Sunday, December 21, 2014

VIDEO: Steve Alford, Bruins talk UCLA’s 83-44 loss to Kentucky

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Inside UCLA, LA Daily News (link)

After UCLA’s embarrassing 83-44 loss to No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday, head coach Steve Alford — as well as forward Kevon Looney and point guard Bryce Alford — spoke to the media about what went wrong.

UCLA couldn't hang and gets KY'ed. Bruins lose by 39 big cajones on National TV.

UCLA Athletics didn't have much to say on this debacle in the windy city. No videos, folks. Short and bittersweet, I guess. What could have been if Kyle, LZV and Jordan were still with us. Oh, vhell...Kevon Looney totaled nine points and nine rebounds on Saturday afternoon (AP photo)
Kevon Looney totaled nine points and nine rebounds on Saturday afternoon (AP photo)

Courtesy: Associated Press
UCLA Falls to No. 1 Kentucky, 83-44, in Chicago
Courtesy: UCLA Athletics
Release: Saturday 12/20/2014
Article Link

CHICAGO - Devin Booker scored a game-leading 19 points to lead No. 1 Kentucky past UCLA, 83-44, at the United Center in a CBS Sports Classic game Saturday afternoon.
Kentucky (12-0) led from the start, scoring the game’s first 24 points before racing to a 41-7 halftime lead. The Wildcats also received 15 points from Aaron Harrison.
Isaac Hamilton scored a team-leading 14 points for UCLA (8-4), as the Bruins faced their third top-10 ranked opponent in the last four weeks.
Bryce Alford finished with 13 points for the Bruins as the team’s only other player to score in double figures. Kevon Looney, who entered Saturday’s game with seven double-doubles in 11 games, finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
Saturday’s meeting in Chicago marked the first matchup between the two storied programs in eight years. Kentucky limited UCLA to its lowest first-half point total on record (seven).
The Wildcats made four of their first six shots in the game’s opening three minutes to secure a 9-0 cushion with 17:41 to play. After staking a 24-0 lead with 12:40 remaining before halftime, Looney scored UCLA’s first points on a layup at the 12:17 mark.
Booker finished the game having made 5 of 6 3-point shots and 7 of 10 field goal attempts overall, while Harrison nailed three 3-pointers for Kentucky.
UCLA, currently on a stretch of four consecutive games away from home, will return to action at Alabama on Sunday, Dec. 28. Game time in Tuscaloosa, Ala., is 3:30 p.m. (PT).
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UCLA clearly outmatched in 83-44 blowout loss to Kentucky

