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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UCLA falls at Utah, stuck in first five-loss streak since 2009

This has not been a good year for UCLA men’s basketball.

Just two weeks after being embarrassed on national television by No. 1 Kentucky, the Bruins face-planted again — this time in an ugly 71-39 loss at No. 10 Utah. That was UCLA’s lowest single-game scoring total since Feb. 17, 1967, and marked its first five-game losing streak since December 2009.

UCLA began its afternoon at the Huntsman Center by falling in a 6-0 hole, crept back to within one point, then gave up another 11-0 run to Utah. It was more or less over after that, with the only questions left being: a) how many more ill-conceived shots the Bruins would launch at the rim, and b) how many more “Airball!” chants would volley down from the Utes’ fans.

Point guard Bryce Alford dug deeper into his shooting slump, opening the game with a pair of bricks from beyond the arc and finishing 0-for-10 from the field. After a decent offensive start to the season, the sophomore is in a 5-of-39 drought in his last three games. Continue reading

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UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley scouts Colorado offensive line

Colorado has only given up 12 sacks this season, good for the second-best mark in the Pac-12.

UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley said the key to besting the Buffs is to rely on get-off and speed rushes — as well as using his hands to avoid chop blocks.

“When they try to chop block you, they try to tear your ACL,” McKinley said. “To me, that’s dirty. To them, it’s their job. But to me, it’s pretty dirty.”

Asked if he’d noticed any other Pac-12 teams use chop-blocks, McKinley pointed out Utah — which beat UCLA 30-28. Oregon and Arizona State, on the other hand, weren’t major offenders. “Cal, their running backs did it a lot,” he continued. “I’d come in there full speed, and their little running backs just might go straight for my legs. So did the little tight ends they have.”

RELATED:
» A couple of Bruins are already familiar with Colorado receiver Nelson Spruce.
» Brett Hundley’s turnovers have been particularly untimely for UCLA.

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UCLA left tackle Malcolm Bunche: ‘It’s redemption time’

Coming off its first loss of the season, one particular set of UCLA players may particularly eager to hit the field again for Saturday’s showdown against No. 12 Oregon.

“It’s redemption time, man,” said Bruin left tackle Malcolm Bunche. “As an offense, we gave up what, 10 sacks? It’s time to redeem ourselves. And we know it.”

Them, and just about everyone else who saw Utah pull a 30-28 upset at the Rose Bowl last Saturday. The Utes unleashed 10 sacks, including three straight to snuff a fourth-quarter UCLA drive just inches in front of its own goal line.

Those 10 sacks, Utah’s highest single-game tally since 1983, again exposed an offensive line that had appeared to improve through its first four games. After allowing five sacks at Virginia in a performance that offensive line coach Adrian Klemm called “one of the sh–iest performances I’ve been a part of as a player or a coach,” the unit buckled down: four sacks given up to Memphis, three to Texas, one to Arizona State. Continue reading

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VIDEO: Brett Hundley reviews UCLA’s loss, looks to Oregon

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley looked back on Monday at his team’s 30-28 loss to Utah and the 10 sacks he took, and looked forward to Saturday’s tilt against No. 12 Oregon.

“It’s a big game for us,” Hundley said. “But like I said, this game isn’t bigger than any other game previously. This is another game, obviously, the whole nation is going to be watching. We can go out and show the country what UCLA’s really about.”

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