VIDEO: Norman Powell reflects on last game of his UCLA career

Norman Powell ended his UCLA career on Friday, scoring 16 points to go with five rebounds, an assist and three blocks in a 74-62 loss to Gonzaga. It was his 141st career appearance, more than anyone in school history except Michael Roll (147), Darren Collison (142) and Alfred Aboya (142).

The senior talked to reporters in the locker room about the Sweet 16 game, and his emotions as his time in a Bruin uniform closes.

“I’m more than happy to say that this program is going in the right direction,” he said. “I feel like I’m leaving a great program. UCLA has a great tradition, and these coaches have done a great job of laying a foundation.”

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UCLA vs Gonzaga: Gameday reads

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For anyone looking for something to do between now and UCLA’s tipoff against Gonzaga at 4:15 p.m. PT (CBS), here’s a roundup of relevant reading:

– Isaac Hamilton started the season on a bumpy path, but has rediscovered his “old man’s game” late in the season.
– UCLA assistant coach Ed Schilling once shot poorly in a football stadium, but he doesn’t think the same will hold for the Bruins at NRG Stadium.
– From the Spokesman-Review: The first person to ever hire Steve Alford as a coach explains how it happened.
– From Grantland: How Kyle Wiltjer turned himself into a star by leaving Kentucky.
– From Y! Sports: An oral history of UCLA’s 2006 comeback against Gonzaga.
– And last but not least … Bill Walton’s recent aMa on Reddit.

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At a glance: No. 11-seed UCLA vs. No. 2-seed Gonzaga

No. 11-seed UCLA (22-13) vs. No. 2-seed Gonzaga (34-2)
NCAA South Regional semifinal
Friday, 4:15 p.m. PT, NRG Stadium (Houston)
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, Tracy Wolfson)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: Gonzaga is, simply put, the best offensive team that UCLA has played this season. The Bulldogs have enough weapons to survive an off night from any one player except Kyle Wiltjer.

Gonzaga is ranked first in the country in effective field goal percentage, and is accurate at the rim, beyond the arc, and most areas in between. Only 6.2 percent of the Zags’ shots get blocked, lower than all but four others in college basketball. Parts you could pick at? This isn’t a team that gets to the line all that often, or converts at a particularly high rate (68.7 percent). It’s not a truly dominant offensive rebounding team.

But overall, this is a very dangerous scoring roster. That offensive engine helped push head coach Mark Few over his recent round-of-32 hump, where Gonzaga ended its past five seasons.

UCLA didn’t get blown out in its only loss at Pauley Pavilion, but it also didn’t look competitive for most of the second half. The Zags led by double digits for almost that entire stretch, and easily snuffed out the one run the Bruins made shortly out of halftime. Still, this is a very different UCLA team than the one that lost five straight starting in December. Continue reading

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UCLA adjusts to shooting in cavernous NRG Stadium

UCLA arrived in Houston last night, and shot around for about an hour or so this morning at NRG Stadium. Formerly known as Reliant Stadium, the football venue can seat up to 80,000 people — absolutely dwarfing any other place the Bruins have played this season.

Will that set-up affect how players shoot?

“You get to go out there and you see how big the stadium is,” said point guard Bryce Alford. “The scoreboard is huge. The court is elevated. All that stuff. It’s what you dream of when you’re a kid, playing in a venue like this. …

“You got to get used to the shooting. It’s definitely different, but they’ve done a great job of making the background darker. There’s black (canvas) behind both hoops. So, I don’t think it will be too much different than shooting in a normal gym.”

In case you missed anything, here’s a roundup of our UCLA-Gonzaga coverage so far this week: Continue reading

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