UCLA close to scheduling home-and-home series with Kentucky

UCLA men’s basketball just suffered its first loss of the season, dropping a 75-65 decision to Oklahoma today. After debuting in the Associated Press poll at No. 22 on Monday, the Bruins’ stay could be short-lived if it loses to fifth-ranked North Carolina tomorrow as the Battle 4 Atlantis continues in the Bahamas.

This team has talent, if not depth, but there’s a reason Steve Alford preached patience before the start of the season. It will take time for him to coach the team up to where he wants it to be.

But under Alford’s long-term philosophy, it’s these early games against top teams that will make UCLA a tougher program. The second-year head coach told ESPN on Wednesday that the Bruins are close to finalizing a home-and-home series with Kentucky, which has become a perennial title contender under John Calipari. The series would start in 2015 at Pauley Pavilion, then conclude at Rupp Arena the following year.

UCLA already has a game against the No. 1 Wildcats on Dec. 20 at the United Center in Chicago, as part of the CBS Sports Classic.

Since being hired in 2013, Alford has not been shy about his desire to schedule big-time nonconference opponents. The Bruins have a home-and-home against Gonzaga this year and the next, and are currently playing in a tournament that features three other ranked teams.

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UCLA holds off Long Beach State in 77-63 win at Pauley Pavilion

UCLA moved to 4-0 on a 77-63 win over Long Beach State, but allowed the 49ers to get within five points with 3:00 left on the clock. Norman Powell and Bryce Alford combined for 41 points, while Kevon Looney logged his third straight double-double. Here’s the game story from Chris Trevino, who filled in at Pauley Pavilion tonight.

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UCLA retires Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 across all sports

Jackie Robinson's No. 42 is now painted on both sides of UCLA's midfield logo at the Rose Bowl.

Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 is now painted on both sides of UCLA’s midfield logo at the Rose Bowl. The number has been retired across all Bruin sports.

UCLA has retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 across all sports, honoring the former four-star athlete and civil rights pioneer 75 years after he first enrolled as Bruin.

The school announced the news between the first and second quarters of UCLA’s rivalry game on Saturday against USC. The No. 42 was also painted on both sides of the midfield logo at the Rose Bowl, and adorned the Bruins’ helmets.

“Jackie Robinson established a standard of excellence to which people the world over should aspire,” said athletic director Dan Guerrero. Continue reading

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UCLA athletic facilities collectively named to honor Jackie Robinson

UCLA athletic facilities have now been named to honor former Bruin star and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson, the school announced Friday afternoon.

The Jackie Robinson Athletics and Recreation Complex will be the new umbrella name that includes 22 different buildings, including Pauley Pavilion, Spaulding Field, the John Wooden Center, and just about any other on-campus venue you can think of.

Robinson arrived on the UCLA campus 75 years ago, and went on to star in four sports. The man who broke baseball’s color barrier was an honorable All-American in football, the conference scoring leader in basketball, and an NCAA champion in the broad jump.

“Jackie Robinson’s name and his legacy are an honor to this university, and to all the students and student-athletes who will continue to be inspired by his courage, dignity and grace,” UCLA chancellor Gene Block said in a statement. “Jackie detested injustice, fought for civil rights and his spirit of breaking barriers has been and always will be a guiding force of UCLA past, present and future.”

UCLA players will wear the Robinson’s No. 42 on their helmets for Saturday’s game against USC at the Rose Bowl. The number will also be painted on the 25-yard line.

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Bryce Alford notches second double-double in three games

We’re just three games into the UCLA basketball season, and Bryce Alford already has the first two double-doubles of his career.

The Bruins’ sophomore point guard has started making an argument for Pac-12 Most Improved Player of the Year. As a freshman, there were times he looked like more of a two-guard, eventually finishing a season off the bench with averages of 8.0 points and 2.8 assists on 38.5-percent shooting.

UCLA hasn’t played anyone of note yet, comfortably rolling past Montana State, Coastal Carolina and — on Thursday night — Nicholls State. But in a 107-74 win over the Colonels, Alford had a sparking line of 28 points, a career-high 13 assists and just one turnover. Continue reading

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Four-star shooting guard Prince Ali officially joins UCLA’s 2015 class

Prince Ali has officially signed with the UCLA men’s basketball team, the school announced Thursday, giving the Bruins a second top backcourt prospect in their 2015 class.

The four-star shooting guard is a consensus top-40 national recruit according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, and is a former Sagemont (Fla.) High teammate of UCLA freshman forward Gyorgy Goloman. Ali joins a class that includes four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, whose signing was announced Wednesday.

“Prince is an extremely talented player who has established himself as one of the premier backcourt players in the country,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He’s a big, athletic guard who has tremendous versatility and comes to our program with a strong understanding of a winning culture. Prince is a wonderful young man and a great addition to the Bruin family.

“When you factor in the signing of Aaron Holiday, our staff couldn’t be more excited about the start of this 2015 class.”

The Bruins do not currently have any other 2015 basketball commitments.

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UCLA signs four-star point guard Aaron Holiday

UCLA has officially signed four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, the younger brother of former Bruin and current New Orleans Pelicans’ guard Jrue Holiday.

Aaron Holiday is one of two commitments that UCLA currently holds in the class of 2015. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard is ranked the No. 58 best prospect in the country by Rivals.com, and No. 36 by Scout.com. A natural scorer with impressive athleticism, Holiday was named CIF Southern Section Division 4A Player of the Year after his junior season at North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall.

“Aaron is a very talented player who we know will really help our backcourt next season,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He is a quick, tough guard who possesses the ability to be both an efficient scorer and a lockdown defender. Our coaching staff is excited to add a player of Aaron’s caliber, both on and off the court, to our 2015 class, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the Bruin family.”

Older brother Jrue Holiday only spent one season with the Bruins, averaging 8.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds while playing out of position next to then-starting point guard Darren Collison. Continue reading

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