Pac-12 road sweep continues to elude Steve Alford after loss at Cal

In his short career as UCLA head coach, Steve Alford has led the team through seven Pac-12 road trips. The Bruins have yet to sweep a single one.

Their latest stumble might have been their most costly, a 64-62 loss at Cal that followed arguably the best three-game stretch of the season — one that moved them into a third-place conference tie. After knocking off then-No. 11 Utah, Colorado and Stanford, UCLA fell to a Bears squad that needed a 3-pointer at the beat last-place USC.

Here are the good things that happened: the Bruins (14-10, 6-5) took advantage of Cal’s soft interior, and fed Tony Parker for 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting; Kevon Looney tweaked the right hip he rehabbed this past offseason, but only sat out for about five minutes and finished with his 12th double-double of the season; in a road environment, UCLA kept the game close for the entire second half.

Here are the bad: the Bruins turned the ball over early, against a team that ranks among the worst in college basketball at forcing turnovers; their offense looked gassed again to end a second straight game; they gave up a bevy of 3-point shots, including two that cost them the game. Continue reading

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Report: UCLA, Texas showing interest in EWU’s Vernon Adams

UCLA and Texas have joined Oregon in trying to woo Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams.

The potential graduate transfer has twice finished as both Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year and runner-up for the Walter Payton Award, given to the FCS offensive MVP. His former coach at Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany, Dean Herrington, told The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif that he has fielded calls from the Bruins and the Longhorns — but that he still thinks Adams will choose between either going to Oregon and staying at Eastern Washington. Continue reading

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Jeff Ulbrich leaves UCLA to join Atlanta Falcons coaching staff

UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will leave the Bruins to join the Atlanta Falcons staff, two days after news first broke that he was considering an offer to become the NFL team’s linebackers coach.

Bruin Report Online first reported the news.

Ulbrich, 37, had just completed his first year as UCLA’s defensive coordinator, having been promoted after two seasons as the team’s linebackers and special teams coordinator. On Wednesday morning, shortly after four-star linebacker Roquan Smith had announced his commitment to the Bruins, reports surfaced that Ulbrich would be joining the Atlanta Falcons and new head coach Dan Quinn.

Smith then reopened his recruitment, and is currently deciding between UCLA, Georgia, Texas A&M and Michigan.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora said on Wednesday that Ulbrich had not yet accepted the offer, and said he would “fight tooth and nail to keep him.” Both Mora and Quinn coached Ulbrich when he was a San Francisco 49ers linebacker.

The Bruins will head into the 2015 season with their third defensive coordinator in as many years. Lou Spanos, who held the position for the first two seasons of the Mora era, left to become the Tennessee Titans linebackers coach in January 2014.

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UCLA’s Spring Game scheduled for April 25

For those trying to mark their calendars, UCLA’s Spring Game has been set for Saturday, April 25. The time and location have not been announced, and the rest of the Bruins’ spring camp schedule is also not yet released.

Quarterback Josh Rosen will obviously be the main attraction, and is set to compete for the starting spot after enrolling in January along with JUCO transfer offensive tackle Zach Bateman. Of the 2015 recruits that just signed their letters of intent this week, linebacker Joshua Woods and defensive backs Nathan Meadors and Will Lockett are expected to enroll early.

Head coach Jim Mora also said Wednesday that one player he can’t name could potentially participate in spring practices — likely referring to still-undecided four-star linebacker Roquan Smith.

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Brett Hundley among five UCLA Bruins invited to NFL Combine

Brett Hundley, right, runs around defensive end Jonathan Johnson (11) during UCLA's 36-34 win at Cal on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Brett Hundley, right, runs around defensive end Jonathan Johnson (11) during UCLA’s 36-34 win at Cal on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. (Eric Risberg/AP)

The NFL Scouting Combine released its list of invites today, and there weren’t any real surprises on UCLA’s end.

Brett Hundley, who set multiple school records in three seasons as a starter, was included — the mild kerfuffle over his Senior Bowl absence having not knocked him off his status as the consensus No. 3 quarterback in the draft. So too were defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and linebacker Eric Kendricks, who represent the Bruins’ other chances to produce a first-round draft pick for the third year in a row.

A recent SI.com mock draft projected Kendricks to go No. 30 overall to the Green Bay Packers, while Odighizuwa followed at No. 37 (New York Jets) and Hundley at No. 41 (St. Louis Rams). Continue reading

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UCLA hangs on at Stanford, moves into third place in Pac-12

UCLA played stretches of good basketball and stretches of bad basketball, and bits of basketball that hung on little more than good fortune.

