Norman Powell earns second Pac-12 Player of the Week honor

In the midst of a career stretch, UCLA’s Norman Powell has been named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the second time this season.

The senior guard has scored 68 points on 56.1 percent shooting in his last three games, the first time that he has ever strung together three consecutive efforts of at least 20 points. He did this by rediscovering his penchant for attacking the lane — scoring efficiently despite hitting just one of six 3-pointers during the same stretch.

Still the Bruins’ best on-ball defender, he totaled seven steals in wins over Utah and Colorado, as well as nine rebounds and five assists.

Powell had been previously named the conference’s weekly MVP on Nov. 24, after he combined to score 47 points in wins over Nicholls State and Long Beach State. Freshman forward Kevon Looney also won Pac-12 Player of the Week on Jan. 12, making UCLA the only school to have three such honors this season.

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UCLA 72, Colorado 59: Steve Alford talks about Bruins’ ‘next step’

UCLA beat Colorado easily on Saturday night, finishing off a 72-59 decision that didn’t look as close as the final score. The Bruins have only lost one game at home this season, but have only won once outside of Los Angeles in nine tries.

“That’s the next step that this team’s got to do,” Alford said.

The Bruins visit Stanford on Thursday and Cal on Saturday, both of whom they were able to beat at Pauley Pavilion this month.

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At a glance: UCLA vs. Colorado

UCLA Bruins (12-9, 4-4) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (11-9, 4-4)
Tipoff: Saturday, Jan. 31, 7:35 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Roxy Bernstein, Bill Walton)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: Colorado is one of several teams jostling around the middle of the Pac-12, and are thus unsurprisingly pedestrian in most statistical categories — although it is the best in the conference at keeping opponents off the free throw line. Conversely, it is third-to-last in forcing turnovers.

Big man Josh Scott has been sidelined for a month with a back injury, and did not travel to Los Angeles. When healthy, he is Colorado’s most efficient scorer. Forward Wesley Gordon has stepped in to fill the rebounding void, and is averaging 11.5 boards in his last four games.

The Buffaloes haven’t beaten a team ranked top-100 in RPI except UCLA.

The Bruins just notched their biggest win of the season in Thursday night’s 69-59 upset of No. 11 Utah. One major victory isn’t enough to change the course of the season, but UCLA looks like a team that can conceivably clean out the rest of its home schedule — especially given that they don’t host Arizona this year.

Norman Powell entered his senior season as the presumptive leader of Steve Alford’s team, but hasn’t become the dominant go-to option the team had hoped for. Although he’s become a better 3-point shooter overall, he’s only hit one of his last 16 attempts from beyond the arc (over five games). Continue reading

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UCLA 69, Utah 59: Steve Alford talks about Bruins’ biggest win yet

Head coach Steve Alford talked after UCLA’s 69-59 win over No. 11 Utah, easily the Bruins’ biggest win of the season and their first against a ranked opponent.

Key to the upset was senior guard Norman Powell, who scored a game-high 23 points and opened scoring with a steal and a fast-break layup. He also helped hold Utes point guard Delon Wright to four first-half points.

“He’s a senior and he made a lot of big plays for us tonight,” Alford said. “As a senior, when you get that kind of leadership, guys are going to follow. I thought it was even more than Norman. it was a tremendous team effort. Everyone trusted each other.”

Full game story here.

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VIDEO: Jonah Bolden practices with UCLA after being cleared

Jonah Bolden practiced for the first time in front of Los Angeles media on Tuesday, providing a glimpse at the type of player that could have changed the arc of UCLA’s season.

A four-star recruit, the 6-foot-10 wing was ruled ineligible to play this season, but this week the NCAA cleared him to begin practicing. Bolden said that he had been able to get individual training with assistant coach with Ed Schilling over the past few months. He described those as being tailored for his frame and body type, name-dropping Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo as a pro comparison.

Added head coach Steve Alford: “He’s a big guard, or he can play a stretch four and really do a lot of things helping both bigs and guards.”

