UCLA suffers third loss in 80-77 decision to Wake Forest

UCLA’s 80-77 loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday night marked the Bruins’ worst opening month in four years.

For the first time since 2011, the team suffered its third loss before the end of November, falling to fourth place in the Maui Invitational. UCLA (3-3) closed its deficit to 70-69 with 4:32 left in the game, but couldn’t find the basket again until the final minute.

The Demon Deacons’ biggest edge came at the free-throw line, where they made 30 of an astounding 42 attempts — though 14 came in the last 62 seconds. The Bruins hit 8 of 14. Center Thomas Welsh and freshman guard Aaron Holiday both fouled out while trying to stop the clock late.

“I’ve been doing this 25 years,” Alford said. “I’ve been on the short end of a lot of things. I’ve never had an experience where I’ve had a team get out-shot 42-14 at the free-throw line. That was the difference in the game.” Continue reading “UCLA suffers third loss in 80-77 decision to Wake Forest” »

UCLA blown out by No. 5 Kansas, 92-73, in Maui Invitational semis

By halftime on Tuesday night, the game was all but over.

UCLA went back into its locker room at the Lahaina Civic Center in a 26-point hole against No. 5 Kansas. The Bruins had allowed the Jayhawks to outshoot them, 58 percent to 34, and outrebound them, 23 to 15. KU had 11 fast break points to UCLA’s two.

By the end of the night, Kansas had advanced to the finals of the Maui Invitational with a commanding 92-73 win. The Bruins had stayed within single digits for less than eight minutes. They trailed by at least 20 points for all but 62 seconds of the final 28 minutes.

The same zone defense that had flustered UNLV one night earlier didn’t put up as much of a fight against an offense that was coming off a 123-point eruption against Chaminade. KU hit 8 of 15 3-pointers, exploiting a weakness that has become common in Steve Alford-coached teams.

Ball control remains an issue for a backcourt that looks disjointed despite its depth. The Bruins had 11 assists against 11 turnovers, which was actually a slight improvement over its previous assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.91 (231st nationally).

Isaac Hamilton bounced back from an ugly, turnover-laden showing against UNLV, leading UCLA with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Freshman guard Aaron Holiday had 16 points and a team-high three assists, but also committed four fouls. Junior Bryce Alford made just one field goal, finishing with six points.

Less than two weeks into its third season under Alford, UCLA is already 0-5 against ranked nonconference opponents. No. 1 Kentucky, No. 10 Gonzaga, and No. 9 North Carolina all dot the team’s December slate.

The Bruins will play Wake Forest in the tournament’s third-place game at 4:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday.

UCLA squeezes past UNLV in Maui Invitational with 77-75 win

The UCLA men’s basketball team will take any win it can get at this point, but how it looked on Monday night against UNLV doesn’t inspire much confidence.

If the Runnin’ Rebels — which has missed two straight NCAA Tournaments and is coming off a seventh-place finish in the Mountain West — took the Bruins down to the wire in a 77-75 decision, what exactly will No. 5 Kansas due tomorrow night?

UCLA deserves credit in at least a couple of areas. Its 3-2 zone defense held UNLV to 41 percent from the field. It was nearly flawless at the free throw line, hitting 23 straight after point guard Bryce Alford’s first miss.

There were several other causes for concern. The biggest was the disappearance of senior Tony Parker, who had opened the season with three straight double-doubles. The Bruins had tried to use both its centers in the same lineup this season, playing Parker next to 7-foot sophomore Thomas Welsh. That wasn’t possible against UNLV, as Parker faded back into his foul-troubled self of old. Continue reading “UCLA squeezes past UNLV in Maui Invitational with 77-75 win” »

UCLA to open Maui Invitational against UNLV

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UCLA last won the Maui Invitational in 2006. Doing so again this year would be a big statement for Steve Alford.

The eight-team tournament will signal the Bruins’ first significant competition of the season, starting with UNLV on Nov. 23 at 8:30 pm PT (ESPN2). The Runnin’ Rebels have regressed under head coach Dave Rice — missing the NCAA tournament the last two years — but still have a talented roster that includes five-star center Stephen Zimmerman.

After that game, UCLA will face either Kansas or Chaminade the next day. The other side of the tournament bracket consists of St. John’s, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Indiana.

“You get a really good litmus test right away,” Alford said. “You get a really good feel from a coaching standpoint, playing three games in a row against quality opponents. You’re going to get a really good idea and picture of who your team is going into December.” Continue reading “UCLA to open Maui Invitational against UNLV” »