Somehow, it added up to a 69-67 win at Stanford on Thursday night, the Bruins’ first outside of Los Angeles since Thanksgiving weekend.

It was a victory that moved UCLA (14-9, 6-4) into third-place tie in the Pac-12, and one that represented the team’s first significant road win of the season. It was also one that saw the Bruins — who attacked and defended well through the middle swath of the game — melt down in the final minutes, going without a field goal after 5:19 after leading by as much as 22 points.

The Cardinal (15-7, 6-4) had a chance to win on Chasson Randle’s desperation heave at the buzzer but it clanked off, leaving Arizona and Utah looking like the only teams in the conference locked into NCAA tournament berths.

UCLA took control of the game late in the first half, and stayed in the driver’s seat for several minutes. The Bruins took its first double-digit lead with 4:57 left in the opening period, having gone on a 10-2 run in just over two minutes. They also held the Cardinal scoreless for well over five minutes, their zone scheme flustering the home squad. Continue reading

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At a glance: UCLA at Stanford

UCLA Bruins (13-9, 5-4) vs. Stanford Cardinal (15-6, 6-3)
Tipoff: Thursday, Feb. 5, 6:05 p.m., Maples Pavilion
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Fleming, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: UCLA has won just one game outside of Los Angeles this season. Notching a victory at Stanford tonight would help preserve what slim chances at the NCAA tournament the Bruins have left.

Arizona is the most talented team in the conference, but the Cardinal would probably be the runner-up. (UCLA has better top-end talent, but Stanford has more depth.) Head coach Johnny Dawkins saved his job with a Sweet 16 run last season, and was also rewarded with what has been a Pac-12 Player of the Year type of season from Chasson Randle. The senior is a score-first guard, but he fills that role well and is scoring 20.8 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting. He also hits more than 40 percent from beyond the arc, and is averaging 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Randle is also accompanied by fellow sharpshooters in Anthony Brown and Rosco Allen, both of whom can light it up from outside. UCLA did a poor job defending the perimeter, which seems to trace back to a philosophical flaw in Steve Alford’s playbook. The second-year head coach said last season that he isn’t as concerned with allowing 3-point attempts versus easy shots in the paint. That makes the Bruins susceptible to teams that get hot from downtown. Continue reading

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Roquan Smith in ‘no rush’ to decide on college destination

Roquan Smith is getting a second chance to sort out his recruitment, and he’s going to take his time doing it.

The four-star linebacker’s coach at Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County, Larry Harold, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the decision could take “a week or so” — although the process could stretch on even longer. And while UCLA is still in the running along with Georgia, Texas A&M and Michigan, Smith sounds like he is considering the Bruins under the assumption that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich will become the Atlanta Falcons’ new linebackers coach.

Smith had announced for the Bruins over UGA on ESPNU Wednesday morning, only to hear reports of Ulbrich’s potential departure soon after.

Harold, to the AJC:

“It’s not an open recruitment really, it’s just the same four schools and he’s going to take a week or so to decide. He’s going to take this weekend off, spend time with his family and relax, be a teenager. And then next week maybe he’ll start calling some coaches again and rehash it all. … There’s no rush.”

The high school coach spoke about Ulbrich’s decision between UCLA and the Falcons in the past tense — treating it as a done deal rather than an open possibility. He said that although Ulbrich had not officially agreed to a deal, the Bruin defensive coordinator had said “he was strongly considering it.”

The AJC reported in the same article that Ulbrich is in Atlanta today touring the Falcons’ facilities.

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VIDEO: Talking UCLA’s 2015 recruiting class on SportsCenter

You know most of this info by now, but I went on SportsCenter earlier this afternoon to talk about UCLA’s 2015 class. Video above, for those curious.

Here’s the story that will appear in tomorrow’s paper, on a hectic Signing Day marred by the Atlanta Falcons’ interest in hiring defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich.

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VIDEO: Jim Mora talks about UCLA’s 2015 recruiting class

UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked about UCLA’s 2015 recruiting class, which included 19 players and four five-star recruits: quarterback Josh Rosen, linebacker/defensive end Keisean Lucier-South, running back Soso Jamabo, and tight end Chris Clark.

Here’s a complete list of the new Bruins, with links to profiles.

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