UCLA center Ikenna Okwarabizie undergoes shoulder surgery

UCLA center Ikenna Okwarabizie will be sidelined for six months after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound reserve joined the Bruins this past season after spending a year at Tyler Junior College in Texas. He only made seven appearances as a sophomore, grabbing four rebounds in 13 minutes.

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UCLA AD Dan Guerrero: ‘We’re not all about a coaching carousel’

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero (center) talked on Tuesday about Steve Alford and the state of the Bruins' men's basketball program. (Brad Graverson/Staff)

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero (center) talked on Tuesday about Steve Alford and the state of the Bruins’ men’s basketball program. (Brad Graverson/Staff)

After one of the most disappointing men’s basketball seasons in recent memory, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero responded today to fans who have called for him to fire head coach Steve Alford.

“I believe that those that want a coaching change are not going to be happy no matter what I say,” he said. “I believe that others who may be disappointed in the season will understand what UCLA’s all about. We’re not all about a coaching carousel every two or three years. We’re about building a program and doing our best to build our program the right way.

“There are very few coaches around the country that, in their first two years, at any place, will go to two Sweet 16s. You would hope that we would’ve been able to build on that. And we didn’t. We had a subpar year. There’s no question about that. But that was one year.”

Read the full Q&A here.

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UCLA women’s basketball reaches first Sweet 16 since 1999

For the first time since 1999, the UCLA women’s basketball team is heading to the Sweet 16.

The third-seeded Bruins earned themselves a spot on Monday night, holding off a resilient South Florida team for a 72-67 win at Pauley Pavilion. UCLA never trailed, but saw a 16-point lead dwindle to as little as one.

They will take the court again on March 26 against No. 2-seeded Texas.

“This is a huge next step for our program,” said Cori Close, the Bruins’ fifth-year coach.

» Sweet 16 run marks best year of Cori Close’s UCLA tenure

USF senior Courtney Williams, the nation’s 10th-leading scorer, led the game with 29 points — but did so by taking 32 shots. She missed her first eight shots of the night, pestered by defense from UCLA’s Nirra Fields, as well as forward Monique Billings.

Sophomore point guard Jordin Canada kept UCLA ahead late, shaking off a 1-for-11 start to score 17 points in the final quarter. She sank six free throws in the final 25 seconds.

The Bruins are one of four Pac-12 teams to make the Sweet 16, joining Oregon State, Stanford and Washington.

“You really gain credibility when you go do it on the biggest stage, the NCAA Tournament,” Close said. “The Pac-12 has sort of put its money where its mouth is.”

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UCLA coach Steve Alford returns his extension after losing season

After a 15-17 record in his third season, UCLA head coach Steve Alford has "returned" the one-year extension he signed in  2014. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

After a 15-17 record in his third season, UCLA head coach Steve Alford has “returned” the one-year extension he signed in 2014. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)

After one of the worst seasons in recent UCLA history, Steve Alford said in a letter to fans that he has decided to return the one-year contract extension he signed in 2014.

The news comes in the wake of a 15-17 finish by the Bruins, just the fourth losing season for the program since it hired John Wooden in 1948. A run that included a five-loss streak to end the year — including a third straight to USC — sparked palpable outrage for the UCLA faithful. Twice this week, a plane flew over campus, pulling banners that read “UCLA DESERVES BETTER! FIRE ALFORD!” and “MARCH MADNESS IS NOT FIRING ALFORD.”

In an email sent out on Sunday evening, Alford acknowledged that the result was “unacceptable,” but also recognized that the letter was unlikely to “change any opinions.”

“The fact remains that no matter how much time passes, the way we finished this past season will eat at me for a long, long time,” he wrote. “Our record speaks for itself and is simply unacceptable. There’s nothing that I can say or write that will change that fact. This happened under my watch, it begins and it ends with me. The buck stops here.

“Because of this, I let (athletic director) Dan Guerrero know that I wanted to return the one-year contract extension I received after the 2013-14 season. This request has since been processed.”

The nullification of the one-year extension, signed after Alford’s first Sweet 16 run with the Bruins in 2013-14, would mean that the coach is only attached to the program until April 2020. Perhaps more importantly, it would also adjust his buyout terms to what was stipulated in his original contract.

Under those terms, Alford’s buyout drops to $7.8 million on April 30, to $5.2 million on the same date in 2017, and to $2.6 million in 2018. If UCLA were to dismiss Alford, it would pay him in monthly installments through April 30, 2020. Those payments would be reduced if Alford were to gain other sources of income.

See the full letter below: Continue reading

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PHOTOS: UCLA women’s hoops coasts past Hawaii, 66-50

Senior Nirra Fields led the UCLA women’s basketball team with 16 points in a 66-50 win over Hawaii in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (John McCoy/Staff)

» UCLA got a boost off the bench from freshman Kennedy Burke to open the NCAA Tournament.
» The Bruins’ win over Hawaii meant an emotional end to Long Beach Poly alum Destiny King’s career.

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