USC 80, UCLA 61: Thomas Welsh

Thomas Welsh talked about UCLA’s 80-61 loss at USC, one that the Bruins’ opened by falling into a 9-0 hole. According to the sophomore center, the ugly offensive start trickled into the team’s defensive play too.

“That’s not the way it should be,” he said. “You should always be able to play hard on the defensive side of the ball, but we just weren’t making shots. It was downhill from there.”

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UCLA benches Tony Parker against WSU, starts Jonah Bolden

UCLA forward Jonah Bolden (left) will make his second start against Washington State, replacing senior big man Tony Parker. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

UCLA forward Jonah Bolden (left) will make his second start against Washington State, replacing senior big man Tony Parker. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

UCLA will start forward Jonah Bolden against Washington State this, shaking up the starting lineup in an attempt to fix the team’s defensive struggles.

The sophomore is making just his second start of the season, moving up over senior big man Tony Parker. After Thursday’s 86-84 loss to Washington, head coach Steve Alford said that the team’s “big-big” lineup of Parker and sophomore center Thomas Welsh was becoming too ineffective in getting stops.

“It’s not working,” he said. “We’re slow. We’re not reacting to things.”

After the game, Alford agreed that UCLA (12-9, 3-5) looked more effective when it paired Bolden, who is an inch taller than the 6-foot-9 Parker but 40 pounds lighter, with Welsh. The sophomore played 26 minutes against the Huskies and led the game with 11 rebounds, just the third time this season that he hit double digits in that category.

“We got to more balls,” Alford said. “We pursued things with more urgency. We were much more athletic. That’s something we’ve got to look at.”

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Bryce Alford: UCLA hasn’t played its best basketball yet

UCLA is one of just four teams with losing records in Pac-12 play this season. Given the league’s parity, however, it’s not as dire a situation as some may think.

The Bruins (12-8, 3-4) head into tonight’s 7 p.m. tipoff against Washington just two games back of first place — held by the Huskies and Oregon. Although head coach Steve Alford is still trying to figure out the team’s best defensive rotations, finishing at or near the top of the conference still isn’t out of the question.

“We haven’t played our best basketball yet,” said point guard Bryce Alford. “That’s definitely encouraging. It gives us confidence that, usually around this time of year, we start playing pretty well. … If we can continue to keep working and get hot right now, we’ll be just fine.”

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USC 89, UCLA 75: Bruins searching for answers after loss to Trojans

A slight favorite entering Pauley Pavilion tonight, UCLA fell apart at home in an ugly 89-75 loss to USC — the team’s first in the rivalry in six tries. After the game, head coach Steve Alford, senior Tony Parker, and sophomore Thomas Welsh each cited defensive struggles as the root cause.

“I just don’t know if we’re bringing that energy defensively,” Welsh said. “It’s hurting us.”

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