Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf focused on NCAA, not Pac-12 title

No. 10 UCLA trails No. 5 Oregon by two games in the Pac-12 standings.

Two days before a game the UCLA basketball team seemingly needs to win to retain hope for a Pac-12 regular season championship, the Bruins’ two best players said they were more focused on a larger goal.

No. 10 UCLA will host No. 5 Oregon on Thursday trailing the Ducks by two games in the conference standings, but Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are more concerned about how the game effects their preparation for the NCAA tournament.

“Since the beginning of the season the focus was to win a national championship, not the Pac-12 title,” Ball said. “We’re just trying to get ready for March.”

Oregon handed UCLA its first loss of the season on Dec. 28 when Dillon Brooks made a 3-pointer with .08 seconds left in the Ducks’ 89-87 win in Eugene, Ore. UCLA proceeded to lose three of its first nine Pac-12 games, making a conference title difficult to achieve with Arizona and Oregon having lost just one conference game apiece with seven remaining.

The freshman duo of Ball and Leaf was downplaying the rematch when speaking with the media on Tuesday. Continue reading

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Women’s basketball snaps 16-game road losing streak to Stanford

Jordin Canada and Monique Billings led No. 13 UCLA to its first road win over Stanford since 1999 as the Bruins knocked off No. 8 Stanford 85-76 on Monday in Maples Pavilion.

Canada scored 25 points with five assists and three steals. Billings had her 13th double-double of the season with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Kari Korver added 17 points, sinking 5 of 7 3-point shots.

The Bruins (18-5, 9-3 Pac-12) ended a 16-game road losing streak against Stanford and a 15-game road losing streak to ranked opponents. After a 21-game losing streak to Stanford, UCLA now has back-to-back victories over the Cardinal, including a 56-35 win at Pauley Pavilion last season.

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How I voted in the men’s basketball AP poll: UCLA moves up

After a one-week hiatus, UCLA returned to the top 10 of the Associated Press poll

UCLA’s ceiling in the polls appears to have been lowered by its loss to USC. Despite seven combined losses in the top 10 last week, the Bruins’ 2-0 week earned them a single spot.

Maybe UCLA has officially been branded as a team that can’t play defense at a high enough level. Or once the shine came off the best offensive team in the country, voters are taking a harder look at a schedule that has limited UCLA’s RPI to No. 23.

I’m giving UCLA more credit than most voters, but awaiting the Bruins on Thursday is one of two remaining chances in the regular season to have a significant positive effect on its standing. Despite a loss to Colorado two weeks ago and a one-point win over Arizona State last week, Oregon got plenty of respect for its 27-point win over Arizona on Saturday.

The Ducks jumped eight spots and finally returned to the Associated Press poll’s top five. During a week where the AP top 10 posted a combined record of 12-7, three teams fell out of the top 10. UCLA was one of the three that was voted into the top 10, but the other two leapfrogged the Bruins. Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia fell out. Oregon, North Carolina and UCLA moved in.

North Carolina has one more loss than the Bruins, but its RPI is 4 compared to UCLA’s lowly 23. Until the Bruins beat one of the best two teams in their own conference, UCLA will continue to be passed over by teams from other conferences even if the Bruins have a better record.

How I voted in the men’s basketball Week 14 AP poll:
1. Gonzaga
2. Villanova
3. Kansas
4. Baylor
5. Oregon

Even with Dillon Brooks back in the lineup, the Ducks have been all over the map of late, but a 27-point win over Arizona is too strong of a statement to discount in any way. Oregon has now snapped a 13-game UCLA winning streak and a 15-game Arizona winning streak this season.
6. Arizona
The fact that Arizona lost to Oregon isn’t shocking in itself, but the 27-point margin was difficult to digest. The Wildcats were probably playing the most consistent basketball in the country with Allonzo Trier back in the lineup, but their 15-game winning streak ended with a thud.
7. UCLA
The Bruins looked so lost while being defeated at USC two weeks ago that simply earning two road wins last week went a long way toward restoring credibility. UCLA’s RPI is still lagging at No. 22 in the country, but a massive opportunity awaits the Bruins when Oregon comes to town Thursday.
8. Louisville
9. North Carolina
10. Florida State Continue reading

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UCLA weekend recap: Gymnastics dominates at Arizona State

The UCLA gymnastics team put up a big road score in a 197.150-194.600 victory over Arizona State on Saturday. The Bruins won all five individual titles en route to their second straight score greater than 197 points.

Madison Kocian won her third all-around title (39.625) while also winning the floor competition with a career-high 9.95. Kyla Ross won vault and beam with scores of 9.925 and 9.975, respectively, while Peng-Peng Lee won her third bars title of the year with a 9.925.

Elsewhere in UCLA athletics:

  • Women’s basketball lost its sixth consecutive game to Cal after the Bears converted a three-point play with 14 seconds to win 80-77 in Haas Pavilion. The No. 13 Bruins (17-5, 8-3 Pac-12) will try to bounce back Monday in a top-15 matchup against No. 8 Stanford. UCLA snapped a 21-game losing streak to the Cardinal last season, but hasn’t gotten a win in Palo Alto in 16 straight games. The game is on ESPN2 with tip-off scheduled for 6:03 p.m. PT.
  • Men’s tennis split two top-15 matchups in the Pac-12/SEC Showdown, notching a 4-3 victory over previously undefeated Georgia, ranked fifth in the country, on Saturday before falling 4-2 to No. 11 Florida on Sunday. The No. 6 Bruins are 5-1 overall this season.
  • Women’s tennis swept a home doubleheader Saturday without dropping a single team point. The Bruins (4-1) beat St. Mary’s 5-0 and Santa Barbara 4-0.
  • Women’s water polo continued its perfect season with a 13-2 drubbing of No. 13 Long Beach State. The Bruins, ranked third in the country, have outscored their opponents 112-20 in their seven victories.
  • No. 2 Men’s volleyball lost two matches to No. 4 BYU in as many days, first coming up short in a five-set thriller on Friday, then getting swept on Saturday. The Bruins (9-3, 6-2 MPSF) hadn’t lost since Jan. 7 as Friday’s defeat snapped a 7-match winning streak.
  • Men’s golf tied for seventh at the Amer Ari Invitational with a three-round score of 13-under. Texas Tech won the tournament at 44-under.
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Matthew Slater, Devin Lucien win Super Bowl with New England Patriots

via GIPHY

Former UCLA Bruins Matthew Slater and Devin Lucien helped the New England Patriots to a thrilling 34-28 Super Bowl victory on Sunday. Slater was a team captain for the coin toss and won the overtime toss for the Patriots, which set up New England’s game-winning drive.

Slater, 31, is a six-time Pro Bowler and a key special teams player for the Patriots. He also won Super Bowl XLIX with the Patriots.

Despite collecting limited stats during his career, Slater is considered an extremely important piece to the Patriots’ success.

“He’s a difference-maker,” running back James White told the New York Post. “I think he’s the glue to the locker room.”

Lucien was drafted by the Patriots in 2016 after finishing his college career at Arizona State. During his three years at UCLA, he had 58 receptions for 752 yards and six touchdowns.

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