Tony Parker scores career high against Stanford. Key? Anger.

UCLA’s 91-74 win over Stanford saw forward Tony Parker pour in a career-high 22 points — far beyond the 5.6 he had averaged against five previous Pac-12 opponents.

The key might have been a well-placed barb.

“You’ve got to get Tony mad,” said head coach Steve Alford. “It’s kind of hard to make him mad because everybody he sees, he’s friends with. It’s difficult to make him mad. Continue reading

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Tony Parker big down stretch in UCLA’s 75-67 win over Alabama

In the final minute against Alabama, Tony Parker had a block, two rebounds and made both of his free throws to give UCLA a 75-67 victory in the final tuneup at Pauley Pavilion before Pac-12 play begins.

Parker was a 43 percent free-throw shooter before Saturday’s game, where he made 80 percent (4 of 5), including two with 56 seconds left.

“That’s (been weighing) big on me,” Parker said. “I thought I was a better free-throw throw shooter. I keep shooting them in practice. It’s big for me and my game because I will get fouled a lot.” Continue reading

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What to watch: UCLA vs. No. 8 Duke

UCLA (9-1) vs. No. 8 Duke (8-2)
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

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Bruins hold off Gauchos, preserve perfect record

– 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

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Tony Parker has career night in UCLA’s blowout win

UCLA moved to 2-0 Tuesday night, easily dispatching Oakland University 91-60. The Bruins ended the first half on a 27-9 run, then stretched out another 18-2 run midway through the second half.

Sophomore center Tony Parker set new career highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds, crushing his previous bests of 12 and five. After playing just 20 minutes due to foul trouble in last week’s season opener, he said he made an emphasis to keep his hands up. He also added three blocks through 34 minutes.

“I just try to do my dirty work early,” he said of his offensive performance. “Get in position early. … It was hard to box me out. I just kept crashing.”

Norman Powell also had a nice game, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He flushed in a pair of impressive alley-oops, both assisted by freshman Bryce Alford.

“If you throw the ball up near the rim, I’ll go get it,” the junior guard said. “I’ll finish it for you 9 out of 10 times.”

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Bruins narrowly survive Dragons in season opener

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.”

Some notes and quotes from the game:

1. Kyle Anderson looks very comfortable at point guard. Continue reading

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Bruins cruise past CSU San Marcos in second exhibition

Another exhibition game, another 30-point win. Lifted by a pair of strong sophomore showings Monday night, UCLA easily dispatched Cal State San Marcos, 109-79.

Kyle Anderson, entrusted with more ball-handling duties his second year, stuffed the box score: 22 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists. He also hit both his attempts from beyond the arc, where he struggled a year ago with a 21.1 percent conversion rate. Continue reading

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Tony Parker down 25 pounds since freshman season

Injuries and middling play helped keep Tony Parker on the bench for most his freshman season. To remedy that, he’s dropped 25 pounds to 255, and plans to add five pounds of muscle before games start in October. He talked to the media today about how he fits into Steve Alford’s motion offense, and how much happier he is at UCLA this fall.

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New strength program paying dividends for Tony Parker

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A star-studded prep career made Tony Parker one of the top 10 centers in 2013, but that resume did little for him once he got to college. UCLA’s 6-foot-9 freshman averaged just 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds, struggling with back spasms, a sprained ankle and strained hamstring. When the Georgia native did make it on the court (6.3 mpg), he often racked up quick fouls. He thought about transferring.

The return of strength coach Wes Long, who left UCLA for Wyoming in 2011, convinced Parker to stay — and has since helped him shed over 20 pounds.

Q: How has Wes Long worked with you, and how much has it helped?

We usually do a lot of, a whole lot of bike riding. I ride the bike after every workout. We’re starting to do a little more upper body, because we’re bulking up in the summer. In the spring, I lost about 22 pounds. He’s doing a lot, a whole lot. Me and Wes have a great relationship. It’s just a hard-work relationship. He really wants me to get better. I just feel the energy with him. Continue reading

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Travis Wear discusses state of UCLA’s frontcourt

Even someone who didn’t watch a single UCLA basketball game last season can gain some sense of Travis Wear’s playing style. Just take a look at the stats.

Despite standing at 6-foot-10, 230 pounds, Wear attempted 70 percent of his shots on 2-point jumpers. No other Bruin took above 54 percent. While he averaged a respectable 42 percent on those shots, one of his goals this offseason is to gain strength to better play down low.

Head coach Steve Alford hasn’t explicitly told Wear he’ll play center, but the rising senior doesn’t see much of an alternative.

“Obviously, you look at the bigs, you have me, Dave (Wear), Tony (Parker) — we’re all going to be guarding fours and fives,” he said. “Somebody’s going to play the five at some point. It’s gonna happen.”

How much Travis Wear actually does shift his game inside likely depends on the development of Parker, the team’s lone true big man at 6-foot-9, 270 pounds. After a freshman year that saw him go from a touted recruit to a constant benchwarmer, he mulled a transfer but committed to staying at UCLA under the new coaching staff.

So far, his performance has been positive. The addition of full-time strength coach Wes Long is helping him trim down. Assistant Ed Schilling stresses ballhandling at the beginning of each workout, ensuring that every player — no matter what size — builds those same skills.

“It’s a fresh start for him,” Wear said. “He’s working hard. He’s really doing everything he has to, doing 100 percent in the workouts, doing extra conditioning with Wes so he can get in better shape. From everything I’ve seen so far, he’s looking good.”

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