UCLA defensive line coach Angus McClure makes his pitch for why nose tackle Kenny Clark should be Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and also talks about the development of sophomore Matt Dickerson and offensive tackle Kolton Miller.
UCLA’s 80-77 loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday night marked the Bruins’ worst opening month in four years.
For the first time since 2011, the team suffered its third loss before the end of November, falling to fourth place in the Maui Invitational. UCLA (3-3) closed its deficit to 70-69 with 4:32 left in the game, but couldn’t find the basket again until the final minute.
The Demon Deacons’ biggest edge came at the free-throw line, where they made 30 of an astounding 42 attempts — though 14 came in the last 62 seconds. The Bruins hit 8 of 14. Center Thomas Welsh and freshman guard Aaron Holiday both fouled out while trying to stop the clock late.
“I’ve been doing this 25 years,” Alford said. “I’ve been on the short end of a lot of things. I’ve never had an experience where I’ve had a team get out-shot 42-14 at the free-throw line. That was the difference in the game.” Continue reading
No. 22 UCLA Bruins (8-3, 5-3) at USC (7-4, 5-3)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 28, 12:30 p.m., L.A. Memorial Coliseum
TV: ABC/ESPN2 (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman, Todd McShay)
Radio: AM 570 (Bill Roth, Matt Stevens, Wayne Cook)
Scouting report: A win over UCLA might not guarantee interim coach Clay Helton the full-time job, but a loss likely ends his chances. … USC’s defense is coming off a dreadful performance against Oregon, one in which it allowed six touchdown passes and 16.3 yards per pass attempt. The Trojans are allowing opponents to complete 63.8 percent through the air, the second-worst mark in the Pac-12 (ahead of Oregon State’s 67.9). … USC lost all-conference center Max Tuerk for the season as well as Toa Lobendahn, the versatile sophomore who replaced him. Former four-star recruit Khaliel Rodgers now mans the position, but is playing through a shoulder injury. … Quarterback Cody Kessler isn’t finding the end zone as often as he did last season (39 touchdowns down to 25), but his numbers have otherwise remained steady. … The Trojans rank first in the Pac-12 and No. 13 nationally with a 0.91 turnover margin. However, they are -3 in their four losses.
Series history: USC leads the all-time series, 44-31-7, but UCLA has won the last three games by double digits. Jim Mora can be the first Bruin coach to win four straight since Terry Donahue had five from 1991-95.
QB Cody Kessler, RSr., 6-1, 215 — 243/351, 2,953 yards, 25 TD, 6 INT
— He has seven touchdowns against one interception in his last three games, but he’s twice averaged fewer than 6.0 yards per attempt against Pac-12 opponents this season. Continue reading
By halftime on Tuesday night, the game was all but over.
UCLA went back into its locker room at the Lahaina Civic Center in a 26-point hole against No. 5 Kansas. The Bruins had allowed the Jayhawks to outshoot them, 58 percent to 34, and outrebound them, 23 to 15. KU had 11 fast break points to UCLA’s two.
By the end of the night, Kansas had advanced to the finals of the Maui Invitational with a commanding 92-73 win. The Bruins had stayed within single digits for less than eight minutes. They trailed by at least 20 points for all but 62 seconds of the final 28 minutes.
The same zone defense that had flustered UNLV one night earlier didn’t put up as much of a fight against an offense that was coming off a 123-point eruption against Chaminade. KU hit 8 of 15 3-pointers, exploiting a weakness that has become common in Steve Alford-coached teams.
Ball control remains an issue for a backcourt that looks disjointed despite its depth. The Bruins had 11 assists against 11 turnovers, which was actually a slight improvement over its previous assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.91 (231st nationally).
Isaac Hamilton bounced back from an ugly, turnover-laden showing against UNLV, leading UCLA with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Freshman guard Aaron Holiday had 16 points and a team-high three assists, but also committed four fouls. Junior Bryce Alford made just one field goal, finishing with six points.
Less than two weeks into its third season under Alford, UCLA is already 0-5 against ranked nonconference opponents. No. 1 Kentucky, No. 10 Gonzaga, and No. 9 North Carolina all dot the team’s December slate.
The Bruins will play Wake Forest in the tournament’s third-place game at 4:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday.