Earlier this month, Missouri outscored UCLA by 17 in the second half of a nine-point victory. In Thursday night’s 80-63 win at Madison Square Garden, No. 8 Duke did the same to the Bruins.
Now 11 games into their first season under coach Steve Alford, UCLA has rolled over subpar opponents while falling short late against big-name programs. The team is promising: it can put up points, and it can do so at the breakneck pace promised before the season. But it also lacks fortitude on defense and on the boards, and has yet to prove late-game resolve.
UCLA (9-1) vs. No. 8 Duke (8-2)
Location: Madison Square Garden, 4:33 p.m. PT TV: ESPN (Dan Shulman, Dick Vitale, Andy Katz) Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)
1. This is UCLA’s shot to earn some more national respect before conference play. Ten games into the season, the Bruins look like a good team, not a great one, and a loss at Missouri was enough to drop them from No. 18 in the Associated Press poll to out of the rankings entirely. First-year head coach Steve Alford has said a few times this season that he wants to schedule tougher opponents in the future, and was responsible for getting Duke on the calendar with relatively late notice. Continue reading →
– UCLA handled Prairie View A&M with ease in Saturday’s 95-71 win, running out a 20-point lead late in the first half and stretching it to as much as 34 in the second. The main story of the night, though, was Travis Wear’s return to the starting lineup.
Following his appendectomy in late October, the senior forward has looked rusty early on, going without a field goal in his past two games. Originally penciled in as a starter alongside twin brother David before the season, he told Alford he was fine with a reserve role. Continue reading →
– UCLA’s 89-76 win was solid given that UCSB shot lights out early and looked like a team that could earn a March Madness berth. The key was a 27-of-36 showing at the free throw line, the first time the Bruins shot more than 30 in a game this season.
They are 8-0 for the first time since 2006-07.
– Freshman Zach LaVine led the team with 13 points at halftime, showing off his range with a number of deep threes. He still needs to improve his shot selection, but doesn’t seem fazed by a hand in his face or rushing defenders. I write more about him here. Continue reading →
Monday was the last time Travis Wear won’t be wearing a uniform under his warm-ups.
UCLA’s starting power forward missed the first three games of the season after undergoing an appendectomy Oct. 28, but will return for Friday’s game against Morehead State. Indications were the senior could return Monday, but he is yet to practice with the team or endure contact drills.
“He’s been no contact,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “They way I understand it, it’s not something you gradually have to get back in. Because of the surgery, it’s basically a matter of days, or in his case, weeks, and then once that passes you’re free to go. He’s felt very, very good, but there’s a timetable we had to stick to.”
UCLA forward Noah Allen had surgery for three fractures below his left eye this afternoon, coach Steve Alford said. The freshman suffered the injury in the last 34 seconds of Tuesday’s win over Oakland. There is currently no timetable for his return.
The 6-foot-6 wing played 11 minutes against the Golden Grizzlies, logging four points and five rebounds. He hit both his free throws after getting hit.
Senior forward Travis Wear is still on track for a potential Monday return against Sacramento State. He had an appendectomy on Oct. 28.
Freshman forward Wanaah Bail (knee) is projected to be out another 10-14 days.
UCLA has officially signed five-star forward Kevon Looney, one of the gems of the 2014 class.
“Kevon is one of the best players in the country in this class,” coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He is extremely skilled and versatile. Most importantly, he’s a winner.”
The Bruins also inked Hungarian native Gyorgy Goloman, a little-known forward also sought by Davidson, Richmond and New Mexico. Alford’s statement called him “one of the best passing big men we have seen in years.”
Looney sent his national letter of intent to UCLA this morning, while Goloman did the same yesterday.
UCLA opened the season with a narrow 72-67 win over Drexel, sprinkling some good moments of transition offense in with uneven defense. Coach Steve Alford was generally positive afterward, and maintained that the problems he saw were very fixable.
“You either win that opener or you lose that opener,” he said, “and winning the opener feels a lot better than losing.”