for UCLA, and is one double-double short of the national lead.

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Pac-12 Tournament tickets available for $12 on Dec. 12

For fans of numerical repetition — and of basketball, I suppose — the Pac-12 has the sale for you.

The conference announced today that tickets for the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena will go on sale for $12 on Friday, Dec. 12. A limited number of those will be available for 12 hours (duh!) starting from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. PT., or as long as the supply lasts.

You can buy these at Ticketmaster using the promo code PAC1212. These are per-session tickets, which means you’ll need to buy six if you want to watch every single game. All-tournament passes also go on sale at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

The Las Vegas tournament starts on March 11 and ends March 14. The same deal is available for Pac-12 women’s basketball, which will hold its competition at Seattle’s Key Arena on March 5-8.

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VIDEO: Steve Alford laments UCLA’s lack of ‘toughness’

For the second straight game at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA started slow. Against a UC Riverside squad picked to finish last in the Big West, the Bruins trailed for nearly the entire first half before eventually beating the Highlanders, 77-66.

Head coach Steve Alford attributed that to a lack of toughness, including the discipline to block out and communicate on defense.

“If we don’t develop this toughness, we’re always going to be the kind of team we are right now,” he said.

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VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s guards, rebounding

Steve Alford talked to the media before UCLA’s Tuesday practice, touching on Isaac Hamilton’s play, keeping guards out of foul trouble, and Kevon Looney’s rebounding prowess.

The Bruins host UC Riverside at 8 p.m. tomorrow, their last game before facing top-10 teams in Gonzaga and Kentucky.

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UCLA to start home-and-home series with Kentucky in 2015

UCLA will start a home-and-home series against Kentucky next season, it announced this morning, ensuring that the Bruins will face college basketball’s most dominant team at least three times by the end of 2016.

The No. 1 Wildcats are already slated to play against UCLA on Dec. 20 at the United Center, part of the inaugural CBS Sports Classic. Now, Kentucky will also visit Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 3, 2015, and host the Bruins at Rupp Arena on Dec. 3, 2016.

Under John Calipari, UK reeled in five straight top recruiting classes before settling for just the second-ranked class behind Duke earlier this year. The 55-year-old turned those hauls into an NCAA title in 2012, and a runner-up finish behind UConn in April.

UCLA head coach Steve Alford has pushed to schedule tougher nonconference opponents since arriving in Los Angeles — even if the Bruins (7-2) haven’t looked quite ready for that high bar yet this season. The team was blown out by then-No. 5 North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas last month, and will host No. 9 Gonzaga this Saturday. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s win vs. Cal State Fullerton

Back at Pauley Pavilion after a bumpy trip to the Bahamas, UCLA bounced back with an easy 73-45 win over a vastly inferior Cal State Fullerton team. The Bruins held the Titans to 24.1 percent shooting, and only gave up eight offensive rebounds.

However, UCLA’s bench didn’t score until the final six minutes — although head coach Steve Alford said he isn’t overly concerned about point production from his reserves.

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UCLA fighting for 7th place after big loss to No. 5 North Carolina

UCLA has just one more chance to leave the Battle 4 Atlantis with a win.

The No. 22 Bruins opened the tournament in the Bahamas with double-digit losses to Oklahoma and No. 5 North Carolina, looking nothing like a team that should be ranked in the Associated Press poll. After a 78-56 dismantling at the hands of the Tar Heels, UCLA now falls the the seventh-place game against the University of Alabama-Birmingham, which tips off Friday at 7:30 p.m. PT on AXS TV.

The 22-point margin of victory was UNC’s largest against a ranked opponent since 2008. An even uglier milestone was marked by the Bruins’ own carelessness with the ball: they coughed up 23 turnovers against seven assists, the team’s worst single-game ratio since 1996. Continue reading

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Weekly Q&A — 11/25/14 Answers

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! In today’s Daily News, I put together a list of what UCLA football has to be thankful for this season. Hope you all have a great holiday.

On to the Q&A …

Q: If Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota swapped teams, who do you think would be more successful? Where do you suppose UCLA and Oregon would be ranked?

A: I’d go with the team that has the likely Heisman winner, and swap UCLA and Oregon in the rankings.

Q: How much of an impact has running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu had on Paul Perkins becoming the league’s leading rusher?

A: Multiple people have said that Polamalu’s biggest effect on the running back corps has been their pass blocking, which I think has allowed Perkins to stay on the field much more — even if he’s not getting the carry. That was the edge that Jordon James had through the offseason, and the reason I thought the senior would get every chance to win the starting spot. Perkins looked like he would beat out Jordon James for the starting spot at some point this season; I just didn’t expect it to happen so early, and for James to look so poor through the first two games.

(It’s also worth mentioning that Perkins’ conference lead is very slim, and he isn’t facing as much competition for the rushing title as recent backs.)

Q: What is the nature of receiver Thomas Duarte’s leg injury suffered in practice on Tuesday?

A: He looked like he tweaked his hamstring, which has given him trouble since training camp in San Bernardino. Duarte’s limp was barely noticeable on Wednesday, though, so he should be good to go by Friday.

Q: Do you think Brett Hundley’s comment about “achieving everything I wanted to at UCLA” will cause distraction this Friday against the Cardinal, or is the media making a non-story a story?

A: No. I have no clue why this is a story. He literally said in January that this would be his last season, but I guess everyone forgot/didn’t care. Continue reading

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