DEC 20 2014 10:03 PM

CHICAGO — In a battle of college basketball blue bloods, Kentucky just left UCLA black and blue.
The top-ranked Wildcats overwhelmed an undermanned Bruin squad en route to a resounding 83-44 victory, as Kentucky freshman guard Devin Booker led all scorers with 19 points.
To contend with No. 1 Kentucky (12-0), UCLA (8-4) needed to play a perfect game. Instead, the Wildcats perfectly embarrassed the Bruins.
By the time freshman forward Kevon Looney scored UCLA’s first bucket of the game with 12:17 to go in the first half, Kentucky led 24-2. By halftime, that lead grew to 41-7.
The Wildcats shot 45.7 percent from the field in the first period and netted 16 fast-break points while the Bruins missed their first 17 shots of the game. UCLA made just two of its next 20 following Looney’s initial field goal in what was the latest and most humiliating of the Bruins’ recent first-half struggles.
“We’ve just got to focus more and be ready to play right out of the gate. We can’t come out scared, we can’t come out tentative or passive,” said sophomore guard Bryce Alford, who finished with 13 points. “We’ve got to come out and know the capabilities that we have as a team and trust each other and trust our abilities and come out aggressive.”
The Bruins didn’t, as they struggled mightily – and that’s an understatement – against a deep, athletic and long Wildcat squad. Kentucky’s platoon system stymied a languishing UCLA team, as 10 Wildcats played more than 10 minutes, with none seeing more than 23 in the game.
UCLA didn’t hit a single jump shot, had just one assist and more turnovers than points through the first 20 minutes against the nation’s top defense. The Bruins labored just to move the ball or find an open shot against the Wildcats – and when they did, they often failed to connect.
And yet, that still doesn’t completely capture the Bruins ineptitude and ineffectiveness in their 41-7 first-half drubbing at the hands of the Wildcats. UCLA’s seven points were its lowest point total in an opening half in UCLA history and the lowest by a Kentucky opponent since World War II.
“That’s terrible. You should never play a game where you score seven points in a half,” Looney said. “Coach drills us better than that in practice and we’re a much better offensive team than that.”
For what it’s worth – not much – UCLA put a better showing in the second half, in that it managed to muster double digits in points over the final 20 minutes of the game.
The Bruins shot 44.1 percent, up from 8.1 in the first half. Only five of their shots were blocked, down from eight. They turned the ball over one time less than before. They hit 12 jump shots instead of zero, and the Wildcats only outscored them 42-35 in building a game-high 46-point lead at one point.
Indeed, the best that could be said for UCLA on Saturday was that just one player was in foul trouble and the Wildcats outrebounded the Bruins by only six.
Numbers and words hardly sum up the depth of UCLA’s embarrassment – or its futility – though they’ll have to do.
What isn’t difficult to encapsulate is just how far apart these two programs are. UCLA’s lack of depth and experience were just as apparent against Kentucky as they were against North Carolina and Gonzaga, both of whom were ranked in the top 10 when the Bruins lost to them.
Kentucky, meanwhile, is clearly college basketball’s crown jewel at present. All 12 of the WIldcats’ victories have come by more than 10 points. There’s no sign of them slowing down anytime soon.
“I don’t know in my 20 years of coaching at the Division I level that I’ve coached against a better team than what this team looks like,” said coach Steve Alford. “They have everything.”
Meanwhile, UCLA had little next to nothing to offer. The Bruins couldn’t penetrate the Wildcats’ bevy of big men, couldn’t slow their athletic wings and couldn’t avoid the simple fact that a program long regarded as one of the premier in college basketball is currently nowhere near that echelon.
“This is a team that is full-on inexperienced – it’s not an excuse. I’m not giving any excuses for 41-7. That should not take place,” Steve Alford said. “(Our guys) aren’t ready (to compete with the likes of Kentucky). It is what it is. We just don’t have that experience.”
As a result, UCLA heads back to Westwood, where the dust on those 11 national championship banners will seem a whole lot more visible, and the mountain that the program needs to climb back to national prominence far steeper.
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Bo Knows: Loss to Kentucky signals need for change in UCLA’s recruiting strategy

DEC 20 2014 9:30 p.m.

