Saturday, February 24, 2018

UCLA falls at Utah 84-78. Drops to 19-9, 10-6.

Aaron Holiday scores 23 points in losing cause. On to Colorado.

For more on the game, go to UCLA Men's Basketball website (link).

Monday, February 19, 2018

One & Done? Four-guard lineup rejuvenates UCLA men’s basketball’s offense

feb 2, 2018 | hanson wang | the daily bruin | ARTICLE LINK

This was leading into the USC game Feb 3. But by the next game, GG was back in the starting line-up, Prince Ali off the bench. A one-and-done experiment? Still, a good read.

For the first time in a while, UCLA men’s basketball returned to having fun.
There was a Kris Wilkes fast-break windmill dunk – routine by his standards – and a between-the-legs alley-oop pass from Jaylen Hands to Wilkes in the same game, minutes apart from each other.
The freshman guards riled up both the crowd and their teammates, and even coach Steve Alford’s levity shined full-on in the postgame press conference.
The reason?
A four-guard starting lineup that has played to the strength of the Bruins’ perimeter-heavy eight-man rotation and subsequently reinvigorated their offense.
“I liked how that four-guard lineup looked,” Alford said. “Whether we stay with that, how long we stay with that … (I put more onus on) how do we start games, how do we finish games.”
For now, at least, the four-guard lineup seems to be working after Alford harped on his team’s sluggish starts during its recent three-game losing streak. Colorado, Oregon State and Oregon combined to outscore UCLA by 15 points in the opening five minutes of each half.
But then Hands, who started the first five games of the season before suffering a foot sprain and ceding his spot to redshirt sophomore guard Prince Ali, replaced senior forward GG Goloman in the starting lineup versus Cal last week.
The Bruins have been plus-7 points over the same interval in the two games since, but that doesn’t mean Alford has completely eschewed the two-big man lineup.
In the first halves against the Bears and the Cardinal, UCLA’s four-guard lineup spent about the first five-and-a-half minutes on the floor – that number rose to the first six-and-a-half minutes of each second half.
But after that, the Bruins transitioned back to its typical three-guard, one-forward and one-center lineup by subbing Goloman in for Ali. In that rotation, Ali and Hands substituted for each other, as did Wilkes and freshman guard Chris Smith while redshirt sophomore forward Alex Olesinski spelled Goloman and senior center Thomas Welsh.
Against Stanford, Goloman was a spark plug once he hit the court. He pulled down an offensive rebound on his first possession and converted a layup while getting fouled on his second possession.
“He got back to doing the things we needed him to do defensively,” Alford said. “At (6 feet 11 inches), we’ve got to have him continue to be a bigger rebounding force and that’s what he’s working on.”
As for Hands, he was already playing more minutes on average coming off the bench than either Goloman or Ali. The freshman averaged a steady 24.6 minutes in the 14 games he didn’t start, while Goloman and Ali averaged 23.6 and 24.2 minutes per game respectively over the same span.
“It’s different in both areas, off the bench and coming off and starting,” Hands said. “But the main goal is to win, so as long as we’re winning I’m cool with whatever.”
Still, there are some questions concerning the lineup’s durability and defense. Wilkes typically guards the opposing power forward in man-to-man defense or half of the baseline in UCLA’s 3-2 zone, and he’s shown that he isn’t quite comfortable in that role yet.
The freshman picked up two fouls within the first six minutes of each first half against Stanford and Cal, sending him to the bench and forcing Smith into early-game action. Following the win over the Bears, Alford said the lineup switch can’t get Wilkes out of the flow having to defend players three or four inches taller than him.
That wasn’t the case versus the Cardinal – Wilkes scored 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting and made both of his 3-point attempts.
“He picked up quick fouls, but he was really efficient,” Alford said. “Regardless of fouls, if he did get out of rhythm, he got back in rhythm because those are two games that he was really, really good.”
Defensive rebounding could also be an issue after Cal registered 19 offensive boards and Stanford recorded nine.
UCLA ranks No. 10 in the Pac-12 in defensive rebounding percentage during conference play. But over their last three games, the Bruins rank dead last at 67.6%, meaning opponents get offensive rebounds on nearly one-third of UCLA’s defensive rebounding opportunities. Meanwhile, USC ranks No. 5 in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage during conference play.
“We just have to go in there and attack the ball,” Holiday said. “Box out, rebound and just fight. Obviously, USC’s pretty big, so we’re gonna have to do that a lot this game.”

