UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked at length today about the Bruins’ preparation for USC, touching on Jake Brendel’s value to the offensive line, Jordan Payton’s pro potential, and what he thinks of Trojans’ interim coach Clay Helton.
The UCLA men’s basketball team will take any win it can get at this point, but how it looked on Monday night against UNLV doesn’t inspire much confidence.
If the Runnin’ Rebels — which has missed two straight NCAA Tournaments and is coming off a seventh-place finish in the Mountain West — took the Bruins down to the wire in a 77-75 decision, what exactly will No. 5 Kansas due tomorrow night?
UCLA deserves credit in at least a couple of areas. Its 3-2 zone defense held UNLV to 41 percent from the field. It was nearly flawless at the free throw line, hitting 23 straight after point guard Bryce Alford’s first miss.
There were several other causes for concern. The biggest was the disappearance of senior Tony Parker, who had opened the season with three straight double-doubles. The Bruins had tried to use both its centers in the same lineup this season, playing Parker next to 7-foot sophomore Thomas Welsh. That wasn’t possible against UNLV, as Parker faded back into his foul-troubled self of old. Continue reading
Linebacker Kenny Young — a Louisiana native — shared some of his thoughts on the UCLA-USC rivalry, including how it compares to Alabama-LSU.
“It’s both crazy,” he said. “I’ve been up there in Baton Rouge when it’s Alabama-LSU. It’s crazy. But over here, last year when we played SC, it was crazy too. The whole vibe was different.”
Young added that he didn’t understand the nature of the Los Angeles football rivalry until he arrived in Westwood. He had only been familiar with the Trojans until his junior year at John Curtis Christian High.
“When I came here,” he said. “I was like, ‘Oh, it’s that big?'”
In case you missed anything from UCLA’s 17-9 win at Utah, here’s our coverage from yesterday in Salt Lake City.
» The Bruins’ defense made key adjustments, and shut a team out of the end zone for the third time this season.
» Jordan Payton set a new UCLA record with his 194th career catch. He also became only the eighth Bruin to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season, and the first since Nelson Rosario in 2011.
» VIDEOS: Jim Mora, Tom Bradley, Josh Rosen / Paul Perkins, Deon Hollins, Jordan Payton, Takkarist McKinley, Jayon Brown
A few more thoughts on UCLA, and the road ahead …
1. The Bruins are in good position to win the Pac-12 South. Jim Mora has won three straight games against USC, taking the last two by more than two touchdowns. If a fourth is what stands between UCLA and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship, it’s very difficult to imagine this team letting up. As much as he’s struggled against Stanford, Mora has consistently prepared to against both USC and Arizona, going 7-0 with an average margin of almost 21 points. That’s not just happenstance.
While the Trojans have opened as 3.5-point favorites, that only feeds into UCLA’s preference for the underdog role. Even Josh Rosen has caught onto this.
“I hope we don’t get ranked after this game,” he said Saturday. “Because for some reason, we don’t like playing ahead. We like when people doubt us.”
That said, with the division at stake, this could easily go down to the wire.
2. The offensive line could have issues. Left tackle Conor McDermott injured his right knee on Saturday, and wasn’t able to walk off the field unassisted. Mora wouldn’t say much about his status, but coming back from something like that in one week seems unlikely. Continue reading