With just nine regular-season games left, UCLA is still hovering below .500 in conference play. Needing a few more emphatic wins to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins take their next step on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at USC.
Head coach Steve Alford talked on Tuesday about the matchup. A few notes:
» UCLA shook up its starting lineup this past Saturday, playing forward Jonah Bolden ahead of senior Tony Parker in an 83-50 win over Washington State. Bolden seems likely to keep that spot, with Parker continuing to man the backup center position instead of playing next to sophomore Thomas Welsh in a “big-big” frontcourt.
“We played well last game doing that,” Alford said. “I don’t think it’s always going to be etched in stone as to who that is, but I don’t see any changes.”
» Alford lost to USC for the first time on Jan. 13, with his Bruins devolving on defense. Looking back on that 14-point loss, the third-year coach pointed out that the Trojans scored 13 points off of “50-50 balls,” as well as 16 second-chance points.
“When you fuel their transition game by mistakes that you make, that makes it really, really difficult,” Alford said.
Steve Alford finally had something to smile about.
After watching his team lose three of its last four games, the UCLA head coach finally tinkered with his starting lineup. The result? An 83-50 win over Washington State, the Bruins’ largest margin of victory all season.
“Best 40 minutes we’ve had all year,” Alford said.
Stretch forward Jonah Bolden replaced senior big man Tony Parker to start the game, giving UCLA (13-9, 4-5) more flexibility on both offense and defense. Alford wouldn’t confirm that the change was permanent, but seemed disinclined to move back to the “big-big” lineup that the Bruins had used most of this year.
Instead of playing somewhat out of position at power forward, Parker moved to a backup center role behind sophomore Thomas Welsh. Welsh and Bolden essentially formed a first-string frontcourt platoon, while Parker played next to Gyorgy Goloman.
UCLA forward Jonah Bolden (left) will make his second start against Washington State, replacing senior big man Tony Parker. (Steve McCrank/Staff)
UCLA will start forward Jonah Bolden against Washington State this, shaking up the starting lineup in an attempt to fix the team’s defensive struggles.
The sophomore is making just his second start of the season, moving up over senior big man Tony Parker. After Thursday’s 86-84 loss to Washington, head coach Steve Alford said that the team’s “big-big” lineup of Parker and sophomore center Thomas Welsh was becoming too ineffective in getting stops.
“It’s not working,” he said. “We’re slow. We’re not reacting to things.”
After the game, Alford agreed that UCLA (12-9, 3-5) looked more effective when it paired Bolden, who is an inch taller than the 6-foot-9 Parker but 40 pounds lighter, with Welsh. The sophomore played 26 minutes against the Huskies and led the game with 11 rebounds, just the third time this season that he hit double digits in that category.
“We got to more balls,” Alford said. “We pursued things with more urgency. We were much more athletic. That’s something we’ve got to look at.”
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.