Freshman guard Kris Wilkes talks Indiana roots, experiences at UCLA

feb 16, 2018 | matt cummings | the daily bruin | ARTICLE LINK
Rarely had Kris Wilkes struggled to score.
A five-star recruit who tore through Indiana high school basketball, the freshman guard started the year looking like he might do the same at the college level, averaging 16.8 points a game in his first four outings.
Then the shots stopped falling.
Over the next seven games, Wilkes averaged just 8.7 points, shooting just 15.8 percent from 3-point territory.
“It was just tough,” Wilkes said. “I couldn’t hit nothing.”
During that stretch, he decided to do something that essentially amounts to sacrilege for a teenager in 2018: He deleted Instagram.
“I was trying to just focus on basketball until I got back into that groove,” he said. “I really wasn’t trying to talk to people like that. … (I) just listened to my music and tried to be on my own, just get up shots and try to get better.”
The tactic worked. Wilkes snapped out of his slump with a 20-point outburst against Kentucky on Dec. 23, helping lead the Bruins to an upset of the then-No. 7 Wildcats. And in the 14 games since, Wilkes has notched double figures in all but one contest.
Kris Wilkes came into UCLA as a five-star recruit, and the freshman guard has been a fixture of the Bruins' starting rotation ever since. The Indiana native has started every single game for the Bruins in 2018-2019, averaging 13.5 points per game during his rookie campaign. (Aubrey Yeo/Daily Bruin senior staff)
On the season, the slender 6-foot-8, 195-pounder is averaging 13.5 points on 44.4 percent shooting. In Pac-12 play, he ranks first among conference freshmen in 3-point percentage, at 37.1 percent.
“It’s been pretty impressive to see how consistent he’s been with his scoring, and he’s been able to do it in a variety of ways,” said coach Steve Alford. “He’s great in transition, he can shoot the 3, he’s very good at taking the ball to the rim.”
In his four years at North Central High in Indianapolis, Wilkes racked up 1,831 points, the second-most in program history behind only current Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon.
As a senior, Wilkes was named Indiana Mr. Basketball after averaging 22.1 points and seven rebounds while leading North Central to its second consecutive sectional title. He was the type of talent that would have been treated as a hero had he committed to play at Indiana.
Instead, Wilkes chose UCLA, drawing the ire of plenty of hometown fans.
The Instagram post in which he announced his commitment is littered with negative comments, ranging from the civil – “Should have gone to IU” – to the unprintable.
“There was a lot of hate after I committed here, so much hate,” Wilkes said. “But you’ve got to live life for yourself. You’ve got to do what you think is best for yourself rather than other people.”
It helped that Alford, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball himself, had ties to Wilkes’ home state, but ultimately the young guard was swayed by how UCLA could enhance his game.
In recruiting Wilkes, the coaching staff stressed not only the opportunity to play against pros during the summer but also the Pac-12’s free-flowing style of basketball and the success of former Bruin wing players like Norman Powell and Jordan Adams.
