VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s 83-66 win at USC

Asked what the difference has been for UCLA — which has won three straight — head coach Steve Alford referred repeatedly to location.

The Bruins had lost five games in three different time zones before returning the Pauley Pavilion to earn its first two Pac-12 wins of the season. On Wednesday night, it tacked on a third in an 83-66 win at USC.

“I really think getting home (helped),” Alford said. “We’ve talked about it, and I’ve tried not to make it sound like an excuse, because I know people can spin it that way. It’s not an excuse. I mean, look at it. There’s not another BCS school that went 26 days (between home games).

“And then look at the trips we take. Chicago. Back home for Christmas. Back to Westwood. Then to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Then back to Westwood. Then to Colorado, Utah. … Guys got a little bit tired. We get home, we get a little more energy.”

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UCLA’s Ellis McCarthy announces early entry into NFL draft

UCLA defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy warms up before the Bruins' 17-7 win against Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 1, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy warms up before the Bruins’ 17-7 win against Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 1, 2014.
(Keith Birmingham/Staff)

In a surprise move, UCLA defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy announced on Tuesday his decision to enter the NFL draft.

The junior, who did not start in any games this season, is the only Bruin to go pro early besides quarterback Brett Hundley — who had announced his own intentions to leave a full year ago.

“After careful consideration and prayer, I’ve decided to forgo my senior year and enter the 2015 NFL Draft,” McCarthy said in a statement he released on Twitter. “This was an extremely difficult decision but it is best for my family and myself. I will always be grateful for the opportunities the Bruin Nation has presented to me academically and athletically.”

A five-star recruit in 2012, McCarthy never fulfilled the hype that accompanied him out of Monrovia (Calif.) High, located less than 10 miles east of the Rose Bowl. Continue reading

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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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