CHICAGO — I’ll start with the obvious part: UCLA is about as far away from being near Kentucky’s level as possible.
The Bruins served as the Wildcats’ punching bag for 40 minutes, trailing 24-0 to start the game, 41-7 at halftime and 83-44 by the time the final buzzer mercifully sounded.
It was never really a fair fight.
This was the Monstars vs. the Looney Toons if Michael Jordan had just kept playing golf and never fell into the cartoon world of “Space Jam.”
This was LeBron James going one on one against a fourth-grader, “Hoosiers” if the fictional Hickory High School was bad and lost all season but played against NBA teams instead of other high schoolers.
This was an embarrassing showing on national television that the Bruins won’t forget soon enough.
There’s no need for me to keep piling it on, though – the Wildcats already did that.
I don’t need to tell you that this was a historically dismal performance by UCLA – its seven first-half points were the lowest in school history for a half. That part is pretty clear from glancing at the box score or watching any 30-second clip from the game, let alone the whole 40 minutes.
Instead, it may be more productive to look at how the Bruins hit this new rock bottom and where they go from here.
Finding two teams in more opposite situations than UCLA and Kentucky is a challenging task. The Wildcats feature one of the deepest squads in recent memory, with 10 players averaging 13 or more minutes per game.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have just seven players fitting that criteria and really rely almost exclusively on their starters for all their statistical production.
While fatigue played a role for UCLA, it was essentially a non-factor for Kentucky, which could sub in a whole new group of fresh players just as potent as the starters.
That wealth of depth and talent has made Kentucky and its coach, John Calipari, the epitome of success in modern college basketball. The Wildcats seem to be a staple in the Final Four every year, secure many of the nation’s top recruits and litter the NBA Draft with their players each June, making the most out of their one-and-done players.
UCLA has tried to mimic Kentucky in that respect.
The Bruins have gone after many of the same five-star recruits that Kentucky gets, and UCLA has actually signed a few of them recently in Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and freshman forward Kevon Looney.
That’s where the Bruins have gone wrong.
It takes a certain type of team to succeed with an elite recruit strategy in this age of the one and done. It takes a team like Kentucky, who has enough solid pieces in place to afford to lose its best player each year and who can be certain it will add a new five-star talent for the following season.
UCLA doesn’t have that, but it’s gone that route anyway.
Sure, having a player as good as Kevon Looney definitely helps the team tremendously this year, but given that he’s ranked in the top 10 of most of this year’s mock drafts, he’s a pretty sure bet to turn pro following the season.
If UCLA can’t build the depth around him to be a successful team, it’s almost a waste for Looney to have even come to Westwood.
The Bruins had success last year with one-and-done guard Zach LaVine, but he came off the bench for UCLA along with then-freshman guard Bryce Alford and then-sophomore forward/center Tony Parker.
This year, LaVine is gone, Alford and Parker are forced into starting spots, and the Bruins don’t have players to replace their production off the bench this season. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances affecting this, with freshman forward Jonah Bolden ruled ineligible for this season and senior guard Jon Octeus, a would-be transfer, not admitted.
Before UCLA can get to the level of the Kentuckys and North Carolinas of the nation and find success by bringing in a five-star player each year, it needs to recruit more of the good-but-not-NBA-level players. Guys that stay with the program for multiple years will give the Bruins a solid backbone to support the rotating crop of players who stop by for just one year.
It’s good to recruit the nation’s best players each year, but in order for them to truly make a difference in helping UCLA become a top-tier team, the Bruins need to build a team around them first.
Email Bowman at

