VIDEO: Norman Powell goes between his legs for huge dunk

Oregon arrived at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday with one of the most trigger-happy offenses in the league, and UCLA happily fell into that long-distance style. The two teams combined to take 28 3-pointers in the first half, out of 60 total field-goal attempts.

But the play of the half belonged instead to Norman Powell, the Bruins’ freight train of a guard. The senior has improved his 3-point shooting this year — from 29.4 to 33.3 percent — but his bread and butter is still attacking the paint. He did that against the Ducks, using a stiff Thomas Welsh screen and a through-his-legs dribble to set up a vicious dunk.

“That’s Norman,” said head coach Steve Alford. “He’s SportsCenter. He does that. There’s one of those a game. That one — that move there — was as good as it’s been all year long. … I’ve never seen a pick-and-roll split like that.”

Added Powell: “I saw a little space where he hedged out too fast before I came off the screen. The rest was just instincts.”

The 6-foot-4 guard led the Bruins with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, helping them to a 72-63 win.

Video h/t @cjzero / The Cauldron

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At a glance: UCLA vs. Oregon

UCLA Bruins (15-10, 7-5) vs. Oregon (18-7, 8-4)
Tipoff: Saturday, Feb. 14, 12:07 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Jim Jackson)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: Oregon is a run-and-gun offense, one that can bury a team quickly if its shooters heat up. That’s what happened to UCLA when it traveled to Eugene last month. The Bruins played a level of defense that veered from lackadaisical to putrid — allowing the Ducks to shoot 75 percent from the field in the first half of an 82-64 blowout.

UCLA senior Norman Powell called out the team for its defensive effort in Eugene, and it might be up to him again to make sure there isn’t a letdown after stifling Oregon State on Wednesday.

On the other hand, Oregon’s own defense is paper thin. Since conference play started, the team has allowed opponents to make 53.2 percent of their 2-point shots — a huge hole that UCLA should be able to exploit if it can establish an inside-out attack. 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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Norman Powell earns second Pac-12 Player of the Week honor

In the midst of a career stretch, UCLA’s Norman Powell has been named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second time this season.

The senior guard has scored 68 points on 56.1 percent shooting in his last three games, the first time that he has ever strung together three consecutive efforts of at least 20 points. He did this by rediscovering his penchant for attacking the lane — scoring efficiently despite hitting just one of six 3-pointers during the same stretch.

Still the Bruins’ best on-ball defender, he totaled seven steals in wins over Utah and Colorado, as well as nine rebounds and five assists.

Powell had been previously named the conference’s weekly MVP on Nov. 24, after he combined to score 47 points in wins over Nicholls State and Long Beach State. Freshman forward Kevon Looney also won Pac-12 Player of the Week on Jan. 12, making UCLA the only school to have three such honors this season.

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UCLA 69, Utah 59: Steve Alford talks about Bruins’ biggest win yet

Head coach Steve Alford talked after UCLA’s 69-59 win over No. 11 Utah, easily the Bruins’ biggest win of the season and their first against a ranked opponent.

Key to the upset was senior guard Norman Powell, who scored a game-high 23 points and opened scoring with a steal and a fast-break layup. He also helped hold Utes point guard Delon Wright to four first-half points.

“He’s a senior and he made a lot of big plays for us tonight,” Alford said. “As a senior, when you get that kind of leadership, guys are going to follow. I thought it was even more than Norman. it was a tremendous team effort. Everyone trusted each other.”

Full game story here.

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Three things to watch as UCLA takes on No. 1 Kentucky

Let’s be honest here. Almost no one expects UCLA to upset Kentucky on Saturday at the United Center, the toughest challenge yet for a Bruin squad that has yet to gel into a team with a strong identity.

Last week, No. 8 Gonzaga already showed how just how far UCLA is from being one of the country’s elite teams, controlling the game the entire night at Pauley Pavilion and easily snuffing every semblance of a Bruin run. So what’s going to happen when Steve Alford’s squad takes on the top-ranked Wildcats, whose rotation consists almost entirely of former McDonald’s All-Americans? A UCLA win would require a number of things to break right. (An act of God wouldn’t hurt either.)

Here are a few things to keep an eye on today.

1. Can UCLA handle Kentucky’s assembly line of big men? The Bruins have outrebounded nearly every team they’ve faced this season, but their loss against Gonzaga finally pitted them against an opponent that could toss superior size their way. Against 7-foot-1 Przemek Karnowski and 6-foot-10 Domantas Sabonis, UCLA gave up a 34-30 edge on the glass and struggled to convert second-chance opportunities. It also allowed 65 percent shooting inside the arc, with Sabonis missing just one of his five field goal attempts.

The Wildcats have the biggest rotation in the country, starting with seven-footers Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson. Continue reading

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UCLA holds off Long Beach State in 77-63 win at Pauley Pavilion

UCLA moved to 4-0 on a 77-63 win over Long Beach State, but allowed the 49ers to get within five points with 3:00 left on the clock. Norman Powell and Bryce Alford combined for 41 points, while Kevon Looney logged his third straight double-double. Here’s the game story from Chris Trevino, who filled in at Pauley Pavilion tonight.

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Kyle Anderson named UCLA’s most valuable player at team banquet

This was a no-brainer.

After leading UCLA to its first Sweet Sixteen since 2008, point guard Kyle Anderson was named the team’s MVP during Monday night’s year-end banquet at the Beverly Hilton. After averaging 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists — leading the Bruins in the latter two — the third-team AP All-American is headed to the NBA along with former teammates Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine.

Adams, who led UCLA with 17.4 points per game, won the J.D. Morgan Memorial Award for outstanding “team” player. Continue reading

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