UCLA adjusts to shooting in cavernous NRG Stadium

UCLA arrived in Houston last night, and shot around for about an hour or so this morning at NRG Stadium. Formerly known as Reliant Stadium, the football venue can seat up to 80,000 people — absolutely dwarfing any other place the Bruins have played this season.

Will that set-up affect how players shoot?

“You get to go out there and you see how big the stadium is,” said point guard Bryce Alford. “The scoreboard is huge. The court is elevated. All that stuff. It’s what you dream of when you’re a kid, playing in a venue like this. …

“You got to get used to the shooting. It’s definitely different, but they’ve done a great job of making the background darker. There’s black (canvas) behind both hoops. So, I don’t think it will be too much different than shooting in a normal gym.”

In case you missed anything, here’s a roundup of our UCLA-Gonzaga coverage so far this week: Continue reading

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VIDEO: Norman Powell talks about reaching his second Sweet 16

Norman Powell is closing his career at UCLA with another journey into the NCAA Tournament, getting to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year after Saturday’s 92-75 win over UAB. Asked whether this run has been more satisfying than last year’s, the senior said both feel great.

“I’m just glad that the freshmen were able to have their first season hitting the Sweet 16,” Powell said. “I was joking around with Tom (Welsh) — my freshman year, I was at home watching March Madness. For him to experience that, it’s great to see these guys excited.”

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VIDEO: Norman Powell talks about UCLA’s win over SMU

Norman Powell scored 19 points in UCLA’s 60-59 win over SMU in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 64. It was the senior who broke UCLA out of an 8:40 scoring drought in the second half, hitting a layup with 4:16 on the clock.

He then assisted on Bryce Alford’s sixth and seventh 3-pointers, and finished with four assists, six rebounds, a block and a steal. He was responsible for nine of UCLA’ 14 free throw attempts, and was perfect at the line.

“We’re going to enjoy tonight,” Powell said. “Coach said we’re going to relax, have fun, and just enjoy this win. We have a day to prepare for (UAB in the next round). It’s getting focused on them the next morning.”

Too bad he had to take a final at the team hotel after the game.

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VIDEO: Norman Powell talks about UCLA’s preparation for SMU

Senior Norman Powell is nearing the end of his UCLA career, and with the No. 11-seed Bruins poised as an underdog against sixth-seeded SMU, he said he and his teammates just need to relax.

“The great part of this is you’re one of the teams left able to play,” he said. “Go in there, have fun, play loose. Nobody expects us to win, so it’s all about just playing UCLA basketball.”

The guard also talked about how the Bruins need to attack SMU’s big men with ball screens, potentially guarding point guard Nic Moore, and the improvement of the team’s zone defense.

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UCLA likely out of NCAA Tournament after loss to Arizona

Heading into last night’s game between UCLA and Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Bruins as one of his first four teams out of the Big Dance. Their eventual 70-64 loss at the MGM Grand Garden Arena likely seals that fate.

Here’s a roundup of our coverage from Las Vegas on Friday night:

— UCLA will probably miss March Madness for the third time in six years, but one or two possessions could have changed all that.
— Mark Whicker’s column on the fight the Bruins showed at Arizona, even if they fell just short.
— The game story from UCLA’s loss to the Wildcats, the second team this season that the team faded late in a close contest against its conference rival.

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