Friday, December 19, 2014

UCLA could be in for a long year if younger players don’t grow up quickly

Kyle Wiltjer was a useful player for Kentucky but rarely a starter.
Now he is at Gonzaga, and he starts, and he went inside and outside and wherever else he wanted as he scored 24 against UCLA on Saturday night.
UCLA lost, 87-74.
Next game, at Kentucky.
That’s more of an amen than an omen.
No, it hasn’t been a great beginning for the Bruins, whenever they poke their heads out of the Cal State portion of their schedule. They have played three teams of note — Oklahoma, North Carolina and Gonzaga — and lost to all three, although very few teams are going to beat or even compete with these Zags.
It’s what happens when three of your 2013-14 players get taken in the first round of the NBA draft, but that happens at the Kentuckys and Dukes, and the tank gets refilled quickly. UCLA seems less of a national factor than it has been in a long time, on any level, including the bright, blue and empty seats in many regions of the new Pauley, and the taken-for-granted nature of a loss like this.
If this wasn’t men against boys, it certainly was young men against much younger men.
Gonzaga starts three seniors, a redshirt junior and a junior. UCLA starts one senior and one junior. Gonzaga also had experience coming off the bench in Kyle Dranginis, and it also had Doumantas Sabonis, a freshman with Olympic DNA.
Sabonis is the son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, who distinguished himself on Russian and Lithuanian Olympic teams and was one of the most resourceful big men who ever played basketball. Doumantas scores with either hand, has post moves that supposedly went out with Kevin McHale, and just plain outcompeted the Bruins’ “bigs” on several occasions, particularly when he got a rebound in traffic and pitched it out by Byron Wesley, who put Gonzaga up 71-58.
This is the first time Wesley has come into Pauley Pavilion without playing for USC, which might account for his extra zip. He went 7 for 8 with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Either way, it would be a little scary to imagine how good Sabonis will be when he becomes a senior, except he never will be one.
“But it seemed like whenever they had to make a big play, they recognized time and score,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “With them, it’s been there, done that. They’ve been in a lot of those situations. We haven’t. They’ve been in a lot of tough, physical games and they don’t panic. They know where to go with the basketball. And tonight, they had five guys who made 3s.”
The Bruins were always a couple of possessions away from being a couple of possessions off the lead. Gonzaga never gave them that entree. When UCLA cut it to 71-63, senior Kevin Pangos drilled a 3-pointer. When UCLA could have seized a defensive rebound to get closer, Dranginis came from nowhere in the midst of the bigger UCLA bodies, saved the possession and watched Sabonis score two of his 10 points (in 21 minutes).
Gonzaga had a chance to win at Arizona last week and let it get away in overtime. It has already beaten SMU, Georgia and St. John’s. It might be outlandish to predict a 29-1 regular season but it might not be wrong.
“They ran their offense to a T,” said Kevon Looney, the Bruin freshman who was held to 14 points and eight rebounds. “If you gave them an open shot, they weren’t going to miss it.”
Actually UCLA matched the Zags in long balls. The game was lost much closer to the hoop. Gonzaga shot a fanciful 22 for 34 from 2-point range. Combine that with a 17-2 bench edge, and try to beat it.
That is the long-range worry for UCLA, which never led Gonzaga. Trades aren’t allowed in college basketball, so one wonders how the Bruins are going to beef up a bench that got only three shots in 27 man-minutes. UCLA came in with an 81.5 points-per-game average. The non-starters were averaging 10.7.
Thomas Welsh, the 7-foot freshman, battled his heavier elders during his 40 minutes. Wannah Bail did not play.
“We don’t have a lot of guys on the bench who can score,” Alford said.
Eventually, in the Pac-12 season, one can expect some of the Bruin starters to buckle under that load, and nobody wants to think about injuries, at any position.
Remember, Kentucky is the team that began the season playing two platoons.
Some reload, some rebuild. UCLA is just trying to avoid retreat.
@MWhicker03LANG on Twitter

UCLA Basketball to Face No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday in Chicago

