Oregon 76, UCLA 68: Steve Alford

As center Tony Parker said Wednesday night, UCLA’s struggles have become a “broken record.”

The Bruins fell to Oregon, 76-68, in yet another game that showed off the team’s now-unsurprising inconsistency. In the first half, they held the league-leading Ducks to 35.7 percent from the field, while shooting 54.8 percent. In the second featured almost a mirror image: Oregon rose up to 54.8 percent, while UCLA slid down to 42.9.

The team is now 15-15 overall and 6-11 in the Pac-12, their highest conference loss total since 2003-04.

“Defensively, we worked, and most of it was zone,” said Bruin head coach Steve Alford. “Most of where they got us was in transition. This is the best team in our league, and we shot a high percentage. We just didn’t make enough big plays in the end to get over the hump.”

That zone defense, Parker said, was one reason why the Bruins gave up a 40-28 edge on the glass. The Ducks grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and scored 10 second-chance points.

“The ball goes up, it’s not like five-on-five, where you pretty much know who you’re boxing out every time,” Parker said. “In zone, it could be a different player every time. Sometimes, I might be out on the 3-point line boxing out somebody. … It’s just a different adjustment. We didn’t make it in the second half, but they did.”

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Steve Alford: Close losses factor into UCLA’s disappointing season

The UCLA men’s basketball team is currently on track to place 10th in the Pac-12, a finish that would stand as the lowest of the program’s post-Wooden era.

Asked on Tuesday about what he would do to assuage upset fans, third-year head coach Steve Alford said that the Bruins are just as frustrated with this season’s results — emphasizing the nature of some of their losses, as well as the possibility of a late turnaround in March.

“There’s not a player in the locker room, there’s not a coach on our staff that’s happy that we’re 6-10 in league play,” Alford said. “We’re 15-14 overall. That’s not what we aspire to. …

“Five games, we’ve lost by one possession. Three of them in league play. If you can just get those — that’s the difference of where we’re at now versus, what? 20-9 and 9-7. That’s how close you are. But close doesn’t get it. It’s still the reality. We’re 15-14 and 6-10. And that’s not where we aspire to be. That’s not where we want to be. But that is what we are.”

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UCLA basketball to wear ‘Made in March’ postseason alternates

UCLA's latest "Made in March" uniforms are far from the worst alternates adidas has ever released. (UCLA Athletics)

UCLA’s latest “Made in March” uniforms are far from the worst alternates adidas has ever released. (UCLA Athletics)

Staying true to its annual tradition, Adidas has designed new “Made in March” uniforms to, erm, brighten up the college basketball postseason.

Credit the apparel company with this: By releasing the infamous Zubaz shorts in 2013, it has set the floor so low that just about anything looks good in comparison. In this year’s Pac-12 Tournament, UCLA will wear a fairly traditional color scheme, with a faded triangle pattern just below the waistband meant to evoke John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success.”

How many appearances the Bruins (15-14, 6-10) will make in these new alternates remains unclear. They are currently on track to be the No. 10 seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

In other basketball news, a petition calling for the firing of third-year head coach Steve Alford has collected more than 1,000 signatures, not an insubstantial figure. Of course, neither is the buyout stipulated in his contract: If UCLA were to dismiss Alford before April 30, 2017, it would owe him $10.4 million, paid out in monthly installments until 2021.

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UCLA clinches fourth losing conference record in 14 years

Less than two weeks ago, Steve Alford publicly held on to hope. He talked about UCLA’s ability to make a late run, to bolster a resume that had become thinner and thinner since the turn of the new year.

Now, finally, the Bruins seem to have run out of time. A 79-70 loss at Stanford on Saturday clinched them a losing conference record — just the fourth time this has happened in the post-Wooden era. All four occurrences have come in the last 14 years.

UCLA’s path to an NCAA Tournament berth will almost certainly require them to win the Pac-12 Tournament. Judging from the type of basketball these Bruins (15-14, 6-10) have played as of late, however, and that seems like a Sisyphean task.

At Maples Pavilion, UCLA showed little sign that it can fix the problems that have haunted the team all season. It allowed the Cardinal to shoot 61.2 percent from the field, their highest mark of the season. Only one other Pac-12 team — Oregon — had allowed Stanford to clear even 48 percent.

Much of the damage was done inside. Sophomore forward Michael Humphrey scored 24 points, just two points shy of the career high he set against Washington State earlier this month. The 6-foot-9 big man helped give Stanford a 32-18 scoring edge in the paint, corralling four of his team’s nine offensive boards.

UCLA, on the other hand, stayed within striking distance thanks in large part to their efficiency from beyond the arc. Continue reading

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After loss at Cal, UCLA won’t have shot at winning conference record

After a 75-63 loss to Cal, UCLA coach Steve Alford is now 9-17 in Pac-12 road games in three seasons. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

After a 75-63 loss to Cal, UCLA coach Steve Alford is now 9-17 in Pac-12 road games in three seasons. (Steve McCrank/Staff)

Against the Pac-12’s stingiest defense, UCLA needed nearly five minutes to finally make its first field goal. The Bruins never erased that deficit.

A 75-63 loss at Cal on Thursday kept Steve Alford at just two Pac-12 road wins this season, and knocked him down to an uninspiring 9-17 record during his UCLA tenure. With just three games left in the regular season, the Bruins (15-13, 6-9) are now assured their a non-winning conference record for just the fifth time since 1978 — when the league expanded to 10 teams and an 18-game schedule.

The more immediate ramifications are the almost certain erasure of the Bruins’ chances at the NCAA Tournament. If so, it comes in a year that might see the Pac-12 produce as many as seven March Madness bids, the most in the league’s 12-team era.

While losing at Haas Pavilion wasn’t exactly a case of the Bruins playing down to an inferior team, they also didn’t exactly help themselves. They missed their first five shots, finally breaking through on a floater by junior Isaac Hamilton. Throw in three early turnovers, and that meant a 13-1 game-opening run by Cal — not the type of cushion you want to give to a team that is undefeated at home. Continue reading

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