At a glance: UCLA at Stanford

UCLA Bruins (13-9, 5-4) vs. Stanford Cardinal (15-6, 6-3)
Tipoff: Thursday, Feb. 5, 6:05 p.m., Maples Pavilion
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Fleming, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: UCLA has won just one game outside of Los Angeles this season. Notching a victory at Stanford tonight would help preserve what slim chances at the NCAA tournament the Bruins have left.

Arizona is the most talented team in the conference, but the Cardinal would probably be the runner-up. (UCLA has better top-end talent, but Stanford has more depth.) Head coach Johnny Dawkins saved his job with a Sweet 16 run last season, and was also rewarded with what has been a Pac-12 Player of the Year type of season from Chasson Randle. The senior is a score-first guard, but he fills that role well and is scoring 20.8 points per game on 43.1 percent shooting. He also hits more than 40 percent from beyond the arc, and is averaging 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Randle is also accompanied by fellow sharpshooters in Anthony Brown and Rosco Allen, both of whom can light it up from outside. UCLA did a poor job defending the perimeter, which seems to trace back to a philosophical flaw in Steve Alford’s playbook. The second-year head coach said last season that he isn’t as concerned with allowing 3-point attempts versus easy shots in the paint. That makes the Bruins susceptible to teams that get hot from downtown. Continue reading

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UCLA 86, Stanford 81: Head coach Steve Alford

UCLA head coach Steve Alford talked about the Bruins’ 86-81 double-overtime win over Stanford, one that snapped the team’s five-game losing streak. Freshman Kevon Looney set career highs with 27 points and 19 rebounds, helping UCLA survive a barrage of 3-pointers by the Cardinal.

“I could not be more proud of that group of young men,” Alford said.

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After loss to Stanford, where does UCLA football go now?

Paul Perkins (24) reacts late in the second half of UCLA's 31-10 loss to Stanford at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 28, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Paul Perkins (24) reacts late in the second half of UCLA’s 31-10 loss to Stanford at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 28, 2014. (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

To get an accurate measure of how this season went for UCLA, there’s no better person to turn to than Jim Mora himself.

“We’re not trying to be average,” the head coach told his players back during training camp in San Bernardino. “We’re not after good. Nobody in here is going to be satisfied when, at the end of the year, people say, ‘Oh, they’re a good football team.’

“Great. Every single day, everything we do, that’s got to be our focus: great.”

By that standard, UCLA’s third year under Mora was a tremendous disappointment. There’s no masking that after a 31-10 loss to Stanford ended the Bruins’ chance at a Pac-12 Championship, though the team deserves some credit for not letting the season spiral out of control after losses to Utah and Oregon. At midseason, the Bruins were teetering. The way the team looked after ugly wins at Cal and Colorado, a nine-win season looked optimistic.

But in notching impressive wins over Arizona, Washington and USC, UCLA pushed the bar back up. Expectations rose again to a “New Year’s Six” bowl, or even the College Football Playoff.

The Cardinal ended those dreams, shaping into the Bruins’ schematic Kryptonite even in a down season. It was an outcome that should have seen Mora shouldering more blame, something I recall him emphatically doing only once this year. Continue reading

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UCLA suffers fourth straight loss to Stanford under Jim Mora

Brett Hundley and the rest of the UCLA football team walks off the Rose Bowl field after the Bruins’ 31-10 loss to Stanford on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014.

» On the cusp of the Pac-12 title game, UCLA’s big dreams came crashing down again in another loss to Stanford.
» Eric Kendricks left the Rose Bowl for the last time as UCLA’s all-time leader in tackles, plus notes on the Stanford touchdown that put the game out of reach.
» The Cardinal had struggled on offense most of this season, but Kevin Hogan thoroughly outplayed Brett Hundley.

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Five things to watch: No. 8/9 UCLA vs. Stanford

With a spot in the Pac-12 Championship on the line, UCLA will try to get its first win against Stanford since 2008. A few things to watch, plus a score prediction …

How will Stanford’s offense fare without Ty Montgomery? First guess is not well. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is the quintessential game manager, one that was more than sufficient for the Cardinal when it had a powerful run game to lean on. Stanford is on track to finish with a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2007; losing its most explosive player to a shoulder injury is only going to limit the offense even further.

Montgomery was Hogan’s most reliable target, and the recipient of more than a quarter of the team’s total receptions. At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, he would have been a load to bring down once he got into the secondary.

Can UCLA’s defense maintain pressure? Hogan only threw at least 20 passes in seven games last season. This year, he’s already hit that mark in nine games, at topped 30 passes in three straight games in October. Not coincidentally, Stanford lost two of those games, beating only lowly Washington State. Continue reading

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