Steve Alford: UCLA’s 83-50 win over WSU was best he’s seen

Steve Alford finally had something to smile about.

After watching his team lose three of its last four games, the UCLA head coach finally tinkered with his starting lineup. The result? An 83-50 win over Washington State, the Bruins’ largest margin of victory all season.

“Best 40 minutes we’ve had all year,” Alford said.

Stretch forward Jonah Bolden replaced senior big man Tony Parker to start the game, giving UCLA (13-9, 4-5) more flexibility on both offense and defense. Alford wouldn’t confirm that the change was permanent, but seemed disinclined to move back to the “big-big” lineup that the Bruins had used most of this year.

Instead of playing somewhat out of position at power forward, Parker moved to a backup center role behind sophomore Thomas Welsh. Welsh and Bolden essentially formed a first-string frontcourt platoon, while Parker played next to Gyorgy Goloman.

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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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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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USC’s recent rise bodes well for matchup against UCLA, Bruins say

UCLA is only a 2.5-point favorite heading into tonight’s 8 p.m. tipoff against USC at Pauley Pavilion, but the Trojans’ surprising 3-1 start in conference play seems to have the Bruins smiling too.

“You don’t want to play cupcakes,” point guard Bryce Alford said. “We’re not saying they were ever a cupcake. But we like that they’re getting better.”

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