“We sold him on the idea that we can develop you into this type of player,” said associate head coach Duane Broussard. “He’s a little different, little taller (than Powell and Adams), but still playing the wing position and wanting to play the game like that a littlebit.”
An added bonus: Wilkes grew up worshipping Indiana Pacers legend and ex-Bruin Reggie Miller. As a kid, Wilkes would often sit courtside for Pacer games with friends of his father, a police officer who routinely worked shifts at the arena.
Wilkes wore Miller’s No. 31 throughout high school, but with it retired at UCLA, the freshman opted for the inverse, No. 13.
When Wilkes showed up in Westwood, he said it felt like the beginning of high school to him – when nobody knew his name or what he could do on the court.
As he noted, he had about 40,000 Instagram followers, while Southern California native and fellow five-star freshman Jaylen Hands had north of 400,000.
“You come out here and everybody is high-profile,” Wilkes said. “I had to establish myself on the court for people to know about me … but I like the challenge. You don’t want to just start off everybody knowing you. I think that blows your head up sometimes.”
Wilkes got a quick taste of the attention heaped on UCLA when his teammates were arrested in China. When asked about the incident, he laughed.
“It definitely put us on the map,” Wilkes joked. “If you didn’t know about us, you do now.”
Wilkes’ levelheadedness in the face of intense scrutiny didn’t surprise Broussard, who pointed to a fact he learned when recruiting Wilkes: Before becoming a high school basketball star, he earned a black belt in taekwondo during middle school.
“After hearing that, I understand why he’s able to concentrate the way he does,” Broussard said. “He can really focus in, and he can handle the anxiety that comes along with playing in an environment like this.”
Considering his strong scoring output, Wilkes could potentially leave for the NBA Draft this spring, though an anonymous NBA scout said he doesn’t see Wilkes as a one-and-done player.
If he stays, he may give himself a better chance at being selected in the first round. In a 2019 mock draft released Monday by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Wilkes was projected as the No. 22 pick.
The extra year of seasoning could allow Wilkes to show a more complete game, using his length to become a strong defender and rounding out his arsenal on the offensive end.
“He can gain a lot of traction and value with how well he’ll be able to develop into a perimeter defender,” Broussard said. “(Offensively) within the half-court, ball-handling, being able to really, really create his own shot and also being able to create for others.”
Wilkes is well on his way, considering his knack for putting the ball in the basket.
It’s why he loves basketball.
“All these other sports, they score like four or five times a game – I don’t see how they like doing that,” Wilkes said. “In basketball, you can score multiple times, the score can get to the hundreds.”
He paused, then added another reason he loves his sport.
“And just the feeling of dunking a ball,” Wilkes said. “It feels great.”
Matt Cummings is a senior staff writer covering UCLA football and men's basketball. In the past, he has covered baseball, cross country, women's volleyball and men's tennis. He served as an assistant sports editor in 2015-2016. Follow him on Twitter @MattCummingsDB.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

