VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s 75-59 win vs Oregon State

Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s 75-59 win over Oregon State, one the Bruins opened with four straight 3-pointers and a stingy defensive performance. The two teams are now tied for fifth place in the Pac-12.

“We’re in a stretch here where we’ve been playing some really good basketball, and we’re going to need that,” he said.

RELATED:
– Mark Whicker’s column on UCLA’s 1995 championship team, which will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against Oregon.

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At a glance: UCLA vs. Oregon State

UCLA Bruins (14-10, 6-5) vs. Oregon State (16-7, 7-4)
Tipoff: Wednesday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Spero Dedes, Kevin O’Neill)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: If defense is mostly about effort, then first-year head coach Wayne Tinkle has Oregon State working harder than it has in at least a decade.

According to kenpom.com, the Beavers have ranked top-100 nationally in defensive efficiency since 2003, and sank all the way to 215th during former coach Craig Robinson’s final season. Just one year later, OSU is now ranked eighth — right behind Pac-12 leaders Utah and Arizona.

The team has become greater than the sum of its parts. Gutted by the loss of the team’s top-five scorers in 2013-14, Tinkle even resorted to holding an open tryout back in October. Now, he’s turned that collection of players into a roster that is fifth-best in the country in opposing 3-point percentage, top-20 in block and turnover percentage.

But like many teams in the conference, Oregon State hasn’t looked the same away from home. Continue reading

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UCLA’s comeback falls short in 66-55 loss at Oregon State

Give UCLA at least this: It didn’t go down easy.

Gill Coliseum has not been an easy place to play this season. Before the Bruins arrived in Corvallis for what would turn out to be a 66-55 loss to Oregon State on Thursday night, 10 other teams had entered the 9,600-seat stadium — and 10 teams had left empty-handed. That tally included No. 7 Arizona, which suffered a two-point upset there earlier this month.

So the location already bode poorly for UCLA, which has not won a game outside of Los Angeles since Nov. 28. The absence of center Tony Parker, who did not make the trip due to back spasms, hardly helped either. In his place was freshman Thomas Welsh, a 7-footer making his first career start.

And at the start of the game, it was Welsh who opened up scoring, sinking a jumper 17 seconds in. UCLA needed another eight minutes to hit a second field goal. Continue reading

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Tony Parker out with back spasms as UCLA faces Oregon State

UCLA is still without center Tony Parker, who did not travel with the Bruins to Oregon State on Thursday due to back spasms.

Barring a late flight up, Parker does not appear on track to play against Oregon on Saturday either. Without the junior big man, UCLA offense looked abysmal against the Beavers in the first half — shooting just 7 of 30 and falling into a 29-19 hole at the break.

Parker had averaged 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in the last four games, and even in losses, UCLA’s offense looked best when it could utilize him as part of an inside-out attack.

Freshman Thomas Welsh, who made his first career start in place of Parker, made the first basket of the game for the Bruins at Gill Coliseum. However, the team struggled to find rhythm after that, missing 14 straight shots.

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Pac-12 links: Arizona State’s Chip Sarafin comes out as gay

» Arizona State offensive lineman Chip Sarafin came out on Wednesday, becoming first openly gay active player in Division I football.

» Redshirt freshman Anu Solomon is trying to win Arizona’s starting quarterback — something that would require beating out transfers from USC, LSU and Texas.

» The Ice Bucket Challenge has helped raise $2.3 million for the national ALS association since July 29, and UCLA coach Jim Mora accepted a challenge to join yesterday:

» Washington State crossed the Idaho border for training camp, but wildfires forced the Cougars back to Pullman. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Oregon State’s Mike Riley is the conference’s coaching ‘godfather’

» In a conference filled with newcomers, Oregon State coach Mike Riley is heading into his 14th season in the Pac-12. “Mike’s kind of a godfather,” said Stanford’s David Shaw.

» Apparently no longer content with uniform experimentation, Oregon will debut scratch-and-sniff season tickets this year. Unfortunately, the sticker is a Carl’s Jr. ad and likely smells like burgers rather than ducks.

» A former ASU running back was found shot to death on a hiking trial near Sedona. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Former Cal athletic director Sandy Barbour heads to Penn State

» Just a month after stepping down (or being forced out) as Cal’s athletic director, Sandy Barbour parlayed an uneven tenure in the Bay Area into a bigger job at Penn State — one that will pay her $700,000 per year.

» Stanford’s Josh Huestis went to the Oklahoma City Thunder as the 29th overall pick in the NBA draft, but will head to the D-League rather than sign his guaranteed rookie contract. Grantland’s Zach Lowe explains why.

» Gary Payton II has arrived on the Oregon State campus, where his famous father’s enormous shadow still looms. Continue reading

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Which players have the best names in the Pac-12?

By now, you’ve read many of the lists that have proliferated in college football’s dry summer months. The best 100 players. The freakiest players. The best coaches, best offseasons, best uniforms.

But this? This is the most important of them all. With Pac-12 Media Days — schedule here — kicking off this morning, I have compiled the five best names from each team in the conference.

Without further ado …

Arizona: Sir Thomas Jackson, Antonio Smothers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Brogan Kemmerly, Abraham Mendivil

Not great depth here, as the latter two names sacrifice catchiness in favor of length. Still, Sir Thomas Jackson alone is an MVP candidate.

Arizona State: Ezekial Bishop, Demetrius Cherry, Zane Gonzalez, Jaxon Hood, Jaelen Strong

A solid quintet that lacks a superstar.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Bryce Treggs, Brennan Scarlett, Maximo Espitia

A nice throwback in Hardy Nickerson, bookended by a name that makes me want to re-watch Russell Crowe take on a despotic Joaquin Phoenix. Continue reading

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Report: Ben Howland a serious candidate for Oregon State head coach opening

After being fired by UCLA a year ago, Ben Howland may be employed again soon.

Multiple reports indicate that the architect of the Bruins’ three straight Final Fours is Oregon State’s top target after firing Craig Robinson.

Should Howland become the replacement, he would inherit arguably the toughest job in the Pac-12. A spot that was already unattractive when Robinson arrived in 2008 has not gotten any prettier. In the last six years, the Beavers never finished above .500 overall and only once placed higher than eighth in the conference. The program has not reached the NCAA Tournament since 1990.

Athletic director Bob De Carolis said at a press conference this week that despite affirming Robinson’s status in March, he changed his mind after taking off “orange-colored glasses.” That may not have been the only impetus. Continue reading

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