1. This might be Steve Alford’s most intriguing UCLA team yet. The Bruins pulled off their most impressive road win in years on Saturday, upsetting No. 20 Gonzaga in a 71-66 decision. They became just the 11th team to ever beat the Bulldogs at McCarthey Athletic Center, which opened in 2004.
A few caveats: The Bulldogs don’t look nearly as good as they did a year ago after losing all three backcourt starters, becoming much more prone to turnovers and missed shots. Center Przemek Karnowski also missed his fourth straight game due to back spams; his absence likely helped UCLA’s Tony Parker hit his first eight shots of the game. Even forward Domantas Sabonis, who had 18 points and eight rebounds, looked banged up for much of the game.
UCLA’s Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, and Jonah Bolden talk about last year’s season-ending loss to Gonzaga, tonight’s rematch in Spokane, and the challenges of guarding All-American forward Kyle Wiltjer.
Steve Alford talked about the UCLA men’s basketball team as it prepares for its first true road trip at No. 20 Gonzaga, which won at Pauley Pavilion last year before ending the Bruins’ season in the Sweet 16. UCLA’s big lineup featuring Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker could bode well in matching up against the Bulldogs’ impressive frontline on Saturday at 7 p.m.
UCLA men’s basketball released its upcoming nonconference schedule today, and the spot to mark in your calendar is Dec. 3.
That’s when the Bruins will host Kentucky, facing a team that dismantled them in an 83-44 blowout last December in Chicago — one that the Wildcats opened with a 24-0 run. UK will almost certainly enter Pauley Pavilion as the favorite, but this is also a team that lost seven players from its Final Four squad.
As has become customary under head coach Steve Alford — who is heading into his third season — UCLA has a loaded nonconference slate that also includes a visit to Gonzaga on Dec. 12, and a game against North Carolina on Dec. 19 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Both teams beat the Bruins by double-digits last winter. The Bulldogs also ended UCLA’s season with a 74-62 win in the Sweet 16.
“I’ve maintained all along that we want to upgrade our program’s schedule in hopes of playing tough and exciting marquee games,” Alford said in a statement, “and I’d say we’ve moved even further in that direction this year. … This non-conference schedule figures to be one of the strongest in the nation, and I know our players can’t wait to take on this challenge.”
The Bruins could also play Kansas and Indiana in November’s Maui Invitational, a tournament that also includes St. John’s, UNLV and Wake Forest.
UCLA’s first competition will come in an exhibition game against Cal State Los Angeles on Oct. 30, and it will officially open its season against Monmouth on Nov. 13.