Buried by 3-point barrage, UCLA misses another road sweep in loss to WSU

A few weeks ago, Steve Alford offered his thoughts on UCLA’s lackluster 3-point defense. Sure, the Bruins allow plenty of attempts, but he’ll live with those as long as: 1) those shots aren’t easy ones, and 2) the interior is locked down.

“If I had my way, I’d just as soon teams shoot 30, 35 threes against us,” the coach said then.

On Saturday night, Washington State did its best to oblige. The Cougars heaved 29 shots from downtown, the most that any Pac-12 opponent has shot against the Bruins this season. That they only made 10 made little difference; WSU steamrolled UCLA in a 73-55 victory, giving fans at Beasley Coliseum something to cheer for near the end of a brutal season. Continue reading

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Notes: Adams’ career-high 31 points pushes UCLA past Washington

– Jordan Adams is hitting on all cylinders heading down the late stretch of the season. The sophomore guard lit up the Huskies for a career-high 31 points in UCLA’s 91-82 win — a total that could have easily been higher if not for a second-half bout with cramps.

Adams scored 10 of UCLA’s first 14 points to set the pace early, and established the offense by earning trips to the line. He also exited a good portion of the second half and didn’t score in the final eight minutes, but his last six points came when the Bruins only led by one point.

UCLA’s most natural scorer hitting his stride in March obviously bodes well for a team that’s angling for a top-five tournament seed. His free throw rate has dropped to 20th in the conference compared to 13th last season, but he his nine free throw attempts were his highest since Dec. 7. Continue reading

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What to watch: Oregon State at UCLA

Oregon State (15-12, 7-8) at UCLA (21-7, 10-5)
When:
Sunday, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Rob Stone, Jarron Collins)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Will Zach LaVine handle the ball more? Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are returning after their one-game suspensions on Thursday, so LaVine won’t get anywhere close to the 17 shots he took in the double-overtime loss to Oregon.

But it’s about more than just his point total. His father, Paul, has been long insistent that the 6-foot-4 freshman is a point guard. LaVine’s brief stint there against the Ducks didn’t disprove that argument. Late in regulation, Bryce Alford and LaVine swapped roles in the backcourt, with the latter taking the reins of the offense.

Alford has been serviceable as a backup point, but he could be even more effective as a two guard — where he can move off the ball and get better looks. The two 3-pointers he hit during the last 33 seconds of the second half were both assisted by LaVine. More importantly, though, is that giving the ball makes LaVine much more comfortable and better utilize his athleticism. Continue reading

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VIDEOS: Bruins talk to media after double-overtime loss to Oregon

Head coach Steve Alford, after the Bruins forced double overtime without their two best players: “I don’t know if I’ve been more proud of a basketball team during a regular season game.”

David Wear walks through his buzzer-beating 3-pointer, one that came off an inbounds pass from twin brother Travis with 1.2 seconds left in regulation. Continue reading

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Steve Alford talks UCLA’s progress before Bay Area trip

UCLA coach Steve Alford talked to the media today about Jordan Adams and Travis Wear’s recent shooting, as well as freshman guard Zach LaVine’s struggles from the field. Heading into their Bay Area trip, the Bruins are ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 25 in USA Today — their first appearance in the top 25 since Jan. 13.

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Notes and quotes: Bruins make habit of second-half runs

– Steve Alford is doing something right at halftime.

UCLA flipped the switch again in Saturday’s 80-66 win over Utah, one that featured a 12-0 run to start the second half. The trend has been most apparent in their last five games — with the Bruins outshooting opponents 52.9 percent to 40.6 percent after the break — but holds across a larger sample size too.

In second halves of its Pac-12 schedule, UCLA is shooting 48.0 percent from the field while allowing 41.6 percent.

“That’s where we make our runs,” point guard Kyle Anderson said. “Coach told us about the old Lakers teams, the old Bulls teams — the third quarter in the NBA is where the best teams are normally the best teams.”

The Bruins need to limit the slow starts that have plagued them as of late, but they’ve at least proven themselves capable of overcoming early rough patches.

– Has the defense improved? UCLA is ranked sixth in conference in field goal percentage defense, up slightly from eighth a year ago, but that’s due more to the competition: the number is only down half a percent to 42.0. Continue reading

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What to watch: Colorado at UCLA

Colorado (18-6, 7-4) at UCLA (18-5, 7-3)
When:
Thursday, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

No. 1: Norman Powell vs. Askia Booker. Last time these two met, UCLA’s junior guard had 19 points to his counterpart’s game-high 21. Powell is a strong man-to-man defender, so it’s Booker — two inches shorter, 45 pounds lighter — that will likely be at a disadvantage. The Colorado guard picked up four fouls when the Bruins visited Boulder, mostly due to Powell’s skill at driving down the lane.

The two have since blossomed into increasingly important roles for their respective teams. With star guard Spencer Dinwiddie sidelined, Booker is a main reason that the Buffs have won three straight. In his past six games, he is averaging 5.67 assists.

No. 2: The 3-point line. Colorado allows 37.1 percent of opposing shots to come from beyond the arc, which is the worst mark of anyone in the conference besides UCLA (42.2). Continue reading

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Notes and quotes: Norman Powell scores season-high 21 at USC

Norman Powell scored a season-high 21 points in UCLA’s 83-73 win at USC last night, 10 of which came in the first 7:08 of the second half as part of his team’s 27-6 run.

It’s not the first time the junior has played the spark plug role this season. In a 70-68 win at Oregon, he scored eight of UCLA’s first 10 points of the second half. In a 69-56 win at Colorado, he scored 19 and forced Buffs guard Askia Booker into early foul trouble.

What made his latest outing a bit different was the return of his shooting stroke. He entered the game shooting 18.4 percent from beyond the arc, but made 2-of-4 against the Trojans. It was the second time this season that he drained multiple 3-pointers.

His eight field goals on Saturday were also a single-game record for a UCLA player in the Galen Center, which was built before the 2006-07 season.

Powell’s improved play has come with increased playing time — though why that uptick hadn’t come earlier is still a pertinent question. The guard has played at least 30 minutes in three of his past four games. He had only cleared that mark in two other games: the first two of the season, against Drexel and Oakland. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s win over USC

UCLA’s sloppy start in 83-73 win over USC on Saturday reminded head coach Steve Alford of their collapse against Oregon State last weekend. The Bruins shot 37.1 percent in the first half, while allowing 59.3 to the Trojans.

“I didn’t like the looks on (our) faces,” he said.

Alford chewed out the team in the locker room, specifically harping on Jordan Adams, Norman Powell and Kyle Anderson — the team leadership — for their lack of defensive effort.

“We don’t get chewed out much, but we felt it,” Adams said.

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