Video: Chris Smith, Jaylen Hands, Alex Olesinski after UCLA’s 96-68 win over South Carolina State

Freshman Chris Smith and Jaylen Hands and redshirt sophomore Alex Olesinski talk about the second-half defensive effort against South Carolina State, preparing for another tough road trip to Kansas City and how the team was able to use its size advantage against the Bulldogs on Friday.

UCLA basketball team will redshirt Prince Ali, Alex Olesinski

UCLA sophomores Prince Ali (knee) and Alex Olesinski (foot)  announced Wednesday they will redshirt this season after injuries shelved them longer than expected

UCLA sophomores Prince Ali (knee) and Alex Olesinski (foot) announced Wednesday they will redshirt this season after injuries shelved them longer than expected

Injuries coupled with a potential lack of playing time led two UCLA sophomores to announce Wednesday night they will redshirt this season. Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski will not take part in a season that is shaping up to be a special one for the No. 4 Bruins basketball team.

Both players recently returned to practice, but it took Ali longer than expected to recover from surgery on his meniscus July 15. Olesinski suffered a stress reaction in his left foot the week before the season began that lingered long enough to keep him off the practice court until this week.

Ali, an athletic 6-foot-3 shooting guard once a 4-star recruit, would have a hard time even equaling the 11 minutes per game he played as a freshman considering UCLA already employs four accomplished guards. Olesinski, a 6-10 power forward, has four front court players ahead of him in the rotation, including one of the best freshman in the country, TJ Leaf. Continue reading “UCLA basketball team will redshirt Prince Ali, Alex Olesinski” »

VIDEO: UCLA coach Steve Alford on USC rivalry, Bruins’ outlook

With just nine regular-season games left, UCLA is still hovering below .500 in conference play. Needing a few more emphatic wins to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins take their next step on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at USC.

Head coach Steve Alford talked on Tuesday about the matchup. A few notes:

» UCLA shook up its starting lineup this past Saturday, playing forward Jonah Bolden ahead of senior Tony Parker in an 83-50 win over Washington State. Bolden seems likely to keep that spot, with Parker continuing to man the backup center position instead of playing next to sophomore Thomas Welsh in a “big-big” frontcourt.

“We played well last game doing that,” Alford said. “I don’t think it’s always going to be etched in stone as to who that is, but I don’t see any changes.”

» Alford lost to USC for the first time on Jan. 13, with his Bruins devolving on defense. Looking back on that 14-point loss, the third-year coach pointed out that the Trojans scored 13 points off of “50-50 balls,” as well as 16 second-chance points.

“When you fuel their transition game by mistakes that you make, that makes it really, really difficult,” Alford said.

USC represents the type of athletic, up-tempo team that has troubled UCLA all season, and offers a good test for just how much Bolden’s presence will improve the Bruins’ defense. Continue reading “VIDEO: UCLA coach Steve Alford on USC rivalry, Bruins’ outlook” »

UCLA hoops notes: ‘We’re not as good as Kansas right now’

After three losses, third-year coach Steve Alford is off to his worst start at UCLA. (David Crane/Staff)

UCLA coach Steve Alford is off to his worst start in three years UCLA. The Bruins are 3-3, and have several top nonconference opponents left. (David Crane/Staff)

Steve Alford had a teleconference from Hawaii this morning, where the UCLA men’s basketball team will practice again before flying back later today. The Bruins (3-3) are coming off a fourth-place finish in the Maui Invitational, but have already lost three games in November for the first time since 2011.

They return to Pauley Pavilion on Sunday at 4 p.m. against Cal State Northridge. Some quick notes from Alford:

» Senior big man Tony Parker called out the team’s toughness after an 80-77 loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday night. While Alford said some of that was due to frustration, he didn’t disagree with the sentiment either.

“We’ve got a great group of young men,” Alford said. “They’re fun to coach. But we definitely have to get tougher.”

He also gave two main reasons for UCLA’s 19-point blowout loss to Kansas on Tuesday. The first was fatigue: The Jayhawks were coming off a 51-point win over Chaminade, while his team had just held off UNLV in a two-point squeaker. The second?

“We’re not as good as Kansas right now,” he said. “We’re just not.”

The Bruins host No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 3, travel to No. 10 Gonzaga on Dec. 12, and play ninth-ranked North Carolina at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn a week after that.

Alford again remained hopeful that UCLA’s early struggles will pay off later on in the season. He also pointed out that the parity across college basketball. Monmouth, which upset the Bruins to open the season before falling to USC, notched its first-ever win over a ranked team last night by knocking off No. 17 Notre Dame.

» Forward Gyorgy Goloman has been sidelined by a stress fracture since Oct. 11. He was given a recovery timetable of six to eight weeks then, but will be reevaluated by a doctor on Tuesday. The team is hoping to get a more precise return date after that. Continue reading “UCLA hoops notes: ‘We’re not as good as Kansas right now’” »