Arizona 57, UCLA 47: Point guard Bryce Alford talks loss to Wildcats

UCLA lost at No. 7 Arizona, 57-47, but displayed some of the best defense it had all season. The Bruins held the Wildcats scoreless for more than six minutes at the start of each half, going out on 7-0 and 17-0 runs.

What was the difference?

“I think it’s just effort,” said point guard Bryce Alford. “Just playing balls to the wall the whole time. ASU, we kind of lacked in that area. Can’t really tell you why. I don’t really know. That’s inexcusable.

“Tonight, I thought we played as hard as we could. Each man, from top to bottom, I thought we played extremely hard.”

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Looking back at Bryce Alford’s last shot in UCLA’s loss at Cal

If UCLA’s 64-62 loss at Cal last Saturday ends up being the game that costs the Bruins an NCAA Tournament berth, there might be one play that’s reviewed more than any other: Bryce Alford’s missed 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The offense stalled and missed five of its last six shots to end the game — including a poorly conceived jumper by Norman Powell that could’ve tied it — so it’s not fair to put the blame on one player. But Alford still had a chance to win the game, and arguably could have generated a better shot had he passed to a wide-open Isaac Hamilton on the other side of the court.

Looking at the replay, Alford had a chance to find Hamilton with about three seconds left on the game clock — when he was crossing the “Pete Newell” between his bench and the announcer’s table. While it would have been a tough pass, that Alford didn’t have his head on a swivel sank any chance of it happening. Hamilton also wasn’t wide open for another second or so, but Alford could have potentially identified that the defense was shifting away from that area — then lobbed it ahead.

“I didn’t see Isaac,” Alford said. “Obviously, watching tape, he was running down the court. … If I’d seen him, I definitely would have thrown it to him.” Continue reading

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Pac-12 road sweep continues to elude Steve Alford after loss at Cal

In his short career as UCLA head coach, Steve Alford has led the team through seven Pac-12 road trips. The Bruins have yet to sweep a single one.

Their latest stumble might have been their most costly, a 64-62 loss at Cal that followed arguably the best three-game stretch of the season — one that moved them into a third-place conference tie. After knocking off then-No. 11 Utah, Colorado and Stanford, UCLA fell to a Bears squad that needed a 3-pointer at the beat last-place USC.

Here are the good things that happened: the Bruins (14-10, 6-5) took advantage of Cal’s soft interior, and fed Tony Parker for 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting; Kevon Looney tweaked the right hip he rehabbed this past offseason, but only sat out for about five minutes and finished with his 12th double-double of the season; in a road environment, UCLA kept the game close for the entire second half.

Here are the bad: the Bruins turned the ball over early, against a team that ranks among the worst in college basketball at forcing turnovers; their offense looked gassed again to end a second straight game; they gave up a bevy of 3-point shots, including two that cost them the game. Continue reading

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UCLA hangs on at Stanford, moves into third place in Pac-12

UCLA played stretches of good basketball and stretches of bad basketball, and bits of basketball that hung on little more than good fortune.

Somehow, it added up to a 69-67 win at Stanford on Thursday night, the Bruins’ first outside of Los Angeles since Thanksgiving weekend.

It was a victory that moved UCLA (14-9, 6-4) into third-place tie in the Pac-12, and one that represented the team’s first significant road win of the season. It was also one that saw the Bruins — who attacked and defended well through the middle swath of the game — melt down in the final minutes, going without a field goal after 5:19 after leading by as much as 22 points.

The Cardinal (15-7, 6-4) had a chance to win on Chasson Randle’s desperation heave at the buzzer but it clanked off, leaving Arizona and Utah looking like the only teams in the conference locked into NCAA tournament berths.

UCLA took control of the game late in the first half, and stayed in the driver’s seat for several minutes. The Bruins took its first double-digit lead with 4:57 left in the opening period, having gone on a 10-2 run in just over two minutes. They also held the Cardinal scoreless for well over five minutes, their zone scheme flustering the home squad. Continue reading

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At a glance: UCLA at Stanford

UCLA Bruins (13-9, 5-4) vs. Stanford Cardinal (15-6, 6-3)
Tipoff: Thursday, Feb. 5, 6:05 p.m., Maples Pavilion
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Fleming, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: UCLA has won just one game outside of Los Angeles this season. Notching a victory at Stanford tonight would help preserve what slim chances at the NCAA tournament the Bruins have left.

Arizona is the most talented team in the conference, but the Cardinal would probably be the runner-up. (UCLA has better top-end talent, but Stanford has more depth.) Head coach Johnny Dawkins saved his job with a Sweet 16 run last season, and was also rewarded with what has been a Pac-12 Player of the Year type of season from Chasson Randle. The senior is a score-first guard, but he fills that role well and is scoring 20.8 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting. He also hits more than 40 percent from beyond the arc, and is averaging 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Randle is also accompanied by fellow sharpshooters in Anthony Brown and Rosco Allen, both of whom can light it up from outside. UCLA did a poor job defending the perimeter, which seems to trace back to a philosophical flaw in Steve Alford’s playbook. The second-year head coach said last season that he isn’t as concerned with allowing 3-point attempts versus easy shots in the paint. That makes the Bruins susceptible to teams that get hot from downtown. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Bryce Alford talks about UCLA’s 83-66 win at USC

UCLA point guard Bryce Alford scored 21 points in the Bruins’ win at USC on Wednesday, his highest total in more than a month. The sophomore poured in 15 after halftime, and finished 8-of-14 from the field — including 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.

He had shot 20.6 percent in his last five games.

“It’s just confidence,” Alford said. “You see a couple go down, you see a couple of tough ones go down — I made a couple of tough ones today. A couple of fadeaways that, I know that I don’t need to take, but sometimes when you’re feeling it and it goes in, it’s a good shot.”

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UCLA 86, Stanford 81: Kevon Looney, Tony Parker, Bryce Alford

After UCLA’s 86-81 win over Stanford in double overtime, Kevon Looney, Tony Parker and Bryce Alford talked to reporters about the game that finally snapped their month-long, five-loss streak.

“We couldn’t lose,” Looney said. “Nobody wanted to lose. I just picked up another gear and got going.”

Looney was the star of the night, setting career highs with 27 points and 19 rebounds. He scored 10 of UCLA’s 12 points during a crucial second-half run, one that powered the Bruins back from a double-digit deficit.

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UCLA falls at Utah, stuck in first five-loss streak since 2009

This has not been a good year for UCLA men’s basketball.

Just two weeks after being embarrassed on national television by No. 1 Kentucky, the Bruins face-planted again — this time in an ugly 71-39 loss at No. 10 Utah. That was UCLA’s lowest single-game scoring total since Feb. 17, 1967, and marked its first five-game losing streak since December 2009.

UCLA began its afternoon at the Huntsman Center by falling in a 6-0 hole, crept back to within one point, then gave up another 11-0 run to Utah. It was more or less over after that, with the only questions left being: a) how many more ill-conceived shots the Bruins would launch at the rim, and b) how many more “Airball!” chants would volley down from the Utes’ fans.

Point guard Bryce Alford dug deeper into his shooting slump, opening the game with a pair of bricks from beyond the arc and finishing 0-for-10 from the field. After a decent offensive start to the season, the sophomore is in a 5-of-39 drought in his last three games. Continue reading

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