UCLA clings onto NCAA hopes with 78-65 win at Arizona State

UCLA got a win it desperately needed on Sunday night. Now, it just needs to scratch out five or six more.

The Bruins injected a bit of life into their tepid NCAA tournament hopes in Tempe, closing out a 78-65 win over Arizona State — one of just two teams sitting below them in the Pac-12 standings. After weathering some hot shooting early on, they held ASU to 31 percent from the field in the second half. With 86 seconds left, Steve Alford felt comfortable enough to empty his bench.

Talent disparity or not, UCLA (13-11, 5-7) showed a few encouraging signs. Most crucial was the play of sophomore Jonah Bolden, who led the Bruins with a career-high 16 points. That’s no small feat, even considering his four-star pedigree. Heading into Valentine’s Day, the 6-foot-10 forward had averaged just 3.5 points per game in conference play.

Perhaps sharing the floor with Tony Parker has helped. The senior center is by no means a perfect player, but he nonetheless commands a healthy share of defensive attention. And in the last couple of games, Alford has become more willing to play Bolden next to Parker, rather than subbing out Bolden for sophomore Gyorgy Goloman. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Thomas Duarte on UCLA’s offensive struggles vs. ASU

UCLA receiver Thomas Duarte talked about the Bruins’ offensive struggles during Saturday’s 38-23 loss against Arizona State, one in which they ran the ball on five straight first downs. The team’s 2.21 yards per carry was its worst mark since the 2012 Holiday Bowl.

“They had some guys strictly for the run that we didn’t think were going to be strictly for the run,” Duarte said. “They were intent on not letting Paul (Perkins) run the ball.”

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UCLA CB Marcus Rios’ hospital stay not caused by fungal infection

Brigham Young wide receiver Mitch Mathews (10) catches a pass for yardage past UCLA defensive back Marcus Rios (9) in the first half of a NCAA college football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept.19, 2015. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)

UCLA cornerback Marcus Rios (9) spent three nights in the hospital this week. He is pictured here defending BYU receiver Mitch Mathews during the Bruins’ 24-23 win on Sept. 19, 2015. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

UCLA cornerback Marcus Rios spent three nights in the hospital this week, but still played sparingly during the Bruins’ loss to Arizona State on Saturday.

After suffering severe headaches and pressure on Tuesday, Rios was admitted for what head coach Jim Mora described as “issues in his sinuses.” Tests eventually revealed that he was not suffering from a recurrence of the fungal infection that threatened his life in 2013.

Rios was cleared to play and returned to the team on Friday evening. He recorded one tackle during UCLA’s 38-23 loss to ASU at the Rose Bowl.

“We would have never put him on the field if there’s even a minute chance that this was something that could be long term,” Mora said. “That’s just not how we operate.”

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Recapping UCLA’s 38-23 loss to unranked Arizona State

UCLA’s first loss cost the team 13 spots in the AP poll, the Bruins dropping to No. 20 after falling short against unranked Arizona State.

Here’s our coverage from the 38-25 debacle at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night:

» Almost nothing went right for the Bruins, whose battered defense couldn’t do enough to make up for a sputtering offense.
» As both teams struggled early on offense, it was kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn who came up big.
» Vinny Bonsignore’s column on UCLA, which couldn’t wake up in time to stay within sight of its playoff dreams.
» Arizona State coach Todd Graham: “There wasn’t much trickery to it. We came over and dominated the line of scrimmage, dominated all three phases.”

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