Oregon 76, UCLA 68: Steve Alford

As center Tony Parker said Wednesday night, UCLA’s struggles have become a “broken record.”

The Bruins fell to Oregon, 76-68, in yet another game that showed off the team’s now-unsurprising inconsistency. In the first half, they held the league-leading Ducks to 35.7 percent from the field, while shooting 54.8 percent. In the second featured almost a mirror image: Oregon rose up to 54.8 percent, while UCLA slid down to 42.9.

The team is now 15-15 overall and 6-11 in the Pac-12, their highest conference loss total since 2003-04.

“Defensively, we worked, and most of it was zone,” said Bruin head coach Steve Alford. “Most of where they got us was in transition. This is the best team in our league, and we shot a high percentage. We just didn’t make enough big plays in the end to get over the hump.”

That zone defense, Parker said, was one reason why the Bruins gave up a 40-28 edge on the glass. The Ducks grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and scored 10 second-chance points.

“The ball goes up, it’s not like five-on-five, where you pretty much know who you’re boxing out every time,” Parker said. “In zone, it could be a different player every time. Sometimes, I might be out on the 3-point line boxing out somebody. … It’s just a different adjustment. We didn’t make it in the second half, but they did.”

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UCLA can’t get late stops in 86-72 loss at Oregon

After scoring just one basket in the first half at Oregon, UCLA’s Isaac Hamilton made his second at just the right time.

The junior drilled a 3-pointer with 12:20 on the game clock, one that cut the Bruins’ deficit to just three points. They had trailed by as many as 12 points just two minutes earlier, but the first Pac-12 road sweep of the Steve Alford era looked within reach.

But, as Alford had complained earlier this week, UCLA just couldn’t get a stop. Pulling away for an 86-72 win at Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks closed out the game by shooting 12 of 19 from the field, including four of seven from beyond the arc. Key to the effort was 6-foot-10 forward Chris Boucher, the JUCO transfer playing his first season in Eugene.

Named the NJCAA Division I Player of the Year after averaging 22.5 points at Wyoming’s Northwest College last season, the Montreal native buried the Bruins (12-8, 3-4), scoring eight of his 18 points in the final four minutes. Continue reading

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Can UCLA basketball’s defense keep up with faster teams?

The UCLA men's basketball team has struggled on defense this season, particularly against up-tempo teams. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

The UCLA men’s basketball team has struggled on defense this season, particularly against up-tempo teams. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

After a comfortable win at Oregon State on Wednesday, Steve Alford said that UCLA finally “guarded the way that we wanted to guard.” Can the Bruins keep it up?

Both Alford and his players have explained the team’s defensive struggles with terms like “energy” and “demeanor” — suggesting that the problem has less to do with matchups than willpower and focus. But there’s another factor that could help clarify UCLA’s inconsistency: pace of play.

Against teams that rank top-100 nationally in adjusted tempo, according to Ken Pomeroy’s statistical rankings, the Bruins have a 2-6 record. Against teams below that, they are 10-1, with the lone loss coming to Washington State.

As for the Beavers? They were the slowest opponent UCLA has faced this season, clocking in at No. 263 with 67.5 possessions per 40 minutes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Bruins have an average scoring margin of -5.5 against teams that average at least 71.0 possessions per 40. When it faces teams that average less than 70.0 possessions, UCLA is cruising along at +7.6 — a figure that doesn’t even factor in their 32-point win over CSUN.

This obviously isn’t a perfect measure, but the data at least echoes how the Bruins’ transition defense has looked according to the eye test. It also helps explain how the team convincingly upset Kentucky, Gonzaga, and Arizona.

Fortunately for UCLA, most of the Pac-12 isn’t running at a breakneck pace. Washington is far and away the leader, ranking fifth in the NCAA at 78.0 possessions. Next in the league is USC, which ranks No. 45 with 72.8.

No one else is even in the top 100. Oregon and Colorado both average 70.3 possessions, just 0.1 behind the Bruins, while Stanford rounds out the league down at 67.1.

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Pac-12 Networks’ Glenn Parker: Utah has more ‘cachet’ than UCLA

No. 7 UCLA is currently ranked three spots above Utah in the Associated Press poll, but one Pac-12 Networks analyst thinks the Utes may still currently have the better resume.

Glenn Parker, a former Arizona offensive lineman who went on to start 141 games in the NFL, said that Utah’s 62-20 win at Oregon will stick out when it comes time for the playoff selection committee to start making decisions. That blowout knocked the Ducks out of the top 25 for the first time after 98 straight weeks.

“Utah, they won a big game in Autzen, a place where no one goes and has a big game,” Parker said. “They did it, and they dismantled a good program. The folks that are watching for the playoffs, a lot of those people are back east. They’re Big Ten people. They watched Oregon go into Michigan State and play a very, very good team within one play of winning that game.

“I think it has more cachet nationally right now. Utah just, I think, appears better to the average person out there than UCLA does at this moment.”

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Pac-12 links: FCC approval of AT&T—DirecTV merger could help Pac-12 Networks

» The FCC announced on Friday that it has approved AT&T’s takeover of DirecTV, a move that could clear the way for the Pac-12 Networks to appear on the satellite provider. The breakdown in negotiations between DirecTV and the Pac-12 has been arguably the biggest blemish on the resume of commissioner Larry Scott.

Bay Area News Group columnist Jon Wilner examined the issue earlier this week.

» Each Division I school will receive $18.9 million from the NCAA to fund cost-of-attendance-based scholarships and other projects.

» USC’s Adoree’ Jackson wants to win the Heisman and an Olympic gold medal.

» Oregonian columnist John Canzano no longer believes in Dana Altman — and according to emails he obtained, the Oregon administration may not either. Continue reading

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