UCLA basketball links: Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf lead dunk-fest in debut

If last night’s exhibition game is any indication, the UCLA basketball team is going to be fun to watch. How many victories the new-look, fast-paced Bruins will augment their entertaining style with is very much to be determined.

But Lonzo Ball alone may be enough to begin to fill Pauley Pavilion again. The freshman point guard (14 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) was must-see in every facet – he had a spectacular block, a tip-dunk, and was on both ends of ally-oops, to name a few highlights. “I think you saw a little bit of how much Lonzo can impact the game in every single way,” senior Bryce Alford said.

But it was classmate T.J. Leaf who led the dunk-fest with four authoritative throw downs. The 6-10 freshman was hardly overshadowed with 19 points and 12 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

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Hype grows for UCLA backcourt with 2 watch list candidates

Senior Isaac Hamilton, the Pac-12's top returning scorer, is a stark contrast to the other member of UCLA's backcourt named to a preseason award watch list.

Senior Isaac Hamilton, the Pac-12’s top returning scorer, is a stark contrast to the other member of UCLA’s backcourt named to a preseason award watch list.

How deep is the UCLA backcourt? Two guards have been named to preseason award watch lists – not including two returners who were starting guards last year.

Senior Isaac Hamilton, the top returning scorer in the Pac-12, was a natural choice for the Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year Award watch list announced Tuesday. The buzz about freshman Lonzo Ball is only growing after he earned the distinction as a watch list candidate for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year Award.

To illustrate the depth in the UCLA backcourt, consider that Bryce Alford, who averaged seven tenths of a point less than Hamilton last season, is a certainty to be in the starting lineup when the season begins Nov. 11. As for Aaron Holiday, whose minutes are more difficult to project than the coach’s son, all he did was averaged double figures as a freshman last season and play the best on-ball defense of anybody on the roster. Continue reading

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UCLA links: Men’s basketball cruises to win in Australia

UCLA coach Steve Alford said this year's Bruins don't respond as well to "mental pressure" as last year's team. (David Crane/Staff)

UCLA coach Steve Alford praised his three freshmen after the Bruins blew out Sydney University in their exhibition game Tuesday. (David Crane/Staff)

Freshmen starred for the UCLA men’s basketball team in its 123-76 exhibition blowout victory over Sydney University on Tuesday.

UCLA’s trio of freshmen had 46 combined points with TJ Leaf leading the way with a team-high 21. Ike Anigbogu had 16 and Lonzo Ball had nine. Leaf added nine rebounds and Anigbogu had eight boards. Ball had four assists, two steals and two blocks.

“They were outstanding, all three of them – Ike, Lonzo and TJ,” head coach Steve Alford told UCLABruins.com. “We know what they can do. They came here in their first exhibition game and all three played very well.”

UCLA seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford had 18 and 17 points, respectively.

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UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton makes All-Pac-12 second team

UCLA junior Isaac Hamilton earned an All-Pac-12 second-team nod on Monday. No Bruin made the first team for the first time since 2011-12. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

UCLA junior Isaac Hamilton earned an All-Pac-12 second-team nod on Monday. No Bruin made the first team for the first time since 2011-12. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

For the second time since conference expansion, no UCLA men’s basketball player made the All-Pac-12 first team.

Isaac Hamilton led the Bruins — who finished 10th in the league — with a second-team selection, while fellow junior guard Bryce Alford earned an honorable mention. Hamilton is the Pac-12’s third-leading scorer at 17.1 points per game and has hit double figures in 27 straight outings. The last UCLA player to hold a longer streak is former league MVP Kevin Love, who scored at least 10 points in all 39 games as a freshman in 2007-08.

The Bruins had produced five all-conference first-team picks in the last three years: Norman Powell, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Larry Drew II and Shabazz Muhammad. Lazeric Jones led UCLA with a second-team spot in 2011-12, the first season after Colorado and Utah joined what became the Pac-12.

The league has included 10 players in its first team since 1979-80, only departing from the tradition when it named three five-member teams in 2007-08.

Utah center Jakob Poeltl is the Pac-12 Player of the Year, while Oregon’s Dana Altman was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the third time in four years. He is the first to be named the conference’s top coach in consecutive seasons since Stanford’s Mike Montgomery 12 years ago. Oregon State guard Gary Payton II became the first-ever back-to-back Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Colorado’s George King is the conference’s most improved player, while Utah’s Brandon Taylor was honored as the top scholar-athlete.

See the rest of the All-Pac-12 teams below. All awards are voted on by coaches, who cannot select themselves or their own players. Continue reading

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UCLA clinches fourth losing conference record in 14 years

Less than two weeks ago, Steve Alford publicly held on to hope. He talked about UCLA’s ability to make a late run, to bolster a resume that had become thinner and thinner since the turn of the new year.

Now, finally, the Bruins seem to have run out of time. A 79-70 loss at Stanford on Saturday clinched them a losing conference record — just the fourth time this has happened in the post-Wooden era. All four occurrences have come in the last 14 years.

UCLA’s path to an NCAA Tournament berth will almost certainly require them to win the Pac-12 Tournament. Judging from the type of basketball these Bruins (15-14, 6-10) have played as of late, however, and that seems like a Sisyphean task.

At Maples Pavilion, UCLA showed little sign that it can fix the problems that have haunted the team all season. It allowed the Cardinal to shoot 61.2 percent from the field, their highest mark of the season. Only one other Pac-12 team — Oregon — had allowed Stanford to clear even 48 percent.

Much of the damage was done inside. Sophomore forward Michael Humphrey scored 24 points, just two points shy of the career high he set against Washington State earlier this month. The 6-foot-9 big man helped give Stanford a 32-18 scoring edge in the paint, corralling four of his team’s nine offensive boards.

UCLA, on the other hand, stayed within striking distance thanks in large part to their efficiency from beyond the arc. Continue reading

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