UCLA pulls out win in OT, beats Ducks 86-78. Bruins are now 19-8, 10-5.

No full game video yet. I'll add it later if and when one is posted online.


LOS ANGELES – Aaron Holiday scored a game-leading 29 points and Thomas Welsh registered 14 points and 14 rebounds as UCLA edged Oregon in overtime, 86-78, before 13,001 on Saturday night in Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins (19-8, 10-5) extended their "Senior Night" just a little bit with the overtime session, rallying from a 66-62 deficit in the game's final four minutes to force extra time in the team's final regular-season home game.

Welsh, one of four UCLA seniors, logged his 16th double-double of the season with his 14-point, 14-rebound effort. Kris Wilkeshad 19 points, nailing a career-high five three-pointers in the win against Oregon (17-10, 7-7).

Holiday picked up his fourth foul with 11:45 to play and was forced to head to the bench until the 6:53 mark. When he returned to the game late in the second half, UCLA led the Ducks, 62-61.

Oregon's Payton Pritchard, who finished with a team-leading 23 points, nailed a three-pointer before a steal by Troy Brown led to a dunk from Mikyle McIntosh, spotting the Ducks a 66-62 lead.

UCLA shored up its defense and went on a 7-1 scoring run to regain the advantage, 69-67, after a floater from Holiday, a jump shot by Welsh and a deep three-pointer from Jaylen Hands at the 2:07 mark.

"Different teams make different runs," said Steve Alford, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men's Head Basketball Coach. "I just thought we handled it. We had major foul trouble and played the first half without Aaron and then built an 11-point lead but had to take him out with four fouls with about 11 minutes to go. He did a tremendous job playing the last seven minutes with four fouls. He's just a special player. He makes play after play."

Oregon tied the game twice in the final 90 seconds of the second half – at 69-69 (1:39) and at 71-71 (0:49). Oregon had the final possession with 5.8 seconds left in regulation, and Elijah Brown missed a three-point attempt.

UCLA surged ahead in the extra session, 81-73, before the visiting Ducks trimmed their deficit to just three points – 81-78 – with 1:37 remaining. The Bruins led Oregon, 74-73, with 3:34 to play before Holiday hit a jump shot at the 3:08 mark and converted the ensuing free throw on the old-fashioned three-point play.

After a free throw by Gyorgy Goloman, Welsh nailed a three-pointer to put UCLA ahead, 81-73.

Consecutive baskets from Oregon cut UCLA's cushion to 81-78. From that point, the Ducks could not get any closer. Wilkes went to the free throw line with 42 seconds left and made both shots. After a missed three-point attempt by Troy Brown, Holiday found his way to the free throw line and made one of two attempts to put UCLA ahead, 84-78.

Oregon missed their final three shot attempts – all from three-point distance – as UCLA held on for the 86-78 overtime victory.

Both teams were shooting very well from three-point range in the first half. UCLA made 9 of 18 threes before halftime, while Oregon made 7 of 13. Ali's three-pointer with 9:59 to play in the opening half put the Bruins on top, 23-20, as part of an 11-2 scoring run that pushed UCLA ahead by a 28-22 margin at the 7-minute mark.

Oregon rallied to tie the score, 31-31, before the Bruins closed the first half with a 9-4 scoring run to lead, 40-35, at the intermission.

Welsh's 16 double-doubles this season are the most in any season by a UCLA player since Kevin Love had 23 double-doubles during his freshman year in 2007-08.

Love was on hand at the game Saturday night, taking a tour of the school's Mo Ostin Basketball Center prior to the game (which has the Kevin Love Athletic Performance Center located on the building's second story).

Welsh and Goloman, along with Ikenna Okwarabizie and Alec Wulff, were recognized on the court prior to Saturday night's game for their collegiate careers and service to the men's basketball program. All four young men will graduate this year with their undergraduate degrees.

UCLA, which has won six of its last seven games, will return to action at Utah on Thursday, Feb. 22. Game time in Salt Lake City is slated for 6 p.m. PT (7 p.m. MT).
Following the road game at Utah, UCLA will play at Colorado on Sunday, Feb. 25.

The Box

UCLA beats the Beavs 75-68. Goes to 18-8 overall, 9-5 in the Pac-12.


LOS ANGELES – Aaron Holiday scored 17 points and Thomas Welsh had 15 points and a career-best 17 rebounds as UCLA defeated Oregon State, 75-68, in a Pac-12 game in Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night.

UCLA (18-8, 9-5) improved its home record to 13-2 with the victory.

Holiday had his second double-double of the season and his first of the point-assist variety this season.

Welsh netted his 15th double-double of the season in his second-to-final collegiate home game. Welsh, along with fellow seniors Gyorgy GolomanIkenna Okwarabizie and Alec Wulff, will appear in Pauley Pavilion for the final time in their respective careers on Saturday when the Bruins host Oregon at 7:15 p.m. The quartet of UCLA seniors will be honored prior to the game during a "Senior Night" ceremony.

Goloman had eight points and five rebounds against Oregon State (13-12, 5-8) on Thursday night, while Prince Ali scored 11 points off the bench and Kris Wilkes had 10 points.

