The UCLA men’s basketball team starts its Pac-12 schedule tonight at Washington (8 p.m., FOX Sports 1), and is feeling much more confident than it did a year ago. The No. 25 Bruins, however, are still hoping for a boost from their reserves.
UCLA’s five-game winning streak ended on Saturday in an 89-76 loss to No. 11 North Carolina. The Bruins ran out an early lead in Brooklyn thanks to some hot 3-point shooting, but their turnover habit allowed the Tar Heels to tie the game before the break.
While beating Kentucky and Gonzaga still puts UCLA ahead of the curve in its nonconference schedule, its second half against UNC exposed some of its flaws. The No. 22 Bruins struggled to defend in transition, giving up a final tally of 14 fast-break points. And, with Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh both getting into foul trouble, 6-foot-10 forward Brice Johnson erupted for 27 points — making 11 shots in a row after missing his first attempt.
UCLA finished with only 11 assists against 17 turnovers, which led to 24 points for North Carolina.
STEVE ALFORD: I’m really proud of our guys. We have had a really good stretch. We’ve shown growth and improvement. I thought we did that again in the first half of this game. We did a nice job in a lot of areas. We just had two glaring weakness today. That was turnovers, which we’ve done a really good job in the past two weeks of limiting turnovers. We had too many turnovers and we just couldn’t get stops in transition.
This is a really good basketball team. It’s got a lot of experience, a lot of seniors, depth, big. They’re just really good and really talented. I appreciate how our guys fought. We’ve shown growth in the past two and a half weeks. What this game proves is that there’s still a lot of growth to go. Hopefully, that’s the message our guys can get out of it.
We have one more non-league game. We take a little break. Then, we come back and have about eight days before we start a very difficult league. We’ve got the better part of two weeks to continue that growth. Hopefully, our guys see that.
Q. For Tony, what do you think the impact was of you getting the four fouls and not playing very much for quite a stretch there in the second half? Because it seemed like that was where they really attacked the basket.
TONY PARKER: It was huge. It was big. I let my teammates down. That was just — foul trouble cannot be a problem in this game, and it was. It really hurt us in the second half.
Q. How tough was it to stop when Brice Johnson was pulling, especially in the final 4:27, he had 11 shots? How was that?
PARKER: He runs well. When you’re in foul trouble, you tend to be less aggressive. Me and Tom just got to stay aggressive and keep our bodies moving. I think that’s where he got us. We stopped moving on a lot of plays and cross screens. We’ve got to stay active and keep moving because he’s a very active player. Continue reading
Steve Alford gave a few updates on No. 22 UCLA before the team left campus for a flight to New York City. The Bruins are slated to play No. 11 North Carolina on Saturday at 10 a.m. PT at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
» Center Thomas Welsh and reserve guard Prince Ali have a chance to return this weekend after sitting out Tuesday night’s win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
Welsh, who was out with a stomach virus, looked better this morning and appears on track to suit up on Saturday. Ali, who suffered a bone bruise on his left knee against Gonzaga last weekend, remains day to day. Continue reading
— UCLA Basketball (@UCLAMBB) December 13, 2015
1. This might be Steve Alford’s most intriguing UCLA team yet. The Bruins pulled off their most impressive road win in years on Saturday, upsetting No. 20 Gonzaga in a 71-66 decision. They became just the 11th team to ever beat the Bulldogs at McCarthey Athletic Center, which opened in 2004.
A few caveats: The Bulldogs don’t look nearly as good as they did a year ago after losing all three backcourt starters, becoming much more prone to turnovers and missed shots. Center Przemek Karnowski also missed his fourth straight game due to back spams; his absence likely helped UCLA’s Tony Parker hit his first eight shots of the game. Even forward Domantas Sabonis, who had 18 points and eight rebounds, looked banged up for much of the game.
But still, a win is a win, and this is one that will look very good on the Bruins’ resume come Selection Sunday. Continue reading
Steve Alford had a teleconference from Hawaii this morning, where the UCLA men’s basketball team will practice again before flying back later today. The Bruins (3-3) are coming off a fourth-place finish in the Maui Invitational, but have already lost three games in November for the first time since 2011.
They return to Pauley Pavilion on Sunday at 4 p.m. against Cal State Northridge. Some quick notes from Alford:
» Senior big man Tony Parker called out the team’s toughness after an 80-77 loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday night. While Alford said some of that was due to frustration, he didn’t disagree with the sentiment either.
“We’ve got a great group of young men,” Alford said. “They’re fun to coach. But we definitely have to get tougher.”
He also gave two main reasons for UCLA’s 19-point blowout loss to Kansas on Tuesday. The first was fatigue: The Jayhawks were coming off a 51-point win over Chaminade, while his team had just held off UNLV in a two-point squeaker. The second?
“We’re not as good as Kansas right now,” he said. “We’re just not.”
The Bruins host No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 3, travel to No. 10 Gonzaga on Dec. 12, and play ninth-ranked North Carolina at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn a week after that.
Alford again remained hopeful that UCLA’s early struggles will pay off later on in the season. He also pointed out that the parity across college basketball. Monmouth, which upset the Bruins to open the season before falling to USC, notched its first-ever win over a ranked team last night by knocking off No. 17 Notre Dame.
» Forward Gyorgy Goloman has been sidelined by a stress fracture since Oct. 11. He was given a recovery timetable of six to eight weeks then, but will be reevaluated by a doctor on Tuesday. The team is hoping to get a more precise return date after that. Continue reading