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Steve Alford talks about UCLA’s big men, preparation for Utah

Steve Alford talked to reporters today before UCLA’s practice, touching on the Bruins’ preparation for Thursday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against No. 11 Utah at Pauley Pavilion. The Utes blew out UCLA in Salt Lake City on Jan. 4, winning 71-39.

Some of the main notes:

– Center Tony Parker is still “day-to-day” with back spasms. He returned to practice with UCLA on Tuesday, but only did non-contact work. Senior guard Norman Powell did not practice on Tuesday with an illness — the latest setback for him after a bruised hip and two dislocated fingers.

– If Parker isn’t ready to play against Utah, true freshman Thomas Welsh will likely make his third career start. But at this point in his career, the 7-footer is more of a jump shooter — one who isn’t capable of anchoring the inside-out offense that worked well during UCLA’s three-game winning streak. He has taken just 39.4 percent of his shots at the rim this season, making 45.9 percent of them.

The key for Welsh, Alford said, is learning to initiate contact rather than bouncing away from it. The coach sees Welsh as a player who could be averaging around seven or eight points off the bench this season. Continue reading

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VIDEO: UCLA’s Jonah Bolden talks about being cleared practice

Jonah Bolden was cleared to practice with UCLA this week, four months after being ruled ineligible to play this season by the NCAA.

Today, the four-star wing spoke to reporters for the first time, touching on what he’s been working on in his game and what he sees in his future.

Asked if he’s considering entering the NBA draft over returning to UCLA next season, the 6-foot-9 Bolden said: “Most definitely, my goal is to get to the NBA, but my main priority right now is here at UCLA.”

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Four-star foward Jonah Bolden cleared to practice with UCLA

Talented true freshman Jonah Bolden has been cleared to practice with the UCLA men’s basketball team, giving the Bruins a bit of help as they try to shake off seven losses in their last 10 games.

A four-star small forward, Bolden will remain ineligible to compete in games this season. The NCAA had ruled the 6-foot-9 recruit a partial qualifier back in September, with the troubles rooted in his transfer from Australia to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas.

Continue reading

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UCLA continues downward spiral with two straight losses

That three-game winning streak looks like nothing more than a speck in the rearview.

Just a week after emerging from an ugly, five-loss slump during the holidays, the UCLA men’s basketball team looks as disjointed as ever — losing back-to-back games at Oregon State and Oregon, and all but certainly saying goodbye to already slim March Madness hopes.

The weekend trip north resulted in arguably the Bruins’ worst two-game stretch of the season, one that saw them shoot 35.8 percent from the field while allowing 57.3 to their opponents. And it’s not as if UCLA had the excuse of facing top-notch competition (neither the Beavers nor the Ducks are ranked) or being worn out by travel (a seven-day layoff before Thursday’s loss). And yet, this is a team that — as presently constructed — does not look capable of doing anything right on either end of the court.

It is easy to point at the absence of Tony Parker as the reason for the Bruins’ struggles. The junior center had been in the middle of what looked like a career breakthrough, averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in four games and helping UCLA establish a consistent inside-out offensive attack. But during individual workouts this past weekend, he began suffering from back spasms and remained at home while his teammates flew up to the Beaver State. Continue reading

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UCLA’s comeback falls short in 66-55 loss at Oregon State

Give UCLA at least this: It didn’t go down easy.

Gill Coliseum has not been an easy place to play this season. Before the Bruins arrived in Corvallis for what would turn out to be a 66-55 loss to Oregon State on Thursday night, 10 other teams had entered the 9,600-seat stadium — and 10 teams had left empty-handed. That tally included No. 7 Arizona, which suffered a two-point upset there earlier this month.

So the location already bode poorly for UCLA, which has not won a game outside of Los Angeles since Nov. 28. The absence of center Tony Parker, who did not make the trip due to back spasms, hardly helped either. In his place was freshman Thomas Welsh, a 7-footer making his first career start.

And at the start of the game, it was Welsh who opened up scoring, sinking a jumper 17 seconds in. UCLA needed another eight minutes to hit a second field goal. Continue reading

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