Three thoughts after UCLA’s 89-75 loss to USC

UCLA’s 89-75 loss to USC sows more doubt about the trajectory of Steve Alford’s third season with the Bruins. (John McCoy/Staff)

1. How much can UCLA improve its defense? There was little dispute about the main reason behind the Bruins’ 89-75 loss to USC on Wednesday night, one that stands at one of the ugliest home efforts of the Steve Alford era.

The team gave up 89 points and allowed the Trojans to shoot 45 percent from beyond the arc. The Bruins rank last in the Pac-12 in the former category, and eighth in the latter. Combine that lackluster defense with a potent but inconsistent offense — and a very tough schedule — and you get an average scoring margin of just +2.6. Every other team in the conference is above 4.0, and six are in double digits.

What’s the solution? Alford hinted at potential lineup changes, saying that freshman forward Alex Olesinski — who didn’t play at all against the Trojans — could get more minutes. The third-year coach also mentioned sophomore Gyorgy Goloman, who returned from a stress fracture in his leg and saw the floor for two minutes in his season debut. But both are role players who have combined for just 526 career minutes. It’s difficult to imagine them being able to transform the team’s defensive performance within the next month or so. Continue reading

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USC 89, UCLA 75: Bruins searching for answers after loss to Trojans

A slight favorite entering Pauley Pavilion tonight, UCLA fell apart at home in an ugly 89-75 loss to USC — the team’s first in the rivalry in six tries. After the game, head coach Steve Alford, senior Tony Parker, and sophomore Thomas Welsh each cited defensive struggles as the root cause.

“I just don’t know if we’re bringing that energy defensively,” Welsh said. “It’s hurting us.”

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UCLA reserve forward Gyorgy Goloman probable to play vs. USC

UCLA forward Gyorgy Goloman could make his season debut against USC tonight. The reserve forward has been ruled probable for the 8 p.m. tipoff at Pauley Pavilion, and was warming up with the team before the game.

Goloman was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right leg back in mid-October, an injury that sidelined him through the Bruins’ first 17 games. A valuable reserve late in his freshman campaign, the Hungary native averaged 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds a year ago — totaling 12 points and 14 rebounds during one four-game stretch.

The best performance of his career came against the Trojans in the Pac-12 Tournament. He played 28 minutes in a blowout win, recording six points, seven rebounds and three assists.

“We need him,” head coach Steve Alford said last week. “We need the experience. We need the length up front. He would definitely help us defensively, where we’re not very good right now. That’s where we’ve really got to show the most growth. He would help us in that.”

UPDATE: Goloman made his season debut with 9:24 left in the first half and UCLA trailing 26-17 after four-minute scoring drought.

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USC’s recent rise bodes well for matchup against UCLA, Bruins say

UCLA is only a 2.5-point favorite heading into tonight’s 8 p.m. tipoff against USC at Pauley Pavilion, but the Trojans’ surprising 3-1 start in conference play seems to have the Bruins smiling too.

“You don’t want to play cupcakes,” point guard Bryce Alford said. “We’re not saying they were ever a cupcake. But we like that they’re getting better.”

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