"I'm really proud of the guys," said Steve Alford, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men's Head Basketball Coach. "I really liked the second half. I think we got a little bit out of rhythm because of the missed foul shots, but to get there 37 times is great work. Shooting the three, we were leading the Pac in three-point percentage going in, and our foul shooting has been good. To get a win in the Pac and not shoot the three ball well and not shoot free throws well means we did some really good things defensively."

UCLA led at halftime by a 42-36 margin and pushed ahead in the game's final minutes. An 11-2 scoring run by UCLA put the Bruins on top of Oregon State, 71-60, with 5:20 to play.

Midway through the first half, UCLA had scored five consecutive points to snap a 13-13 tie and lead by an 18-13 margin. The Bruins' ensuing 9-1 scoring run was capped by an Ali dunk, putting UCLA ahead 22-14 with 11:48 left in the first half.

UCLA led by as many as 13 points in the opening half (34-21) but Oregon State responded with a 15-4 scoring run, trimming the Bruins' cushion to just two points (38-36).

The Bruins went up by nine early in the second half, only to see Oregon State score 10 unanswered points to take the lead, 49-48. UCLA quickly regained the lead with six-straight points and used an 11-2 run to take a 71-60 lead.

Oregon State didn't back down in the closing minutes, cutting UCLA's lead to just four points with 49.8 seconds to play after Alfred Hollins was fouled while making a layup. Hollins missed the free throw attempt and after a pair of free throws from Jaylen Hands, Welsh blocked a shot attempt by Stephen Thompson Jr. with 12 seconds left, helping to seal the victory.

UCLA held a strong advantage on the glass against Oregon State, outrebounding the Beavers by a 51-33 tally. UCLA had 18 offensive rebounds that helped to result in 15 second-chance points.
The Bruins will conclude their home schedule this Saturday evening against Oregon. UCLA will host its annual Fan Appreciation and Senior Night. ESPN will televise the game at 7:15 p.m. (PT).

The Box

Monday, February 12, 2018

'All Access' extended: UCLA men's basketball's Steve Alford pushes players to new heights.

UCLA cannot hang with ASU. Loses in Tempe 88-79.


TEMPE, Ariz. – Aaron Holiday scored 20 points and Thomas Welsh added 14 as UCLA dropped an 88-79 decision at Arizona State before 14,025 at Wells Fargo Arena on Saturday.

UCLA (17-8, 8-5 Pac-12) had a four-game winning streak snapped and trailed the Sun Devils (19-6, 7-6) at halftime by a 40-32 margin. The Bruins never were able to tie the game or take the lead in the second half.

Gyorgy Goloman and Kris Wilkes rounded out the Bruins' list of double-figure scorers, recording 11 points each.

Arizona State's three starting guards – Tra Holder (22 points), Shannon Evans II (23 points) and Kodi Justice (17 points) – accounted for 62 of the Sun Devils' 88 total points.

"Those three [ASU] guards got away from us," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "Those three are very talented guards and they had it going. There was a stretch in the first half where we had a pretty good rhythm, and we then had a bad stretch in the first half, offensively. We took some quick shots instead of working on getting the ball inside."

Holiday recorded his ninth 20-point performance in 13 Pac-12 contests. The junior guard from Chatsworth, Calif., scored just three points in the first half before totaling 17 points after halftime. Holiday shot 6-for-15 from the field and 4-for-10 from three-point range.

UCLA never got any closer than eight points in the second half despite shooting 50 percent against Arizona State (17-for-34) after the intermission.

ASU led by as many as 16 points late in the second half (75-59, 3:54) before the Bruins used a 9-2 scoring run and consecutive three-point baskets by Holiday with roughly two minutes to play in the contest.

Arizona State withstood the Bruins' late run by making 11 free throws in the final two minutes. In all, ASU shot 89.3 percent from the free throw line (25-for-28).

