Norman Powell scores career-high 28 points in UCLA’s win over WSU

As his time in a UCLA uniform nears its end, senior guard Norman Powell is playing some of the best basketball of his career. In UCLA’s 72-67 win over Washington State on Sunday, he paved the way with a career-high 28 points.

But he wouldn’t have gotten there if not for the Cougars’ foul-happy ways. Powell took six of his 10 free throws in the final 41 seconds, and needed every one of them to hit his new milestone. Continue reading

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UCLA 72, WSU 67: Steve Alford talks about Bruins’ ‘gut-check’ win

Steve Alford called UCLA’s 72-67 win over Washington State a “gut-check” for his team, one that came when none of the pressure was on the ninth-place visitors. The Bruins trailed for nearly 25 minutes, and only led by three points with 15 seconds left.

“Sometimes a sloppy game can look sloppy because there are a lot of free throws,” he said, pointing out that UCLA had 31 attempts to WSU’s 12. “I’ve got to watch tape. We only have 11 turnovers on the night. That’s a low-turnover game again. Assists are down because we’re driving so hard. … There’s a lot of positives with this game.”

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Thomas Welsh makes third career start against Washington State

UCLA center Thomas Welsh (40) grabs a rebound over Long Beach State's David Samuels during a 77-63 win at Pauley Pavilion on November 23, 2014. (Stephen Carr / Staff)

UCLA center Thomas Welsh (40) grabs a rebound over Long Beach State’s David Samuels during a 77-63 win on Nov. 23, 2014. (Stephen Carr/Staff)

Thomas Welsh made his third career start for UCLA on Sunday, replacing center Tony Parker in the lineup against Washington State.

Parker was stuck to the bench for tipoff at Pauley Pavilion because he had been late to a shootaround earlier in the day, but entered the game at the 14:40 mark of the first half. Welsh had also replaced Parker for games at Oregon State and Oregon in January, which the junior missed due to back spasms.

During that trip, the 7-foot freshman totaled 12 points and 11 rebounds in 59 combined minutes against the Beavers and the Ducks. UCLA lost both games.

Welsh is averaging 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 points on 43.9 percent shooting in his first season.

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At a glance: UCLA vs. Washington State

UCLA (17-12, 9-7) vs. Washington State (12-15, 6-9)
Sunday, March 1, 6:30 p.m., Pauley Pavilion
TV: FOX Sports 1 (Kevin Burkhardt, Sean Elliott)
Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)

Scouting report: With only Washington State and USC left on the regular-season schedule, there isn’t much that UCLA can do to improve its NCAA Tournament resume. Winning out will preserve the Bruins’ status on the bubble, while losing either game would end their chances at an at-large berth.

More in flux is the team’s positioning in the Pac-12 standings. UCLA is currently fifth in conference, but has a good chance to move into the top four and earn a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Bruins could even jump to third place if Oregon loses its last two games, which would allow them a potential semifinal matchup against Utah rather than Arizona.

But for now, the Cougars. Washington State has made incremental steps forward in its first season under Ernie Kent, but it is also the most inept defensive team in the conference. Scoring 70.7 points per game (sixth in Pac-12) is all fine and good, but allowing 76.3 makes for the league’s worst average scoring margin. Continue reading

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Pac-12 notes: Mike Leach thinks Connor Halliday is better than your quarterback

Connor Halliday is the best quarterback in the country, according to Connor Halliday’s coach.

After talking up the Pac-12′s depth behind center on Wednesday, Washington State’s Mike Leach said he would take his redshirt senior over just about anybody else.

“You might be rooting for your guy, and I don’t care what you think,” Leach said. “He’s better than your guy is.”

Some other Pac-12 Media Day highlights from the conference’s most quotable coach (as well as other coaches and players) …

» Asked how he would pick a bear-hunting partner between Washington coach Chris Petersen and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham: “We get a large bag and we stick in Coach Petersen, Coach Whittingham, and we shake that bag up really high and really hard.”

» On his fishing trip this summer: “My staff and I went fishing up in McCall, Idaho on the Snake River and got a huge 9.5-foot, 350-pound sturgeon, probably 95 years old. Of course, turned him loose so he could pull somebody else’s boat around for a while next time.” Continue reading

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Which players have the best names in the Pac-12?

By now, you’ve read many of the lists that have proliferated in college football’s dry summer months. The best 100 players. The freakiest players. The best coaches, best offseasons, best uniforms.

But this? This is the most important of them all. With Pac-12 Media Days — schedule here — kicking off this morning, I have compiled the five best names from each team in the conference.

Without further ado …

Arizona: Sir Thomas Jackson, Antonio Smothers, Tra’Mayne Bondurant, Brogan Kemmerly, Abraham Mendivil

Not great depth here, as the latter two names sacrifice catchiness in favor of length. Still, Sir Thomas Jackson alone is an MVP candidate.

Arizona State: Ezekial Bishop, Demetrius Cherry, Zane Gonzalez, Jaxon Hood, Jaelen Strong

A solid quintet that lacks a superstar.

Cal: Hardy Nickerson, Avery Sebastian, Bryce Treggs, Brennan Scarlett, Maximo Espitia

A nice throwback in Hardy Nickerson, bookended by a name that makes me want to re-watch Russell Crowe take on a despotic Joaquin Phoenix. Continue reading

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Former four-star linebacker Aaron Porter will transfer to Washington State

After leaving UCLA in early April, former four-star prospect Aaron Porter will transfer to Washington State.

Originally signed as a linebacker in 2012, Porter never played in a game for the Bruins — converting to fullback after falling down the depth chart. He was not enrolled for spring quarter and seemed unlikely to return to a team that played 18 true freshmen over him last season.

Cougfan.com first reported the news.

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Buried by 3-point barrage, UCLA misses another road sweep in loss to WSU

A few weeks ago, Steve Alford offered his thoughts on UCLA’s lackluster 3-point defense. Sure, the Bruins allow plenty of attempts, but he’ll live with those as long as: 1) those shots aren’t easy ones, and 2) the interior is locked down.

“If I had my way, I’d just as soon teams shoot 30, 35 threes against us,” the coach said then.

On Saturday night, Washington State did its best to oblige. The Cougars heaved 29 shots from downtown, the most that any Pac-12 opponent has shot against the Bruins this season. That they only made 10 made little difference; WSU steamrolled UCLA in a 73-55 victory, giving fans at Beasley Coliseum something to cheer for near the end of a brutal season. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: No bowl tickets for rude Washington State fans

– If you sent Washington State athletic director Bill Moos a particularly nasty email last year, you might not be able to buy bowl tickets.

– Trying to earn home field advantage for the Pac-12 title game, Arizona State and Todd Graham are learning to deal with the limelight.

– Still undecided about his NFL draft plans, Washington tailback Bishop Sankey is on the brink of the school’s single-season rushing record. Continue reading

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Pac-12 links: Utah quarterback Travis Wilson struggling

– Once a rising star, Utah’s sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson doesn’t look the same these days.

– A strong column from the Arizona Daily Star’s Greg Hansen, on the Wildcats’ loss to UCLA.

– After a stint at Louisiana-Monroe, Arizona State defensive back Robert Nelson is living the dream in Tempe.

– Does the Pac-12 need an injury report? Seattle Times columnist Bud Withers says yes, citing the status of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Continue reading

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