UCLA men’s basketball makes AP poll debut at No. 22

UCLA’s Norman Powell makes a layup against Long Beach State during a 77-63 win at Pauley Pavilion on Nov. 23, 2014. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

It needed four games, but UCLA men’s basketball has made its first appearance in the Associated Press top 25 this season.

The Bruins debuted at No. 22 after beating Long Beach State, 77-63, at on Sunday night. The 49ers provided UCLA with its first real challenge at Pauley Pavilion, closing to within five points with three minutes left. Steve Alford’s team held an 11-point halftime lead, but shot just 37.5 percent from the field and 9-of-18 from the line in the second half.

“That’s the poorest we’ve been coming out of halftime. But we needed this,” Alford said. “We needed to see what happens when someone punches you in the second half.”

The Bruins now travel to the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, opening with a 11:30 a.m. PT tipoff against Oklahoma on Wednesday. They will then face either Butler or No. 5 North Carolina on Thursday, and another team on Friday. The tournament also features No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 18 Florida, and Georgetown.

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UCLA holds off Long Beach State in 77-63 win at Pauley Pavilion

UCLA moved to 4-0 on a 77-63 win over Long Beach State, but allowed the 49ers to get within five points with 3:00 left on the clock. Norman Powell and Bryce Alford combined for 41 points, while Kevon Looney logged his third straight double-double. Here’s the game story from Chris Trevino, who filled in at Pauley Pavilion tonight.

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Bryce Alford notches second double-double in three games

We’re just three games into the UCLA basketball season, and Bryce Alford already has the first two double-doubles of his career.

The Bruins’ sophomore point guard has started making an argument for Pac-12 Most Improved Player of the Year. As a freshman, there were times he looked like more of a two-guard, eventually finishing a season off the bench with averages of 8.0 points and 2.8 assists on 38.5-percent shooting.

UCLA hasn’t played anyone of note yet, comfortably rolling past Montana State, Coastal Carolina and — on Thursday night — Nicholls State. But in a 107-74 win over the Colonels, Alford had a sparking line of 28 points, a career-high 13 assists and just one turnover. Continue reading

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Four-star shooting guard Prince Ali officially joins UCLA’s 2015 class

Prince Ali has officially signed with the UCLA men’s basketball team, the school announced Thursday, giving the Bruins a second top backcourt prospect in their 2015 class.

The four-star shooting guard is a consensus top-40 national recruit according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, and is a former Sagemont (Fla.) High teammate of UCLA freshman forward Gyorgy Goloman. Ali joins a class that includes four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, whose signing was announced Wednesday.

“Prince is an extremely talented player who has established himself as one of the premier backcourt players in the country,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He’s a big, athletic guard who has tremendous versatility and comes to our program with a strong understanding of a winning culture. Prince is a wonderful young man and a great addition to the Bruin family.

“When you factor in the signing of Aaron Holiday, our staff couldn’t be more excited about the start of this 2015 class.”

The Bruins do not currently have any other 2015 basketball commitments.

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UCLA signs four-star point guard Aaron Holiday

UCLA has officially signed four-star point guard Aaron Holiday, the younger brother of former Bruin and current New Orleans Pelicans’ guard Jrue Holiday.

Aaron Holiday is one of two commitments that UCLA currently holds in the class of 2015. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound guard is ranked the No. 58 best prospect in the country by Rivals.com, and No. 36 by Scout.com. A natural scorer with impressive athleticism, Holiday was named CIF Southern Section Division 4A Player of the Year after his junior season at North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall.

“Aaron is a very talented player who we know will really help our backcourt next season,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He is a quick, tough guard who possesses the ability to be both an efficient scorer and a lockdown defender. Our coaching staff is excited to add a player of Aaron’s caliber, both on and off the court, to our 2015 class, and we are thrilled to welcome him to the Bruin family.”

Older brother Jrue Holiday only spent one season with the Bruins, averaging 8.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.8 rebounds while playing out of position next to then-starting point guard Darren Collison. Continue reading

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