After UCLA’s 86-84 loss to Washington, point guard Bryce Alford was asked why he and his teammates looked so unprepared to play despite hosting the Pac-12’s first-place team.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I’m not really sure. I thought we were ready to play. Then we came out, and they kind of punched us in the mouth, and we didn’t react the way we were supposed to react.”
The Bruins trailed by as much as 19 points in the first half, and had their comeback attempt snuffed out when Andrew Andrews hit two go-ahead free throws with 3.4 seconds left.
UCLA is one of just four teams with losing records in Pac-12 play this season. Given the league’s parity, however, it’s not as dire a situation as some may think.
The Bruins (12-8, 3-4) head into tonight’s 7 p.m. tipoff against Washington just two games back of first place — held by the Huskies and Oregon. Although head coach Steve Alford is still trying to figure out the team’s best defensive rotations, finishing at or near the top of the conference still isn’t out of the question.
“We haven’t played our best basketball yet,” said point guard Bryce Alford. “That’s definitely encouraging. It gives us confidence that, usually around this time of year, we start playing pretty well. … If we can continue to keep working and get hot right now, we’ll be just fine.”
UCLA hasn’t solved all its defensive woes, but Wednesday night was a step in the right direction.
The Bruins broke through at Oregon State, earning an 82-73 victory that marked their first conference road win of the season. They did so by holding the Beavers to under 40 percent shooting for much of the game, and trailing for just 74 seconds at Gill Coliseum.
The win moved Steve Alford to 8-13 in Pac-12 road games. The third-year coach is still looking for his first conference sweep away from Pauley Pavilion — something that could happen as soon as Saturday at Oregon.
“I think it’s been all over everywhere that we’re giving up 86 points per game in Pac-12 play,” Alford said. “They know that. It’s starting to affect them a little bit and hurt them. And that’s good.”
Junior Isaac Hamilton led UCLA (12-7, 3-3) with 25 points in one of his most efficient outings of the season. The 6-foot-4 guard made 10 of his 14 shots from the floor, including half of his six attempts from beyond the arc. After an inconsistent sophomore season, the former five-star recruit has blossomed into the Bruins’ most consistent offensive threat, scoring in double figures in 15 straight games. Against Pac-12 opponents, he is averaging 19.5 points on 48.9 percent shooting. Continue reading →
UCLA point guard Bryce Alford was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the first time in his career. He averaged 21.5 points in wins over Arizona and Arizona State, and hit a game-winning 3-pointer against the former. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff)
A few days after making one of the biggest shots of his life, Bryce Alford has a new career first: Pac-12 Player of the Week.
UCLA’s junior point guard earned the conference’s top weekly honor on Monday morning, after averaging 21.5 points on 55.2 percent shooting in wins over then-No. 7 Arizona and Arizona State. He hit late 3-pointers against both teams, doing so most dramatically with a game-winner over Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski.
The Bruins are now the only team to have two different players named the Pac-12 Player of the Week. Sophomore center Thomas Welsh earned the honor on Dec. 7, shortly after helping the team to an upset against then-No. 1 Kentucky.
At 2-2, UCLA is tied with Cal for fifth place in an increasingly unpredictable conference. Arizona is the only ranked Pac-12 team at No. 18, but will be without freshman guard Allonzo Trier (broken hand) for four to six weeks. Eight others from the league are ranked top-50 in RPI.
The Bruins return to Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday at 8 p.m. against USC. The Trojans have stormed out to a surprising 3-1 start in conference play, but remain the only team that has yet to defeat third-year UCLA coach Steve Alford.