The host Sun Devils led 40-32 at halftime after using an 11-0 scoring run on three consecutive three-pointers during a two-minute span, securing a 29-22 advantage with 7:33 to play. Evans II and Justice combined to score 22 first-half points, leading the way for Arizona State.

UCLA shot the ball well in the opening minutes of the first half, sinking seven of 10 field goal attempts. Welsh had seven of his 14 points in the game's first six minutes, helping the Bruins secure a 12-7 cushion with 15:39 to play before halftime.

The Bruins shot 45 percent from the field on Saturday (30-for-66), but made just 31 percent (8-for-26) of their three-point shots.

UCLA will return home next week to play its final two regular-season home games, before embarking upon a three-game road trip. The Bruins host Oregon State on Thursday in Pauley Pavilion, before taking on Oregon on Saturday, Feb. 17.

UCLA's game against Oregon State will begin on Thursday at 8 p.m. That game will be nationally televised by FS1.

The Bruins' final regular-season home game on Saturday, Feb. 17, will begin at 7:15 p.m. (TV: ESPN).

The Box

Saturday, February 10, 2018

FWIW-> Coach Alford All Access preview

Update: All Access extended (link).

UCLA Stuns No. 13 Arizona on the Road, 82-74


TUCSON, Ariz. – Aaron Holiday scored a team-leading 17 points and Gyorgy Goloman had 16 points as the UCLA men's basketball team won at No. 13 Arizona, 82-74, on Thursday night.

Kris Wilkes finished with 14 points, while Jaylen Hands and Thomas Welsh each totaled 11 points before a capacity crowd at Arizona's McKale Center.

UCLA (17-7, 8-4 Pac-12) handed Arizona (19-6, 9-3) its fifth loss at home since the start of the 2012-13 season (93-5 home record). The Bruins have picked up three of those five victories at the McKale Center over the past six seasons.

Thursday's game also marked Arizona's first home loss versus an unranked opponent since losing to California at the McKale Center on Feb. 10, 2013.

Goloman finished with a career-best 16 points on Thursday after having made a career-leading three three-pointers. The senior from Kormend, Hungary, hit a three-pointer with 6:10 to play, helping UCLA push its lead to 72-60. His ensuing three-pointer at the 1:43 mark gave the Bruins a comfortable 82-67 advantage.

Welsh logged his team-leading 14th double-double of the year, recording 11 points and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. Welsh made 5 of 9 shots from the field.

After a back-and-forth first half, UCLA entered the locker room at halftime with a 44-34 cushion.

Leading 48-40 early in the second half, Arizona trimmed the Bruins' margin to 48-44 before UCLA used an 8-0 scoring run to push its lead to 12 points (56-44). Wilkes scored five consecutive points during that 8-0 scoring run.

UCLA secured its largest lead of the game – 15 points (66-51) – with 9:17 remaining in the second half after Welsh's dunk helped the Bruins cap a 6-0 run.

From that point in the contest, UCLA never trailed. Arizona never cut its deficit to any fewer than nine points.

Arizona led UCLA, 29-27, with 3:14 left in the first half before the Bruins closed the opening half with a 17-5 scoring run. Hands sank three consecutive three-pointers in the final minute of the half, including a three-pointer just ahead of the buzzer.

UCLA opened the game strong on Thursday night, as Holiday and Wilkes combined for eight of the Bruins' first 10 points. UCLA led 10-3 less than seven minutes into the game.

Overall, UCLA shot 52 percent from the field (32-of-62) and made 46 percent of its three-point attempts (11-of-24). Arizona shot 44 percent from the floor (29-of-66) and finished 36 percent from three-point range (8-for-22).

The Bruins will continue their two-game swing through the state of Arizona with a Pac-12 matchup this Saturday at Arizona State. Game time at ASU's Wells Fargo Arena is 4 p.m. PT (5 p.m. MT). The game will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks.

The Box