UCLA 69, Utah 59: Steve Alford talks about Bruins’ biggest win yet

Head coach Steve Alford talked after UCLA’s 69-59 win over No. 11 Utah, easily the Bruins’ biggest win of the season and their first against a ranked opponent.

Key to the upset was senior guard Norman Powell, who scored a game-high 23 points and opened scoring with a steal and a fast-break layup. He also helped hold Utes point guard Delon Wright to four first-half points.

“He’s a senior and he made a lot of big plays for us tonight,” Alford said. “As a senior, when you get that kind of leadership, guys are going to follow. I thought it was even more than Norman. it was a tremendous team effort. Everyone trusted each other.”

Full game story here.

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VIDEO: Jonah Bolden practices with UCLA after being cleared

Jonah Bolden practiced for the first time in front of Los Angeles media on Tuesday, providing a glimpse at the type of player that could have changed the arc of UCLA’s season.

A four-star recruit, the 6-foot-10 wing was ruled ineligible to play this season, but this week the NCAA cleared him to begin practicing. Bolden said that he had been able to get individual training with assistant coach with Ed Schilling over the past few months. He described those as being tailored for his frame and body type, name-dropping Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as a pro comparison.

Added head coach Steve Alford: “He’s a big guard, or he can play a stretch four and really do a lot of things helping both bigs and guards.”

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Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s big men, preparation for Utah

Steve Alford talked to reporters today before UCLA’s practice, touching on the Bruins’ preparation for Thursday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against No. 11 Utah at Pauley Pavilion. The Utes blew out UCLA in Salt Lake City on Jan. 4, winning 71-39.

Some of the main notes:

– Center Tony Parker is still “day-to-day” with back spasms. He returned to practice with UCLA on Tuesday, but only did non-contact work. Senior guard Norman Powell did not practice on Tuesday with an illness — the latest setback for him after a bruised hip and two dislocated fingers.

– If Parker isn’t ready to play against Utah, true freshman Thomas Welsh will likely make his third career start. But at this point in his career, the 7-footer is more of a jump shooter — one who isn’t capable of anchoring the inside-out offense that worked well during UCLA’s three-game winning streak. He has taken just 39.4 percent of his shots at the rim this season, making 45.9 percent of them.

The key for Welsh, Alford said, is learning to initiate contact rather than bouncing away from it. The coach sees Welsh as a player who could be averaging around seven or eight points off the bench this season. Continue reading

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Four-star foward Jonah Bolden cleared to practice with UCLA

Talented true freshman Jonah Bolden has been cleared to practice with the UCLA men’s basketball team, giving the Bruins a bit of help as they try to shake off seven losses in their last 10 games.

A four-star small forward, Bolden will remain ineligible to compete in games this season. The NCAA had ruled the 6-foot-9 recruit a partial qualifier back in September, with the troubles rooted in his transfer from Australia to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas.

Continue reading

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UCLA continues downward spiral with two straight losses

That three-game winning streak looks like nothing more than a speck in the rearview.

Just a week after emerging from an ugly, five-loss slump during the holidays, the UCLA men’s basketball team looks as disjointed as ever — losing back-to-back games at Oregon State and Oregon, and all but certainly saying goodbye to already slim March Madness hopes.

The weekend trip north resulted in arguably the Bruins’ worst two-game stretch of the season, one that saw them shoot 35.8 percent from the field while allowing 57.3 to their opponents. And it’s not as if UCLA had the excuse of facing top-notch competition (neither the Beavers nor the Ducks are ranked) or being worn out by travel (a seven-day layoff before Thursday’s loss). And yet, this is a team that — as presently constructed — does not look capable of doing anything right on either end of the court.

It is easy to point at the absence of Tony Parker as the reason for the Bruins’ struggles. The junior center had been in the middle of what looked like a career breakthrough, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in four games and helping UCLA establish a consistent inside-out offensive attack. But during individual workouts this past weekend, he began suffering from back spasms and remained at home while his teammates flew up to the Beaver State. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s 83-66 win at USC

Asked what the difference has been for UCLA — which has won three straight — head coach Steve Alford referred repeatedly to location.

The Bruins had lost five games in three different time zones before returning the Pauley Pavilion to earn its first two Pac-12 wins of the season. On Wednesday night, it tacked on a third in an 83-66 win at USC.

“I really think getting home (helped),” Alford said. “We’ve talked about it, and I’ve tried not to make it sound like an excuse, because I know people can spin it that way. It’s not an excuse. I mean, look at it. There’s not another BCS school that went 26 days (between home games).

“And then look at the trips we take. Chicago. Back home for Christmas. Back to Westwood. Then to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Then back to Westwood. Then to Colorado, Utah. … Guys got a little bit tired. We get home, we get a little more energy.”

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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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