Courtesy: UCLA Athletics
Release: Monday 12/15/2014
Article Link

The UCLA basketball team returns to action to face No. 1 Kentucky (11-0) on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago. Game time is 12:30 p.m. (PT) at the United Center. The Bruins’ game against Kentucky will take place after North Carolina faces Ohio State (that game is slated to begin at 10 a.m. (PT).
Venue: United Center (20,917)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 20
Tipoff Time: 12:30 p.m. (PT)/2:30 p.m. (CT)
Television: CBS
TV Talent: Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Greg Anthony (analyst), Allie LaForce (reporter)
Radio: AM 570 (KLAC)
Radio Talent: Chris Roberts (play-by-play), Tracy Murray (analyst)
Sirius Satellite Radio: Channel 136
Sirius XM Radio: Channel 204
UCLA’s game against No. 1 Kentucky at the United Center in Chicago this Saturday (12:30 p.m. PT) will be broadcast live on the UCLA Sports Network from IMG College on AM 570 (KLAC), the flagship home of UCLA Athletics. The pregame show kicks off at 12 p.m. Chris Roberts and former UCLA basketball standout Tracy Murray will have the call, live from the United Center. Fans can also listen to the audio broadcast by using the TuneIn radio app (click here). UCLA's game will also have a national radio broadcast by Westwood One Sports (Gary Cohen and Alaa Abdelnaby will have the call).
UCLA has won four of its last five games, most recently losing to No. 9-ranked Gonzaga, 87-74, on Saturday, Dec. 13. UCLA has not faced Kentucky since Nov. 21, 2006, when the Bruins earned a 73-68 win against the Wildcats in each team’s second game of the 2006 Maui Invitational (UCLA was ranked No. 5, and Kentucky No. 20). The Bruins last played in Chicago on Nov. 21, 1996 (versus Illinois at the United Center).
UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio State will also compete in the CBS Sports Classic in 2015 and 2016. Next season, UCLA faces North Carolina at the Barclays Center (Brooklyn) on Dec. 19, 2015. The Bruins will take on Ohio State at the MGM Grand Garden Arena (Las Vegas) on Dec. 17, 2016. The Bruins and Wildcats are set to face off with a home-and-home series the following two seasons. UCLA will host Kentucky in Pauley Pavilion for the first time ever on Dec. 3, 2015. The next season, the Bruins will play their first-ever game at Rupp Arena versus Kentucky (scheduled for Dec. 3, 2016).
The Bruins have opened the season with an 8-3 record, playing 11 games in a 30-day span. In comparison, UCLA will play just six games over its next 30-day span (four games away from home). Last Saturday evening in Pauley Pavilion, No. 9 Gonzaga defeated UCLA, 87-74. Bryce Alford scored a team-leading 23 points, connecting on 7 of 14 shots (5 of 10 three-pointers). UCLA trailed Gonzaga at halftime, 38-27, and reduced the Bulldogs’ lead to six points early in the second half before Gonzaga used an 8-0 run to secure a 14-point cushion.
Freshman Kevon Looney ranked seventh, nationally, and first in the Pac-12 in rebounding (10.9 rpg) through Dec. 14. Looney, a 6-foot-9 forward who was a McDonald’s All-America selection last season, ranks fifth in the country and first in the Pac-12 with 4.73 offensive rebounds per game (through Dec. 14). He leads all freshmen in the nation with seven double-doubles, the third-highest total in the country (Charles Jackson from Tennessee Tech and Jameel Warney from Stony Brook each have eight). Looney is averaging 13.9 points per game.
Norman Powell is the Bruins’ only senior in the team’s regular rotation. The 6-foot-4 guard from San Diego, Calif., has averaged 17.4 points per game (second on the team), the fourth-highest average among Pac-12 players (through Dec. 14). Powell ranks third in the Pac-12 with 2.1 steals per game. In UCLA’s win over UC Riverside (Dec. 10), he scored seven of the team’s first nine points after halftime to help the Bruins overcome an eight-point halftime deficit and secure a 77-66 victory. He has scored in double figures in 10 of 11 games this season.
Steve Alford has entered his second season as UCLA’s head coach and his 24th year as a college basketball head coach. He directed UCLA to a 28-9 record in 2013-14, tying the school record for most victories in a head coach’s first year in Westwood (Gene Bartow went 28-4 in 1975-76). Alford arrived at UCLA in March 2013 after six highly successful seasons at New Mexico. He has led his teams to at least 28 wins each of the last three seasons.
Steve Alford (499-247 career) stands one win shy of career victory No. 500. He has recorded more NCAA wins than any collegiate head coach of age 50 or younger. There are currently 20 active NCAA Division I coaches who have won at least 500 NCAA games (minimum five years as a Division I head coach).
UCLA has entered a five-game stretch, beginning with last Saturday’s home game against No. 9 Gonzaga, that features two top-10 ranked teams and four games away from Pauley Pavilion. Following this Saturday’s neutral site contest against No. 1 Kentucky, the Bruins will play consecutive road games at Alabama (RPI of 32) on Dec. 28, at Colorado (RPI of 90) on Jan. 2, and at No. 14 Utah (RPI of 22) on Jan. 4.
Bryce Alford has registered team-leading averages with 18.0 points and 6.7 assists per game. In fact, Alford is the nation’s only player to have logged at least 18 points and six assists per game (through Dec. 14). He leads all Pac-12 players with 6.7 assists per game, the nation’s eighth-highest average. The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard has totaled 74 assists and just 27 turnovers, compiling a 2.7 assist-turnover ration (ranks third in the Pac-12). Alford and freshman forward Kevon Looney have scored in double figures in all 11 games for UCLA.
Bryce Alford (74 assists, 27 turnovers, 11 games) is the nation’s only underclassman (freshmen or sophomores), to have logged at least 70 assists and fewer than 30 turnovers. He is one of just three players in the nation, regardless of year in school, with 70 or more assists and fewer than 30 turnovers.
Junior forward Tony Parker has made significant strides over the course of three seasons. After having played just 6.3 minutes per game as a freshman (2012-13, averaged 2.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg), Parker played 17.2 minutes per game last season and has logged 24.2 minutes per game in 11 starts this season. He registered 6.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game in 2013-14. This season, Parker has recorded 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds and one block per game. The 6-foot-9 forward from Atlanta, Ga., has shot 58.8 percent from the field in 81 career games.
Currently in his sixth season as Kentucky’s head coach, John Calipari has guided the Wildcats to the country’s No. 1 ranking in both polls and an 11-0 record. The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA championship game last season, falling to Connecticut by a 60-54 margin (April 7, 2014, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas). Willie Cauley-Stein leads Kentucky in both scoring (10.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg). Aaron Harrison ranks second on the team with 10.2 points per game. The Wildcats have won their 11 contests by an average margin of 28.2 points per game.
UCLA will play in the 2015 EA Sports Maui Invitational in November 2015, competing in a field that will feature Indiana, Kansas, St. John’s, UNLV, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Chaminade University. The Bruins last played in the Maui Invitational in 2011 after having won the tournament title in 2007. Next season’s field will feature four of the top 10 winningest programs in NCAA Division I history and teams which have won a combined 19 NCAA titles.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

