Earlier this month, Missouri outscored UCLA by 17 in the second half of a nine-point victory. In Thursday night’s 80-63 win at Madison Square Garden, No. 8 Duke did the same to the Bruins.
Now 11 games into their first season under coach Steve Alford, UCLA has rolled over subpar opponents while falling short late against big-name programs. The team is promising: it can put up points, and it can do so at the breakneck pace promised before the season. But it also lacks fortitude on defense and on the boards, and has yet to prove late-game resolve.
UCLA (9-1) vs. No. 8 Duke (8-2)
Location: 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 →
– UCLA handled Prairie View A&M with ease in Saturday’s 95-71 win, running out a 20-point lead late in the first half and stretching it to as much as 34 in the second. The main story of the night, though, was Travis Wear’s return to the starting lineup.
Following his appendectomy in late October, the senior forward has looked rusty early on, going without a field goal in his past two games. Originally penciled in as a starter alongside twin brother David before the season, he told Alford he was fine with a reserve role. Continue reading →
Q: What is your gut feeling on whether or not Brett Hundley stays? Should he decide to bolt for the NFL, who do you see as starting QB next year? Does Mariota’s announcement that he’s returning for his junior year at Oregon affect BH’s decision? If he leaves, will Devin Fuller get a chance to be quarterback? Do you see a big dropoff from Hundley to the next QB?
A: I think he stays, though I could see a team reaching for him in the first round based on potential. Marcus Mariota’s return to Oregon does thin out the quarterback class, however, as does Zach Mettenberger’s torn ACL. Even Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, a potential No. 1 overall pick, isn’t a complete lock to declare for the draft.
If Hundley does leave, the job will go to Asiantii Woulard, who has major upside. Unless he makes significant strides in spring and fall, however, he wouldn’t be close to what Hundley would do as a third-year starter. Devin Fuller won’t be moving back to quarterback; he’s much more useful as a receiver.
Q: What is the deal with the Wear twins’ slump? Senior leadership works better when your seniors aren’t worse than the underclassmen. Continue reading →
Former UCLA star Shabazz Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit federal fraud.
According the the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Holmes is cooperating in the investigation into his $2.5 million mortgage fraud scheme, one that involved helping straw buyers acquire loans on at least three different Las Vegas properites. Two bank fraud counts are being dismissed.
Holmes agreed to pay $1.7 million in restitution, and will be sentenced on March 13. He could face two to three years in prison, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Muhammad, the 14th overall pick in the last NBA draft, has scored eight points in 33 minutes this season.
Freshman guard Zach LaVine hung out with me and staff photographer Hans Gutknecht for a bit this week and showed off a few dunks. Here’s the story that ran in today’s Daily News, on the most exciting draw at Pauley Pavilion this season.
UCLA’s biggest hole next year looks to be shrinking quickly. This morning, the Bruins landed four-star forward Jonah Bolden, an Australian native playing this season at Findlay Prep. Continue reading →
Missouri handed No. 18 UCLA its first loss of the season on Saturday, defeating the Bruins 80-71 and extending its home winning streak to 24 games. Jabari Brown scored a game-high 22 points, and was one of three Tigers with at least 20 points.
UCLA’s season-low in scoring came on just 37.7 percent shooting, going 8-of-31 in the second. Sophomore guard Jordan Adams had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine each had 13 points.
Travis and David Wear combined for four points in 43 minutes.
– 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 →