UCLA Basketball Falls to No. 9 Gonzaga, 87-74

Courtesy: UCLA Athletics
Release: Saturday 12/13/2014
Article Link

LOS ANGELES - Bryce Alford scored a team-leading 23 points as UCLA dropped an 87-74 decision to No. 9 Gonzaga before 10,006 in Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night.
Facing their second top-10 ranked opponent in nearly three weeks, the Bruins (8-3) could not overcome a 38-27 halftime deficit to visiting Gonzaga (9-1).
Kyle Wiltjer scored a game-high 24 points for the Bulldogs, who shot nearly 59 percent from the field. Byron Wesley nailed 7 of 8 shots, finishing with 20 points in the Bulldogs’ second consecutive win.
Each team had four double-digit scorers in addition to making 9 of 19 three-point attempts (47 percent). UCLA’s Isaac Hamilton had 18 points while Kevon Looney scored 14 and Norman Powell finished with 12.
“We have had a couple bad starts, but I don’t think this was a bad start,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. “I just think we didn’t make shots. This is, in my opinion, the best team we have played all year. We got down 10 points early. They made shots and we didn't make shots, and this is a hard team to get in that kind of hole against.”
Leading 13-10 with 13:35 to play before halftime, Gonzaga used a 13-1 scoring run over the next five minutes to secure a 23-11 advantage at the 8:46 mark. UCLA was able to trim the Bulldogs’ margin to as few as six points – 28-22 – with 4:15 remaining in the first half.
Immediately after halftime, UCLA closed an 11-point gap to six points, taking advantage of a pair of baskets by Hamilton and one free throw from Looney. After reducing Gonzaga’s cushion to 40-34 at the 18:15 mark, the Bulldogs used an 8-0 scoring run over the next 1:33 to lead 48-34.
Gonzaga led by at least 10 points throughout the majority of the second half. UCLA trailed by as few as eight points – 71-63 – with 4:43 to play, before Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos answered with a 3-point basket on the Bulldogs’ next possession.
UCLA returns to action playing No. 1 Kentucky (11-0) at the United Center in Chicago on Saturday, Dec. 20 in the CBS Sports Classic. The Bruins’ meeting against Kentucky will follow a game that afternoon between North Carolina and Ohio State at the United Center.
Game Notes: Kevon Looney and Bryce Alford have scored in double figures in all 11 games for UCLA … Alford scored at least 20 points for the second time in three games and for the third time this season … Isaac Hamiltonscored in double figures for the seventh time in 11 games … Thomas Welsh logged a season-high three blocks in 15 minutes … the Bruins shot 32 percent in the first half and nearly 52 percent in the second half … Gonzaga (58.5 percent) was UCLA’s first opponent this season to shoot at least 50 percent from the field (previous high was 47.5 percent by Montana State on Nov. 14) … UCLA alum Jimmy Connors sat next to baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, while former UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes was courtside near “Twilight” actor Taylor Lautner.

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